Cape Town - It's tempting to want to throw caution to the wind when planning a trip.
You can get swept up in the thrill of splurging on a trip that's been collecting dust on your bucket list - so much so that you overlook safety measures.
It's important to be prepared for any threat that might throw your travel course off-track - like an unexpected emergency or natural disaster. Be sure to do your research beforehand and check out sites like Numbeo to compare the various criteria of risk statistics for different places.
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Here are four travel warnings you should never overlook: Weather Warnings, Crime Warnings, Health Warnings & Airline Warnings.
1. Weather Warnings
At home, you can leave checking the weather until the very second before stepping out, but it will be a lot harder to navigate that with just a suitcase or backpack worth of clothing items and dreams on you.
Instead, you should check weather reports so that you know in advance what type of clothing items to pack in. Waiting until the day before you'll fly is too late.
If you're travelling to a Caribbean destination, check for storms on the various platforms available ahead of time so that you can make other arrangements if need be – before everyone else tries to do the same thing and the airline runs out of available seats.
Some helpful sites to check for weather and potential storms are: National Hurricane Center, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Tropical Storm Risk (TSR), Cyclocane or Accuweather.
Airlines are usually good about waiving change fees in such cases, but it's always better to make changes sooner. It might be useful to note when the hurricane seasons spike up in certain areas.
For instance: The Atlantic hurricane season runs 1 June to 30 November; the Pacific season for cyclones typically starts a little earlier (15 May) and also ends at the end of November. The last two years extreme weather has shut down major airports multiple times, so it's better to know when things might get a bit cloudy or rainy on your travel parade.
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2. Crime Warnings
A lot of countries tend to have official websites that deal with such things as visas and passport information and where to find your country's embassies or consulates around the world. A lot of these government sites also include warnings about crime and other difficulties travellers and tourists may encounter. For South Africans, this list can be found here.
On the US State Department's travel section there's a colour coded warning map: Red is for 'do not travel', while orange means 'reconsider travel'. You can also view and compare the likelihood and rates of crime on Numbeo - who have compiled their own map as well (which can be viewed here).
If you must go to a potentially dangerous place, the US State Department's travel section site offers tips to help you stay out of harm's way. They also have the following article that talks about specific crimes or scams visitors may encounter in a particular region and common sense tips and advice we can all use to protect ourselves: country-by-country section.
The crux of the matter is - you should always ensure your valuables are kept safe and aren't putting you at risk. Also, make sure that you're vigilant while being absorbed by amazing holiday hot spots and tourist attractions.
HuffPost has written an entire list of tips on being safe while travelling and provide some pertinent know-how skills that travellers and travel enthusiasts should heed.
Some of the main tips are:
- Know your resident address in both English and the location's native tongue or have it written down or snapped on your phone if you should find yourself lost.
- Make sure you have travel insurance should something go seriously wrong.
- Walk near a couple if you're walking alone at night - not too close, but close enough until you're in a safe space again - obviously don't stalk them home.
- Avoid dark and non-tourist areas at night and stick to busier areas.
- Store your money in more than one location in case some gets stolen.
- Tourists tend to be popular targets for crime - try to blend in with the locals and not bring too much attention to yourself as a tourist.
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3. Health Warnings
Always check the health and disease issues being experienced in your holiday destination location to avoid having your vacay clouded by a deadly disease like Malaria or Zika.
We tend to focus on looking up the special attractions and natural wonders of countries we plan to visit but we rarely seek out health information about our destinations. Make a quick visit to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website and look for the Travellers' Health section to see which countries are currently experiencing malaria or rabies outbreaks, and which islands are coping with ongoing threats from the Zika virus.
The good news is that the CDC provides a wealth of useful information on how to protect yourself from such things, including specific precautions to take and where to find medical clinics when away from home.
Some diseases travellers should know about include:
- Zika Virus - is spread between people through the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito.
- Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) - a viral respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus (MERS-CoV). Camels are a likely source of infection for people.
- Ebola - this extremely severe and often fatal condition can be spread from wild animals (fruit bats are said to be the disease's natural host) to people. It can also spread between people through exposure or direct contact with the blood, organs, secretions of an infected person or through the use of unsterilised tools like needles.
- Chikungunya Virus - is spread between people through the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito.
- Measles - humans are the only host for this disease and its spread through droplets from the nose or oropharynx.
- Polio - it can be transmitted through a faecal-oral or oral-oral route.
- Cholera - this intestinal illness caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae and is spread through ingesting faecal or vomit contaminated food or water.
- Avian Flu - also known as bird flu - is not as common in humans, but rare cases have been contracted through direct or close contact with infected poultry or eating raw or undercooked meat, eggs or blood from infected birds.
- Tuberculosis - this disease mainly affects the lungs, but it can also involve the kidneys, brain, spine and other organs. This is an airborne disease and can be spread when an infected person coughs, sneezes, speaks or sings.
- Malaria - is spread between people through the bite of an infected female Anopheles mosquito. Sometimes infection occurs through blood transfusions, organ transplantation, needle sharing and congenital transmission.
- Yellow Fever - is transmitted through the bite of an infected Aedes or Haemagogus mosquito. It gives some infected people jaundice - hence its title of Yellow Fever.
- Typhoid Fever - this disease is transmitted through contaminated food or water. It moves from the intestines to the bloodstream then to other parts of the body including: the lymph nodes, gallbladder, liver and spleen.
- Dengue - is a febrile illness spread through the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito.
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4. Airline Warnings:
Nothing quite puts a damper on a vacay than rushing to the airport only to have to wait a few more hours for your delayed flight or missing it altogether!
When you check in for your flight the night before or the morning of - check if any changes have occurred to your flight details. Also check again and again - never stop checking, because changes happen all of the time. Until your butt is buckled down to the seat - it's all up in the air.
If you haven’t already done so, check to be certain that your airline has your contact information so they can email or text you in the event of delays or cancellations. You might be surprised at how disruptive an unexpected hurricane or tsunami can be.
Winter storms can be terrible, too, of course, but so can unexpected events like erupting volcanoes. Always be sure to check with the airline from time to time to see what's new or changed, and double check that these airline emails don't go directly to trash or spam.