Sunday, August 6, 2017

15 HINTS TO MAKE TRAVEL SAFE AROUND THE WORLD or The gypsy baby stole what?

Notes about travel: I know it is a lot but take your time, think it through and see if any of this information may be of some help.You really shouldn't be paranoid. Bad stuff can and will happen. Being informed makes life a lot easier.

2003 Plaza Major in Madrid.
Purse was stole within minutes 
after this was taken.
Were we talking about travel? I can't remember but I do know it has been on my mind recently. I was looking at one of my favorite websites published by midlife women on Midlife Boulevard. The travel section caught my eye. Traveling vicariously is almost as much fun as really going.

Susan Fluhr wrote a story about her trip to Masada in Israel and the photos were beautiful. The best travel articles, I think, are those that bring back wonderful memories of vacations past. We visited Jordan last December. Israel is on the west side of the Dead Sea, Jordon on the East. The wheels began turning.

Then I received an email from a cyber security company concerning traveling safely. The timing was perfect.

The mention of safety and risks in travel struck a chord with me because most of the places we have visited in recent years have not been what most people would consider "safe". I cannot tell you how many times friends have told my husband and I that they would never go to the places we like to go.

Where have you traveled?
We have been to China, Vietnam, the Philippines, the Middle East (Dubai and Jordan). Most people find that just plain crazy especially since we do not travel with a tour group. Even Mexico is frightening to most of those people that do not travel without fear. Yet the worst things that have happened to us was in Spain where a Romani (Gypsy) woman carrying a baby stole my wallet.

Could I ever change any one's mind about travel safety? Probably not. So for those adventurous people new to this world of travel, I have a few thing that might be of interest.
2003 The storm on the Mediterranean the day before the war in Iraq began.

Demonstrations in the street of Malaga in 2003 right before the war in Iraq

Look closely at the armament attach to the truck under the camouflage. This was a check point along the Dead Sea.
Our Jordanian taxi drivers took us from Amman to Petra by the scenic route.
The Dead Sea is very large yet no boats are ever allowed on it according some agreement between Jordan and Israel. No one could ever be safe if it were allowed.
(from Marriott Hotel room balcony)

The Middle East
Staying safe in places like Jordan is a little iffy. Our government did not recommend travel there when we went. Jordan is at war. I am not sure that even they know who the enemy is but their security is very tight. When they talked about "the war" we were not sure which one they had in mind. We hired local taxi drivers recommended by Lonely Planet Guide. Those drivers were associated with the US Embassy so we felt relatively safe.

We traveled with our son, his wife and our two granddaughters. We payed attention to where we were and who was around. Hotels practiced the same security but even tighter than our western airports. Wandering into a busy market place in a bad neighborhood would make me nervous. But visiting with a local merchant would not. We would walk any place that was close enough. The truth is we have an attitude that being safe anywhere is not possible!

Note: If you have been in Israel you cannot go into Muslim countries as a rule. I am told that Israel does not stamp the passport itself. The reverse is also true. I don't know if Dubai, for example, would do the same thing.

Communist Countries
I know this is not what people believe but most countries that do not allow a lot of freedom are much safer than those that are liberal. A communist country is a prime example.

We flew from Shanghai to Hanoi, Vietnam and then traveled north on a night train to a community at the base of the mountains. From there we took a private van to Sapa. Sapa sits in the Hoàng Liên Son Mts. and is about 15 kilometers from the China border. It is a "trekkers" paradise. The Viet, H'Mong and Chinese mingle but not with ease. There is a lot of distrust.

But visitors from Europe/America are welcomed with open arms everywhere we visited in Vietnam. They liked our money. We never felt fearful at all...ever!

We stood on the parade grounds where the communist party would hold rallies in Sapa.

In Hanoi we slept in a hotel in the very old part of town. We were woken in the morning by the loud speakers announcing the activities or news for the day at 7 AM. It was time for that country to get to work.

In Ho Chi Min City (Saigon) we saw bunkers remains at the airport and went past the museum the communist had erected to commemorate the fall of Saigon. We saw prison camps as we traveled south to a port on Pho Quoc Island.

We flew from Saigon over the Mekong Delta to the island where we stayed in a resort. That was where we took a boat to see the people living on boats/fish farms. We were never afraid of anything but food poisoning and crossing the street! We were in fact safer there than we would have been in Tucson AZ.

Sapa, Vietnam...A famous vendor in the market. 
14 Safety Hints
Having said all this, you need to know that we are careful, very, very careful. These are the precautions we take because we do not want to travel with a tour. We see and experience a lot more on our own.

