This article was first published in Dawn Magazine on 31st July 2016
As the travel season peaks, the focus has been on the threat of terrorism in major tourist hubs. While concern has been around travel bookings, hotel safety, airport transit, etc, you need to know exactly what one has to do in this case.
Check out what is happening in your destination city as all of it may impact your plans.
Check for major events of any nature — political, celebrations, conferences, summits, sports, etc. The type of events has a bearing on many facets of your plans.
With terrorist activities taking place around the world keep your and your fellow travellers’ safety in the forefront
Lodging becomes difficult to find and is expensive.
Early and late check-ins may not be possible and even charged significantly.
If you are arriving early and have booked from the night before always advise the hotel what time you should be expected. In some instances they could end up giving your hotel room away considering you a No-Show. If you are travelling and have no access to a phone then it increases the odds against you.
Travel time within the city increases in case of particular events.
Public transport in the vicinity of the events is generally packed and you may have to get off from the vehicles at a distance from your destination. Therefore be prepared for walking extra.
Security will most likely be increased with varying forms of measures, such as snap-checks, street patrols and document checks of tourists.
People walking around photographing event sites are particularly noted, especially if you fit a certain profile that may be of concern;
Previously, it would be normal to leave travel documents in the hotel safe and carry photocopies while moving around the cities. That judgment call needs to be made by the individual.
If you do carry copies of your documents then make sure your immigration arrival stamp on the passport is also a part of the set that includes the main identity page and any visa that was the basis of your entry.
Always keep a hotel business card or the address of wherever you are residing on your person. This serves two purposes — the law enforcer can easily verify what you are saying and you can provide it for directions when using transport or if you get lost. It is especially important when you don’t speak the local language.
What are some key must-haves and dos?
Insurance cover both for medical needs as well as any travel cancellations for all who are travelling, covering a few days beyond your planned stay.
Always have a medical profile setup for yourself and fellow travellers that:
Includes details of any major allergies.
Lists any medical conditions — current and of recent past (surgeries, heart, diabetes, etc).
Mentions any reactions to medications.
Current medication that anyone in your travelling party may be using.
Contact details for the hotel or any lodging you are expected to use.
Your embassy or consulate. Remember, they may not be in the location you are in. Therefore, it is important to understand how long it would take to get there and how.
Family/friends in the country or who may be able to provide assistance in the shortest time possible.
Travel team that made your plans, in the destination country and the country of origin. This is a critical element when you wish to change your travel plans.
Register with your embassy or consulate if they have a traveller assistance programme. Understand when this needs to be done:
If before travelling to the destination, then mention the confirmed parts of your plan in case some are bound to change.
If after arriving at your destination, then make note of their operating times and what you would require to take with you. Original passport is always required (if you’ve lost it then copies may be acceptable).
Always keep someone informed of your plans when you are arriving, departing or at the location.
Family back home or even friends
Office (if it is an official visit; even for personal travel as they may be in a position to assist).
Know the address and contact of your organisations in your travel destination.
Many global organisations extend support to employees who may be on personal travel. Therefore they may be in a position to assist you.
Always follow the directions of law enforcement:
Never rush at them.
Do not scream or be aggressive and especially in a language they may not understand as it could be perceived as hostile.
Do not photograph when told not to and in general never photograph security installations or people in uniform.
Learn a few key phrases or words in the local language, such as:
- Am in trouble
- Call the police
- I don’t speak …
- I’ve lost my passport, family.
In case you are confronted by a terror attack:
Run for safety, get as far as possible from the area.
If you can’t run then hide but understand your aim should be to get out safely and quickly.
Finally, fight only if you can’t run or hide and you know you will be grievously harmed.
Use social media as a support:
Post that you are ok in the aftermath of an event.
Follow postings to understand the severity of the incident and possibly of what may be happening.
Keep abreast with the news about the area you are in on a regular basis. Many local events are only discussed on local channels.