101: How To Travel Safely

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101  How To Travel Safely kristina 333x445 jpgWho wouldn’t want to travel the world over? Admit it, you’ve wanted to travel to far flung places, but maybe there’s something that’s holding you back. Perhaps it’s the expense, or getting time off from your job, or not knowing how to find the best places to go, or simply being afraid of getting in trouble. Traveling can be exciting, fun and educational, and you only need to use common sense to make sure you stay safe. If you’re thinking about planning a trip sometime soon, we have some expert advice to help you navigate your way.

26-year-old Kristina Wegscheider is an avid traveler and the founder of travel website for young women, Do It While You’re Young, which strives to break down the barrier stopping most young women from traveling abroad. She spoke to Crushable about her own experiences — having traveled to nearly 50 countries and trying to blend in as a 6-foot tall blonde — and gave us some ideas for tips and tricks to use along the way.

Do your research
Kristina advises doing searches of sites like the State Department’s website before digging into travel sites, to find out what kind of visa requirements are necessary to get into the country. Then check out sites like Lonely Planet and TripAdvisor or pick up a local guide book to see what neighborhoods are the safest for you to stay. “You can usually find three or four neighborhoods that are a little safer, a little more residential maybe,” she said. “And I typically try to find a hotel in those areas, just so I can walk down the street.”

Arrange for transportation from the airport when you get there
“After a 20- or 30-hour flight I’m not on my guard all the time and it’s nice to have a car or something arranged just so I’m not struggling with taxis,” Kristina said.

Keep your passport on you at all times

“My goal is to keep my passport separate from my purse so that if I did get robbed I could give my purse up and I would still have my passport,” Kristina said. She always carries a messenger bag purse and a little across the body bag she can tuck away discreetly to hold her passport and some money.

Bring cash
Kristina advises changing your money before you leave, and don’t bother with traveler cheques or credit cards. “I’ve had bad luck with credit cards,” she admits. Another tip: put some small bills and coins in an outside pocket of your purse for tips or small purchases, so you won’t have to drag out your big wallet.

Research local customs and dress conservatively
It’s all about blending in. “I live in California so I’m used to wearing shorts and tank tops all summer, so I have to adjust myself a little bit,” Kristina said. “I just went to Jordan, and you have to change your mindset when it’s hot outside but people aren’t wearing shorts. You have to adapt to the local culture.”

Lose the jewelry
Try to accessorize with things like scarves, because you don’t want to draw the wrong kinds of attention for wearing flashy jewelry, even if it’s plastic.

Arrange taxis through your hotel
You’ll usually get a better deal and a higher standard of taxi if you go through your hotel. And don’t forget to always negotiate the rate beforehand.

When in doubt, take a tour
“If I am going to somewhere that is a little bit off the beaten path, I tend to do a small group adventure tour, where I’ll go by myself but I’ll join a tour of maybe 10-12 people,” she said. “A lot of people have the idea that a tour is going to be 50 people piling off the bus at the major sights, but I’ve been able to find some tour companies that are more kind of an in between. They provide some structure, but you still have a lot of free time. That’s been a really good mix for me, as far as going to somewhere that’s not as touristy.” She recommends Gap Adventures, Peregrine Adventures, Gecko’s Adventures and Contiki Tours.

Just make smart decisions
Stick to the basics: don’t travel alone if you don’t feel comfortable, don’t go out in a place that gives you a bad feeling, watch your alcohol intake and stay hydrated. Another good tip from Kristina: if you feel uncomfortable, create a fake boyfriend or husband who is “meeting you” somewhere on your trip. Sometimes Kristina even wears a fake ring.

Have you traveled abroad? What advice do you have for other young women? What was your best — and worst — travel experiences?