Destinations

Tips for safe travel

No one can claim that any destination is 100% safe and risk-free. It cannot be said of Istanbul, Madrid, Brussels, Paris, Boston,Orlando, or any other city in the world. So what does that mean for travel? Do we put life on hold and hide in a bunker while waiting for the madness to stop? If we choose to do this, we rob ourselves of the fascinating experiences we could be having and the wonderful people we could be encountering. But it is still important to weigh the risks of sacrificing life experiences for safety.

No one can claim that any destination is 100% safe and risk-free. It cannot be said of Istanbul, Madrid, Brussels, Paris, Boston,Orlando, or any other city in the world. So what does that mean for travel? Do we put life on hold and hide in a bunker while waiting for the madness to stop? If we choose to do this, we rob ourselves of the fascinating experiences we could be having and the wonderful people we could be encountering. But it is still important to weigh the risks of sacrificing life experiences for safety.

First and foremost, we need to put the risks into a realistic perspective. According to statistics released by the US State Department, the odds of US citizens (for instance) being harmed by terrorist attacks while they are in the United States are over 8 times higher than when they are abroad. The odds of being killed as the result of a car accident while driving through your own town far exceed those of being involved in a terrorist attack while on vacation.

While the risks may be slight to begin with, there are ways to reduce them even further. Before embarking on any vacation or business trip, familiarize yourself with some important steps to reduce the odds of encountering danger.

  1. Enrolling in the US State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) allows travelers to receive updates and warnings about safety conditions. This free program also makes it easier for the Embassy and family members to reach you in the unlikely event of an emergency. (For other nationalities, various embassies have programs that link their nationals with them when in a specific country if only to keep track of them should something untoward happens – Ed)
  2. Booking your trip through a reputable travel expert when visiting areas of heightened concern will help ensure that crucial details are handled for you. Arranging reliable transportation, booking hotels in safe neighborhoods, and providing you with trustworthy guides are all ways that can reduce your chances of running into problems. Book with a company that has a physical office location in the country to which you are traveling so you have local reps to contact. Make sure the travel company has a good rating with the Better Business Bureau and read reviews on well-respected travel review websites from past travelers before booking your tour.
  3. When possible, stay away from public demonstrations or protests and steer clear of large crowds. What can start out as a peaceful gathering can quickly turn into a mob and it is best not to let yourself get caught up in the crowd.
  4. Don’t draw negative attention to yourself. Traveling in another country is not the time to have a loud argument, drink too much, or make a scene with a local establishment.
  5. Carry important information with you at all times. It is always a good idea to have a backup, so make sure to email yourself copies of all your travel documents, including your passport, visas, e-tickets, as well as travel and medical insurance. Also carry emergency contact information and your hotel’s business card written in the local language so you can receive help if needed.
  6. Purchase travel insurance to protect your travel investment by covering whatever situations could arise, from a sprained ankle to a hospital stay. Peace of mind is worth a great deal and it is better to be safe than sorry.

We cannot ignore the reality of our present day world, but when we take a smart approach we can continue to embrace the many magnificent opportunities that exist. Yes, there are hateful people in the world, but there are far more who exude kindness, generosity, and hospitality. There are events that cause pain and destruction, but there are far more that celebrate beauty and strive to bring people together. Do not allow fear to rob you of living a full and enriching life!

This article was written by Noam Matas, General Manager of America Israel Tours.

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