  1. Let your financial institutions and credit card companies know you will be traveling.
  2. Keep your passport in the hotel safe. I cannot say this often enough.
  3. Bring duplicates of all your papers.
  4. Keep original and copies of all travel documents plus valuables like jewelry, computers, even cell phones in a safe. Keep your passport in the safe in your room or at the desk.
  5. Take one credit card with you when you venture out, leave another in the safe. Keep help numbers for those cards in a safe place. If by chance your credit card is stolen, you will find that the card company will stop credit and issue you a new one, even delivering it to your hotel in very short order.
  6. Do not strut your stuff...looking wealthy is not a good idea. You just set yourself up for trouble.
  7. Always be courteous even when you are frustrated. 
  8. Being an ugly American is not a good thing. Remember "When in Rome do as the Romans do."
  9. Use the concierge in your hotel. Carry business cards from the hotel you are staying at. It will be a huge help when it comes to using taxis.
  10. If you can afford it and are not experienced, hire a guide. You will be surprised that it does not cost that much.
  11. Keep meds close at hand. Any chronic illness that might flare up requires a plan. Travel with sunscreen, bug spray, Imodium. Check to see if you need any shots. We have had all those shots many years ago. (A trip to Thailand for example requires some precautions.)
  12. Do not be taken in by con-men. Be wary of people approaching you with help on the street particularly in Thailand and perhaps anywhere in that region. Even in  Mexico or Morocco I recommend that you just not making eye contact. (That is very hard for American in particular.) You will save yourself a lot of grief by simply not acknowledging or simply saying no (or neine in Vietnam might work better).
  13. If you decide to go on an adventure even with a guide, let someone know where you will be and when to expect you back. 
  14. We all know that the Romani (Gypsy people) in Europe will steal anything that is not taped or nailed down. Just avoid them and keep your purse/wallet close. Don't carry anything of value. Leave the passport in the safe!
  15. Avoid back alleys and shortcuts. Mainstreets are much safer. I have a story for that one but it can wait. 
  16. If you travel in a time of war, be very low key. Usually blending in is a good idea. We were in Spain when the war in Iraq began and the people took to the streets in protest. We actually feel safer alone than on a tour because we dress like the locals when we can. No one knows we are American.
I know it is a lot but take your time, think it through and see if any of this information may be of some help.You really shouldn't be paranoid. Bad stuff can and will happen. You need to be calm, embrace the adventure and learn to think of each day you make it through as giving you bragging rights. You will have a wonderful time.

Questions anyone? 



  1. Your travels sound wonderful. Israel no longer stamps passports. They stamp a piece of paper instead. Like the US, Israel isn't the government, and they do try to make it easy for people to travel

    1. Thank you for pointing that out Pia. I think I had heard that but my son who lives in Dubai is still careful.

      I want to go to Israel on day soon. I cannot tell you how Jordan resonated with. The voices of the people telling "their" stories was wonderful.

      Be well.

  2. I always carry my passport in my money belt. I thought it would be helpful if we got stopped. I will remember your advice. I laughed when you talked about being afraid of crossing the street in Vietnam!

    1. If you want to carry some id carry your driver's license and maybe a copy of your pass post. I actually think that a business card from your hotel would be adequate. That at least gets emergency people back to the place you are staying and they will figure it out from there. If you aren't breaking the law you should really have no problem.

  3. Hi Barbara! I hope you know I so agree with this post. While caution is always good when traveling anywhere new (including everywhere in the U.S.) we have never had any serious issues traveling around the world. And yes, we go to Mexico frequently, and a year ago we went to Egypt where everyone we new thought we were crazy. But it was an AWESOME trip and I am so very glad I went. Even though we try to explain to others that there was no worry what-so-ever, it's almost impossible to make fearful people feel safe. I guess we either have it in us or we don't. Glad to hear that you've also had so many wonderful experiences. And one of these days I'm going to pick your brain about Vietnam--it's on our bucket list! ~Kathy

  4. Those are great tips and I applaud your bravery to travel to countries that not everyone goes to. I'd love to do that too. Travel is the best and people are mostly generous and kind. There are some bad eggs but if you're careful, you can avoid them.

    1. You are so right. But the bad egg people are everywhere aren't they?


Leave your thoughts...I am interested.

Featured Post

Five Little Ducks...stories played out!

The children's song about the little ducks leaving the nest to fly away has always been one of my favorites.  Every mother has seen thei...