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Travel Safely: Navigators’ Ultimate Travel Guide [PDF Download Available]
September 05, 2019
Planning an overseas trip can be exciting, but also quite stressful. With all the research, bookings, customs, how can you guarantee your safety in every step of the process?
Navigators Insurance is making it simple for you, with our Travel Safely: Navigators Ultimate Travel Guide. We will provide you with our list of the best practices and precautions to take prior to and during your trip to ensure everything goes as smoothly as possible.
In this blog, we will discuss:
- Planning and Protecting Your Journey
- How to Prepare
- Getting Around
- Language and Customs
- Caring for Your Health Abroad
The first thing to consider for your trip is where you are going and how you are getting there. When picking a destination, always give the Canadian Government’s Travel Advice and Advisories page a look over. This can help you determine the on the ground safety of each country.
Tickets & Visa
When booking flights or train tickets, try to book in as far advance as possible. Prices often inflate closer to the travel date. It is also a good idea when searching online to clear your cache or search for flights in ‘Incognito Mode’ as sites often collect your search history and increase flight prices based on this.
Some resources to find flights include:
- Skyscanner: A travel fare aggregator website that collects data from hundreds of online ticket vendors. You can have it take you to the cheapest destination based on the month you select.
- Google Flights: Google Flights is an incredibly resourceful tool that allows you to get very specific in your search. You can select the exact airports you want to fly to, the rewards systems you want to collect, the exact times to fly out and more.
- Hopper: Hopper is an app that analyzes billions of prices daily to predict how prices will change and will inform you when to buy or wait to book your flight.
- A Flight Agent: Like an Insurance Broker, flight agents have access to a wide variety of products at their fingertips. This means their prices can be competitive. Plus, they can provide you with professional information on travelling.
When booking online, be cautious of travel phishing scams. Always read the fine print and after booking, contact the hotel and airlines directly to ensure they have a record of your booking. For more information on how to avoid travel scams booking airline tickets, check out our blog, How to Avoid Online Travel Scams.
After you’ve booked your flight, make sure you have all the required travel documents to enter the country – you might need to apply for a Visa. Ensure you have given yourself enough time for all the paperwork to go through.
Tip: While you are booking your flight, some airlines offer to add on travel and cancellation insurance. While this seems convenient, this insurance may not cover your intended activities. For example, certain travel insurances won’t cover you if you get in an accident canoeing or skiing. This is where you may need Sports Travel Insurance.
Have extra copies of your passport, personal ID, and any relevant travel documents, just in case.
Tip: Have a notarized physical copy and a digital one. You can store the digital one in a password protected and/or encrypted cloud service. This way you can access your important files no matter where you are.
It’s good to have a second copy of your boarding pass as well as a version on your phone too. And, arrive at the airport or train station early. The bag check and security lineups are often quite long.
Putting Together an Itinerary
Some things are awesome to figure out as you go along! Plus, you will want to leave breathing room to relax. However, it is always a good idea to plan at least some of your activities beforehand.
This is because certain activities can have longer travel times, must be booked in advance, or require specific clothing items you would need to pack. For example; museums, amusement park tickets and city passes should be booked in advance to ensure you can get in.
When doing excursions, make sure to have a certified guide with you and ask if the excursion provides additional insurance for the activity. If you purchased basic travel insurance, you will want to make sure the companies have special precautions to protect you.
Tip: Even if you don’t plan on going on a group tour, get an idea of travel itineraries from tour sites of the ‘top’ things people do.
Travel Safely: Notify the Government
Register with the Canadian Government. Register your travels with the Government informing them of the dates you will be out of the country. Depending on your contact options, this can allow the Government to notify you or your family in case of an emergency.
Also, coordinate with a contact at home and inform them of your itinerary and check-in with them on your whereabouts.
However, it is not a good idea to notify others publicly on social media or ‘check-in’ with your location while abroad. Criminals have been known to find homes to break into via these social media check-ins.
Protect Your Money
Always travel with more than one type of travel fund. Bring along a credit card in case your ATM card is stolen or fails to work. Also, remember to call your bank and credit card providers to notify them of your travel plans.
