Some people run away from danger; others run toward it.
Multimedia journalist Rachel Anderson is one of the latter. She’s lived in Egypt for six months and chose to stay after the highly publicized protests prompted an American evacuation. “Nope. Never!” Anderson said when asked if she’s considered leaving. “[I’m] spreading the word of what the Egyptian people are currently enduring and am providing a voice to an audience who wouldn’t otherwise be able to.” That doesn’t mean she’s ignoring her personal safety.
“I’m staying in a hotel close to the protests so I don’t spend much time on the street alone,” Anderson said. “I’m not walking around outside the square by myself.”
That’s a good thing, said retired U.S. State Department anti-terrorism expert Ed Lee. Lee consults travelers on international safety and believes that civil turmoil – like what is currently happening in Egypt – is a good time to reinforce the pillars of travel safety.
“No country is completely safe. A lot of people don’t get that,” Lee said. “That’s why roughly 20 percent of travelers have some sort of security issue while away.” Lee recommends following a safety routine before traveling – no matter if you’re traveling to Egypt, Tunisia or London.
Do Your Research
“Make sure you go to the U.S. State Department website and look at any available information on the country you’re going to,” Lee said. Don’t stop there – U.S. travel warnings are thorough, but crosschecking that information with the equivalent U.K. and Australian travel sites is also important.
Register Your Itinerary with the U.S. State Department
“You can actually register your itinerary with the State Department directly on their website,” Lee said. Registering your location, passport number and contact information can help the U.S. Embassy locate you if disaster strikes.
Get International Medical Insurance
“You must have international medical coverage,” Lee stressed. He recommends looking into companies that specialize in travel insurance, like MEDEX and International SOS. And have a medical exam before your trip. “You’re in trouble if you get an illness in a developing country,” he said.
Always Carry Photocopies of Your Passport
“Keep copies in your luggage,” Lee said. “Put the originals in a safe at your hotel, if you can trust it.” Also, be sure to know if you’ll need an exit visa to avoid problems if you need to leave a country quickly.
Know Where the Embassy and Hospitals are Located
This might seem like common sense, but many travelers don’t think of looking for the U.S. Embassy and hospital until it’s too late. Make it a point to locate these landmarks on the first day of your trip.
Don’t Be Too Trusting“People let their guards down while traveling,” Lee said. “And that’s how people get robbed.” He recommends avoiding taxis – especially in developing countries where thieves are known to steal commercial taxis. “Being robbed when you just wanted a ride has a way of turning a normal day into a really bad one.”