The world can be a volatile place for travellers. Even more so for young travellers, if you happen to be heading out for your first holiday with just your squad.
The recent targeting of Hong Kong International Airport by Pro-democracy protestors and the recent surge in crime in South Africa are telling incidents.
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What it does highlight is the need to ensure you have each other’s back – first and foremost the golden rule of friendship applies - look out for each other. Planning your trip and activities should also ensure that your trip creates lasting memories for a lifetime of friendship.
South Africa’s Tourism Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane has confirmed that the Department would be rolling out several initiatives as part of a Tourism Safety Awareness Campaign, aimed at improving tourism safety. Read more about It here.
“It’s important for travellers visiting South Africa to know that the country is grappling with crime and that this affects its citizens deeply, says Frost. “It is however also important that they understand that this means they could get caught up in the crime, but that does not mean they are targets thereof,” says David Frost, CEO SATSA.
Tourism areas remain largely unaffected by incidents. SATSA has however been working with the National Department of Tourism on its Tourism Safety Strategy. “We believe that everyone in South Africa has a right to feel safe, not just tourists,” he says.
So what should young travellers consider when heading to any destination in the world really?
Create a WhatsApp group off the bat. This ensures easy communication. Preferably stick together when heading out but if your group splits up – check back in at the end of the day or when return to your hotel or backpacker.
Add important, emergency contact numbers into the group.
Download ‘Find My Friend’ app to your phone – this will make finding each other in the event somebody gets lost easier. Keep printed copies of your entire trip as well as contact numbers handy – but plan ahead with power banks and ensure you have access to data/Wi-Fi. Create a wallet card with key numbers just in case.
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When you arrive at your hotel a few practical steps will safe guard you and your belongings.
Stash some emergency money – keep this secret stat separate from your wallet. Preferably use the safe if there is one in your room. If anything untoward does happen, you’ll have some back-up cash.
Safeguard your passport in the safe too. It might be useful to take your driver’s license or another form of identification along, like your student card to as proof of age or to secure any activity discounts.
Ensure you check this sort of thing with your travel agency beforehand – if you have booked with one. They can often be a great source of added advice – and especially helpful in an emergency. So save their number too.
Don’t sponge on safety by sharing a room key. Opting to use your balcony door as a back-up is a bad idea. Pay extra for the added key if you’re sharing and have peace of mind while you have fun.
Double-check your itinerary before you depart. Know what to expect by having copies of your itinerary on hand as well as all the details of your travel insurance.
Keep your parents in the loop, even if it seems like a hassle – you know they’ll appreciate a WhatsApp selfie or quick hi, letting them know you’re having a good time. Give them a copy of your itinerary and necessary contact details for the places you’ll be staying.
Leave certified copies of your passport with your parents too. This will be invaluable if anything does go wrong. Dirco also has a Travel Safe programme – you register online here www.dirco.gov.za; or contact the following e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org”
It also helps to get clued up on the destination you’re visiting. Know the customs and laws, and no matter how much fun you’re having always be mindful and respectful of these. You don’t want to risk getting arrested if you’re public displays of affection for example just so happen to be illegal.
It cannot be stressed enough – enjoy alcohol responsibly and watch each other’s drinks to ensure you’re safe against getting spiked. It’s never a good idea to accept drinks from strangers.
Don’t mix your alcohol with your adventure activities for obvious reasons. And while selfies are great – taking unnecessary risks in order to get are not.
Now is not the time to feel pressurised. Sure you’re in a new location and feeling relaxed but trust your instincts and if you think your group is planning something you’re not into – speak up or simply just pass.