Whether travelling alone or with company, enjoy your travels with some simple and safe travel tips.
By Debjani Talapatra
2010 is almost over and it’s time for letting loose and celebrating the past year. For some, it means feeling the wind in their hair and bringing in the New Year while on holiday.
While getting some wind in your face is a great idea, throwing caution to the winds might just be the worst idea you’ve had all year. With the growth in cases of violent crimes in tourist hotspots, it’s important to consider safety while vacationing.
Research your destination and hotel. Use sites like HolidayIQ, TripAdvisor, Indiamike or the Lonely Planet Thorntree Forum to research your options and talk to other travellers. Sarita Talwar, 25, recollects, “On my last trip to Goa I wanted to stay at a shack on the beach. The one I had booked turned out to be at the dead-end of a five kilometre road. It was tranquil and beautiful but after one day there, I realized it was not safe in the evenings when I returned from the beach. I moved to a centrally located shack and felt safer.”
When looking at stay options, consider: Does public transport connect the hotel well to the rest of the place? How close is it to the airport/railway station? While it’s tempting to stay in a secluded spot for some quiet time, getting to and fro could be potentially dangerous. It always helps to take travel tips and phone numbers of reliable taxi services from friends who have been to that destination before.
Do not advertise the fact that you are travelling alone. While it is tempting to get lost in a book, try and stay alert and make sure that no one is paying any unnecessary attention to you. Carrying a can of pepper spray or a Swiss knife can make for additional protection.
Trust yourself and your instincts. If you are going out to a night club or a pub, ensure that you stay sober – make friends but don’t rely on anyone else to make sure that you get back safely. Don’t accept food or drink from strangers and, most importantly, always trust your instincts.
Get backup. The idea behind a holiday might be to get away from everything and everyone but it is a good practice to keep in touch with either a family member or friend on a regular basis. Also ask this person to check on you if you haven’t contacted them when you were supposed to.
Assign designated drivers. In a large group, at least two women must play the role of the designated drivers – even if there is no driving involved. Essentially, if you and your women friends go out for a drink, at least two of you should stay fully sober, so that they can get everyone back to the hotel safely.
Keep in touch with the group. Even though you are in a group it’s OK to follow your own interests and where they take you, but make sure the group keeps in touch and knows where each member is at all times and when they are expected back.
Don’t let anyone push you. While it’s fun to meet new people and make friends and being in a group is conducive to interacting with people, make sure you don’t do anything that is otherwise out of character for you. Piyali Sen, 32, who recently went to Dharmashala with her closest friends says, “We met a group of British girls about the same age as us and we hung out together and went to a couple of parties. Our last day there, the girls wanted to go to a house party. We agreed since we’d had such a wonderful time with them, but once we got to the venue we knew we’d made a bad choice. The place had every kind of narcotic imaginable. Everyone there was high or on their way to being high. We made excuses and found our way back to our home stay.”
Men do not guarantee safety. Unless one is lucky enough to travel with Batman, it’s wise not to assume that travelling with a man guarantees safety. As is evident from the recent shocking case of abduction and rape in Bangalore, having a man along doesn’t mean you are safe. A romantic walk on the beach at midnight might seem like a great idea but keep in mind that you two might not be the only ones on the beach – a mugger or worse could be just around the corner.
Research your route. If you happen to be driving to your destination, do some research to understand the best routes to get there. Besides maps, there are plenty of online resources such as Team BHP, which tell you the condition of the roads, availability of rest stops and restaurants and also of good overnight stops.
Train your kids. More families are travelling with kids to ‘exotic’ or off-beat locations, but before you leave for your holiday make sure that your kids, especially the younger ones, know their full names, home number and mobile numbers. Also make them memorise the name of the hotel and the room number in case they happen to get lost.
Alone time for parents? Some hotels have child care centres which is a boon for parents who might enjoy some alone time. But before you drop off your kids, spend some time and vet the place and the staff and especially ensure that it’s secure with no chances of your child wandering off or strangers having access to the area.
There are few joys in life that compare to the thrill of seeing new places and creating new memories. Following a few safety tips and being smart will help you to have not only a fun-filled but also a safe holiday. So, go out and have yourself a wonderful end-of-the-year vacay!
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