With summer vacation season here, and more Canadians and Americans choosing Europe as their destination, it’s important to re-calibrate your strategies for foreign travel and establish fallback plans in case something does go wrong while you’re thousands of miles from home.
First, register with your government foreign service for up-to-date information and advisories as you travel, and for emergency help in case you’re caught up in a serious disruption, civil disturbance, terrorist event or even a naturally occurring event such as earthquake or fire.
By registering your trip and itinerary, government embassies can use their resources to assist you, identify where you are, if you’re safe or in need of help, keep your family at home informed of your status, and guide you to a safe place if needed. Registration is free, easy, and should be at the top of your to-do list. We have seen time and again that some of the greatest agony generated by an unexpected upheaval is not knowing where and in what condition your loved ones can be at any given time.
Make sure all of your travel documents are current, in good order, and copies are left behind in a safe place. Back up your smartphone documents such as “electronic” air tickets, hotel reservations, itinerary positions. Computers can be unreliable during times of civic stress.
As a backup, carry the names and contacts of those persons to be notified in case of accident or emergency.
Carry a purse, wallet, backpack or money belt with a list of all of your medications with dosages and the conditions for which they have been prescribed. Also list any medical conditions for which you are being monitored or treated. This information can save your life if it is readily available to medical staff attending you during an emergency. Also list your doctor’s contacts if you have a major condition under treatment.
Take, or ensure immediate access to, extra cash in the currency of your host country. When computers are down, credit cards are nothing more than pieces of plastic. Cash is still king in such situations.
If you have travel insurance, copy and back up your documents so you can access the emergency assistance systems given to you immediately and at the local level. Telling a foreign hospital clerk to phone your insurer at home is a step too far to expect. Have it on hand.
On the ground in a foreign country, stay away from crowded venues (though difficult in touristy areas, it is possible). Those who seek to do harm try to inflict as much damage as they can to as many people as they can. Break down your group to just a few people, and avoid as much as possible looking like a vulnerable tourist. Try dressing more like the locals. Ditch the luminescent shorts and hometown T-shirts that only advertise your vulnerability.
And always respect local customs, values, and courtesies. Keep your opinions to yourself, especially political ones. And stop lecturing locals on how it’s done “at home.”
Should you stay away from concert halls or soccer stadiums? That depends how much you value the event, but consider such venues high risk and keep your wits about you. That is just a fact of life.