Showing posts with label travel safety. Show all posts
Showing posts with label travel safety. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Is it Safe to Travel Alone? How Can You Make it Safer?

One of the activities which appeals to many new retirees is the ability to travel throughout the world.  A large number of retirees look forward to seeing exotic places and experiencing new adventures after they retire.  However, before you head off into the wild blue yonder, it may be worthwhile to research how to keep yourself safe, especially if you are planning to travel alone.

Treat Every Travel Location with Caution

Whether you are traveling in the United States or a foreign country, it is easy to get into "vacation mode," and assume that everyone is going to be friendly, helpful and honest.  While the vast majority of people you encounter are likely to be kind and welcoming, it only takes a few bad apples to ruin your trip.

A few years ago, two young male teachers I worked with decided to backpack across Europe during their summer vacation, staying in youth hostels. It seemed like an exciting adventure and an opportunity for them to travel widely on a budget.  However, one or both of them were robbed of their cash three times during their trip, always after falling asleep in a youth hostel.  One of them told me he would never stay in a hostel again.  If healthy young men can be robbed while traveling, senior citizens traveling alone need to be even more careful.

Even within the United States, I have had my debit card information stolen while traveling, with thieves attempting to use the stolen information while I was still away from home.  Fortunately, my bank was quick to pick up on the fraudulent activity, stop questionable charges, and contact me using my cell phone.  If it had not been for their vigilance, it could have ruined our trip.  Today, I no longer use my debit card when traveling and I am careful where I use my credit cards.

Certain Travel Destinations are Exceptionally Dangerous

While crimes can occur anywhere, Forbes Magazine published an article called "10 Most Dangerous Places for Women Travelers."  The list includes places where women tourists, in particular, are frequently the victims of assault or robbery.  It would be wise for men, as well, to be extra careful when visiting these spots.  The countries on their list are:


Do not take these warnings lightly.  Years ago, my husband and I took our young children to Jamaica.  A few days prior to our arrival, rebels entered our resort and killed everyone in in the lobby of the hotel!  During our stay, a private party in the golf clubhouse was interrupted by more armed rebels, who robbed and terrified the guests.  Other countries on the above list can be just as dangerous.  Wandering around alone could be risky for anyone, let alone someone who appears to be elderly or frail.

How to Protect Yourself

There is no way to keep yourself completely safe when you travel.  However, there are a number of steps you can take to significantly reduce your risk of being a crime victim while you are traveling.
*  Before choosing a destination, check out the U.S. State Department Travel Advisories website to make sure there are no extraordinary reasons why you should avoid that country or a particular region within a country.

*  Ideally, it is best to travel in a group.  Join tour groups which are going to the areas which interest you.  The guide will try to avoid the most dangerous neighborhoods and there is usually safety in numbers.

*  Dress and behave appropriately for the area you are visiting.  For example, when traveling in the Middle East, women should dress conservatively with their shoulders, arms and knees covered, avoid making eye contact with men, and seek out local women when they are lost, need directions or seek other information.  Approaching a man can be viewed as flirting. In addition, it is wise to limit the amount of alcohol you consume and avoid drinking in bars with strangers.  In fact, this last recommendation is smart almost anywhere you travel, including within the United States.

*  Carry your cash, cell phone and important documents, such as your passport, in a money belt close to your body. Do not walk around looking at your phone.  It can be easily snatched by someone else. If you carry a purse or bag, choose a cross-body style and only use it for items which are easily replaceable, such as make-up, hair brush, maps, or brochures.

*  Do not walk around alone in a strange neighborhood after dark.  This is true almost everywhere, but particularly when you are in a foreign country. Take a cab from your hotel or a similar reliable, well-lit location.  Do not hail cabs on the street.

*  While at your hotel, take advantage of hotel safes, bring along a door stop to make it harder for someone to sneak into your room while you are sleeping or showering, and consider bringing along a battery operated, portable door alarm, which would wake you if someone enters.

*  Consider purchasing the "Travel Safety Handbook: Your Guide to Safer, Better Travel" for more ideas on keeping yourself safe on the road.  

If you take the precautions above, you are quite likely to be able to travel nearly anywhere and have a great time.  You've been waiting your entire life for the opportunity to enjoy unfettered travel.  Enjoy it!

If you are interested in more information about retirement travel, where to retire in the U.S. and abroad, Social Security, Medicare, retirement planning, common medical problems and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional articles.

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Sunday, September 30, 2012

International Travel Warnings and Alerts

Years ago, in the early 1980’s, my husband and I took our children and a teenage babysitter to Jamaica on vacation.  We stayed at a luxurious hotel with a spacious, open-air entry that was undergoing extensive repairs when we arrived. Marble tiles were being removed and replaced throughout the lobby.

After asking several employees about the repairs, one bell boy finally admitted to us that an anti-government revolutionary group had come into the hotel the week before and shot a number of people in the lobby.  Needless to say, this put a real damper on our vacation!  In those days, before the internet, it was not easy to get travel advisories before taking a vacation, so we knew nothing about the political unrest until we arrived.

A few years prior to that frightening trip to Jamaica, we took a trip to Cancun, Mexico, and arrived just as a hurricane was passing by.  Although this trip was only marginally affected by the hurricane (our hotel lost electricity for about 12 hours), it would have been nice to know about the hurricane before we left the United States.

Where to Get Travel Warnings

Today, anyone planning a trip abroad can get up-to-date travel warnings before making their reservations by going to the State Department travel website at:

When the State Department issues a travel warning, they do so because they believe that a long-term situation exists in certain countries which could make it dangerous or unstable to visit those locations.  In those situations, they recommend Americans avoid traveling to those spots.  It may also mean that the U.S. government has a limited ability to assist American citizens who choose to visit the countries because the embassy or consulate may have been closed or is operating with minimal staff.

The list of countries is extensive, but currently includes:  Pakistan, Libya, North Korea, Guinea, Mali, the West Bank and Gaza areas of Israel, Iraq, Congo, Kenya, Afghanistan, Haiti, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Yemen, Colombia and parts of Mexico, as well as a number of other countries.  Of course, if you are traveling to those countries on government business, your situation is different. If you are considering traveling to undeveloped or dangerous countries or, even more importantly, retiring abroad, you will want to check the U.S. State Department website regularly.

The Difference Between Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts

Sometimes, rather than issue a travel warning, our government issues a travel alert.  When the government issues travel alerts, they are letting you know about short-term conditions that could pose significant risks to the security of American citizens.  The type of risks involved include natural disasters, such as hurricanes, high profile events such as major sporting competitions or international conferences, as well as recent or anticipated terrorist attacks and coups.  Since there are no active hurricanes or coups taking place as I write this, there are no current travel alerts to report.  However, a wise traveler would check out the travel alerts as well as the travel warnings before taking an international trip because both lists can change quickly.

With easy access to government websites on our computers and smart phones, no American citizen should experience the shock of arriving in a country in the middle of an uprising or just prior to a hurricane.  Although not all dangerous travel situations can be avoided, traveling is more pleasant when we can avoid major disasters and political unrest.

If you are interested in more tips about travel, where to retire in the United States or abroad, financial planning, common medical issues or changing family relationships, use the tab or pull-down menu at the top of this page to find links to hundreds of helpful articles.

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