Most debit cards allow you to use your card abroad, check with your bank to be sure. Although your card might work, be wary about ATM security. When using an ATM abroad, be cautious and try to use ones with consistent surveillance. This could be an ATM inside a gas station or convenience store where a person and camera are always monitoring it.
If you are very anxious about carrying cash or using your debit card abroad, Canada Post sells Cash Passports aka. Money Cards. This allows you to load a pre-paid amount of funds onto a card. Your money is kept secure and will be reimbursed if lost or stolen, plus, the attacker won’t have your personal bank information.
Call your service provider to make sure you have cell phone coverage. Depending on where you are, some plans allow you to turn on data roaming for a certain amount per day. Or, get a temporary prepaid SIM at your destination if you’re planning a longer stay.
Tip: If you are buying a SIM in the country you visit, avoid purchasing one at the airport when you land. Prices will be cheaper in the city center.
Never leave your luggage unattended at the airport and always keep it secured with a lock. It’s also a good idea to mark it with accessories to help it stand out as yours.
Try to minimize the number of high-value items to take with you, (i.e. jewelry or electronics) and make use of the safe box to keep your belongings secure when leaving your room.
Pack the essentials that you would need for the trip but take anything that might not be available to buy at the country you’re visiting. For example, a power adapter depending on the country, or any special medical needs or food items.
Give your luggage a bit of extra space/weight when packing to account for stuff that you might purchase during your trip.
Tip: Packing cubes are a really great way to maximize space in your luggage and keep everything organized!
When leaving for the day, have all your essential items with you in a bag/backpack that is comfortable but secure. These can include your: phone, water bottle, money, portable charger, map, band-aids and basic medication.
Prepare for Weather
Weather forecasts aren’t always the most accurate, but it’s worth checking beforehand. The app DecisionData aggregates data from over 10+ years of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) data to predict the weather.
Ultimately, get a general idea of what the weather would be like in your destination, so you’d know what to pack.
Tip: Depending on the activities you do; rain ponchos are a great resource to save space in your luggage. They are ideal if you plan on doing light activities. But, if you intend to hike through rainforests or run outside, an actual rain jacket is ideal.
You have multiple options for getting around a country, but which one is best? That decision is up to you and your comfort level. In fact, your accommodations will be a big factor in how you travel in country.
Have an idea of how you’re going to get around in the city and plot your main points of interest on a map. If you use Google Maps, you can download offline maps of a specific area over Wi-Fi and Google will guide you around even when your cellular data or Wi-Fi is off.
Even if you are budgeting, make sure you are in a safe location. Don’t go to a cheaper hotel in a bad location. Instead, consider a cheaper option like an Airbnb or hostel that is still in an ideal location.
Consider travel cost when factoring in the price of the accommodation. Sure, the hotel on the outskirts of the city might be $10 cheaper… but how much is the taxi into the city/local tourist spots that you plan to go to? Is staying in the city and walking to those spots more affordable in the end?
Tip: If you plan on staying at a hostel, they often have lockers to secure your items. Be sure to bring a lock with you to safely store your valuables!
If you’re relying on public transit, take some time beforehand to familiarize yourself. A good idea is to do some research ahead of time and download the apps you would need to use to get around.
But sometimes, public transit is not an option. For example, certain parts of Southeast Asia have no options or unsafe public transit. Grab is a popular ride service like Uber, that you could use instead. Or, Bluebird taxi is a good option in many places around the world.
If you’ve got a car or planning to rent one, make sure you’re familiar with the road. Have a map of the city (or an offline map like mentioned above) and know the rules of the road. You also must have a valid driver’s license and insurance. This could mean getting an International Driver’s Permit from CAA.
If you are heading somewhere in the EU and planning on renting a car, check out our guide to renting a car in Europe!
Do You Need to Learn the Language?
This depends on the length of your trip and how immersed you want to get in the local culture. Learning basic phrases, regardless of your stay, is the best idea. Most places you go, the locals will be excited to hear you trying to speak their mother tongue.
