Staying Safe On Holiday
Whether you are driving across the island, or flying across the world, going on holiday is something we all look forward to. Then there can be risks. A girl I knew arrived in Ireland, and her and her travelling companion were robbed of everything when their old dunger of a car, with all their luggage, was stolen the first day in Dublin. What a start to a planned month in Ireland!
So how do minimize the risks and stay safe on holiday?
Whether you are in a new town or a new country, you don't know what you don't know, and being unaware can be risky. Although New Zealand is not a larger version of The Hobbit's Shire, it's also fair to say that, we really don't have that much street crime.
Check the areas that you are visiting, particularly in large cities, there are always a seedy part of town you may want to avoid particularly as a solo woman or with a young family. Check guidebooks or online forums like TripAdvisor for up to date advice.
Some of the tricks of the street haven't' changed in 30 years. There is the scooter drive by with a pillion who grabs the bag off your shoulder. And the groping hand in the crowded subway. If you can avoid crowded situations, particularly if you have all your luggage with you, do so. Cars are a particular target, avoid parking them in remote areas, particularly with luggage visible.
One of the downsides of living in New Zealand is the long-haul flights. When you stagger off a 12 hour or longer flight to Asia or North America, is it any wonder we are maybe a little less alert than usual?
And it’s easy to get distracted. If you have just walked around a corner and come face-to-face with the Vatican for the first time, it’s hard to remember to stay aware of your wallet!
If you are contemplating a long haul flight to the other side of the world, particularly in cattle class, do yourself a big favour, and pre-arrange a transfer to your hotel. I have even had taxi drivers in Auckland try to take me the scenic route when they thought I didn't know the city! If I haven't pre-paid a transfer, I prefer public transport, but research the details before leaving home, after plenty of hours on a flight, the less thought involved the better!
Bad things happen. You can try to minimize the risks, but it may still happen. That's when the third, and probably most crucial part of you strategy comes into play - have a Plan B, or as the Scouts would say …
Travel with at least two different cards to access your travel funds. However, not just two cards which access the same bank or credit card account. Lose one card and the other one will be frozen too. Instead, make sure you have a genuine backup, which accesses an entirely different account.
Don't carry large amounts of cash in a wallet, particularly, not in a back pocket! We are all used to carrying minimal amounts of cash at home; New Zealanders love EFTPOS and the cashless society. The rest of the world hasn't quite caught up though, and even in Australia you'll find a surprising number of smaller shops won't accept a card at all! Plus the international fees add up. So be prepared to carry more cash, but split it up between travel companions, and keep it close to your body, under clothing preferably. A shoulder bag carried over one shoulder is far too vulnerable, carry it across your body instead.
Contemplate travel insurance. It should cover you for items stolen, but far more importantly, you want insurance that will cover you if you fall ill or are assaulted overseas. Or fail to look the correct direction when you cross the road, a frighteningly easy thing to do when the locals drive on the "wrong" side of the road.
Oh and my friend who lost everything in Dublin? Well the police recovered the car within a few hours, but it had been cleaned out. They were literally left with the clothes on their backs, and their passports and credit cards, which they'd had with them. A local radio station broadcast their plight, and within 24 hours they were inundated with not just offers of backpacks and clothing, but free hotel stays and tours. They had a fantastic trip to Ireland. So not all bad things end badly!