Some great resources to learn new languages are:
- Duolingo: Learn online for free, through repetitive brain training.
- Babbel: An online tool that helps you develop language conversational skills. There are a variety of prices and packages options. On average it costs about $12 CAD a month.
- Apple Languages: Take your learning to the next level and study a language abroad. This gives you an opportunity to practice the language with native speakers. Housing options include homestays, student residences to find-your-own accommodations.
(Also, keep Google Translate handy on your phone.)
Customs and Culture
It’s good to learn as much as you can about the locals and their general lifestyle. Tourists can sometimes be unfamiliar with the customs and culture and might do or say something offensive.
For example, in Indonesia, it is rude to handle money with your left hand. Therefore, when there, you would receive and take money from locals with your right hand.
Make sure to study on customs and laws of your destination. You can find more information on the Cultures and Customs on the Global Affairs Canada website. Or, the Centre for Intercultural Learning page.
Note: Travelling as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community? The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association offers resources on local laws pertaining to LGBTQIA+ issues in various countries. But note, these are summaries and do not account for all beliefs and reactions in a culture or country.
In general, it is a complicated process to deal with medical issues and hospitals in a foreign country. But it’s not impossible! Take precautions beforehand and have travel insurance to cover you if issues do arise. (You can get travel insurance instantly online.)
Protect yourself with the appropriate vaccinations. A good first step is to check this is the CDC Website for recommended vaccines by destination. However, it is important that you book an appointment with your family doctor or a travel doctor to get accurate appropriate information for you.
In addition to many vaccines, pack ample amounts of bug spray and sunscreen.
To travel safely, confirm your food has been cleaned with potable water. And if in doubt, boil it. Next, be mindful of any allergies or dietary restrictions you may have and stress these when ordering. (This is where maybe learning a few key phrases in another language can come in handy!)
When it comes to drinking water, this depends on where you visit. For certain locations, clean tap water is not an option and you must drink filtered water from a sealed container. However, UV Lights, portable filtration systems and chemical disinfectants (which you can get at places like MEC) help purify water. Please check the safety precautions of your destination and if you are unsure, stick to bottled water.
Visit the Canadian Government’s: Travel Health and Safety Page for more tips on eating and drinking food abroad.
Tip: Get medication from your doctor for traveller’s diarrhea before you leave. This can help you be better prepared if something does upset your stomach. Having electrolyte tablets handy will also help if you become dehydrated.
Take a mini travel health/first aid kit with essentials like pain killers, gauze, rubbing alcohol wipes, electrolyte tablets, nausea relief medication and band-aids.
Tip: If you plan on walking a lot, pack blister band-aids. Blister band-aids can easily become your best friend.
If you need to take prescription medication regularly, make sure to have the amount needed for the duration of your trip. Most pharmacists will fill up to 3 months in advance. You can often get a note from your doctor explaining the needs of your medication and its intended dosage. This can be used if you get any questions at airports and borders.
Also, keep in mind that certain types of drugs that may be legal in Canada, like cannabis, are illegal in certain countries. Do your research before going to these places or bringing substances with you.
Finally, get travel insurance. This is essential to ease your mind on a trip and ensure you are travelling safely.
Travel insurance will cover medical costs if anything were to happen while abroad, and depending on the provider, will pay upfront or reimburse the hefty fees. One trip to the doctor could end up costing more than travel insurance would be.
It’s also important to note that traditional travel insurance might not work for you. There are various types of travel insurances and it’s important to select the right one for you. The most common type of insurance is All Inclusive Travel Insurance. This includes medical travel insurance, cancellation and interruption and lost baggage.
But, this might not be the best option for you if you plan on taking multiple trips a year, or your credit card already provides you with Cancellation and Interruption Insurance. Read our blog on What Travel Insurance Do I Need? to help select the right insurance for you.
Ultimately, don’t forget to take it all in. Enjoy what is around you and have a great time abroad! Travel is a truly unique and wonderful experience and we hope you have the time of your life.
*Note: Navigators Insurance is not affiliated with any products mentioned on this page, except Travel Insurance provided through SecuriGlobe.
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