Top 5 Safety Tips Americans and other Westerners need to know NOW before traveling to a third world country.


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Welcome to the second Blog Carnival of the Lonely Planet bloggers from the Blogsherpa program. Our first carnival centers around Travel Safety. The Carnival will be a traveling carnival that will be hosted on a different travel site every two weeks.


When traveling / backpacking, it is important to note that not all third world countries have the same dangers to watch out for, but here are some that apply to most.



5) PROTECTING YOUR PERSONAL BOUNDARIES

Severe poverty can bring out real desperation in people, which means that in the poorer countries, people will push you as much as you let them. It is important to not allow yourself to overly react to these people, even tho it may seem your only choice when beggars come up to you repeatedly or follow you non stop. I had this experience in Egypt when I was there for a month, I became extremely cynical towards the locals and it ruined my experience.

I've found the better option is to ...





listen to my breath and ignore the people coming up to me. Breathe from the belly and stay in touch with your breath, it keeps you calm and it means you do not get caught up in whatever they are trying to push onto you. Having been traveling for over a year now, I can tell you this has kept me calm, collected, and happy. Being in touch with your compassion for what these people experience every day also helps.

Here is a video that will show you how to stay in touch with your breath:


4) BLENDING IN
This is incredibly important in countries like Morocco, Egypt and parts of South East Asia were desperation causes the locals to find any excuse to have an interaction with you.

Some of the probably hundreds of unwelcome interactions I had in Egypt included:




>On my first day I had a taxi driver, seeing that I was white, stop his taxi, park it, and follow me for 15 mins on foot asking if he could take me anywhere. Although I could have got a cheap price out of him, I just wanted to be left alone!
>I had a little boy follow my for 20 minutes everywhere I went.
>I had a guy start a conversation with me over my sunglasses when I stopped to drink some water, 10 minutes later I realised he was trying to sell me something at a not so affordable price.
>I met the most elaborate of elaborate con artists in Cairo.

If you want to avoid all of this, I suggest you get some huge sunglasses, wear a big hat, don't go around with even a small backpack, don't wear colours which are hugely different from what the locals are wearing.

3) IMPORTANT IF YOU ARE AMERICAN: I'm not sure why some Americans do this, but for some reason a lot of them like to put a flag on their backpack. This is a bad idea, it not only says you are a rich foreigner who can afford anything, but ever since George Bush and his Republican buddies invaded and occupied Iraq, Americans have been very unpopular abroad in many countries. Be cautious but not paranoid.


2) DON'T BE A FLASHPACKER

What's a flashpacker? someone who travels with the best brands of everything, and likes to show them off to everyone. If you are passing an old lady in the street who has just picked a rotting piece of bread out of a dumpster and is trying to eat the parts that are not rotting (as I saw today) and you are walking around flashing your blackberry or brand new Nike shoes, what do you think is going to happen? The old lady might not rob you, but you don't know who is around the next corner. I might add tho that during all my time traveling through some of the poorest of countries like Egypt etc, I never got robbed or felt close to being robbed.

Also, if you are planning on traveling cheaply, if go around wearing and showing clothes and items that are not affordable to the average person, you can expect to pay even more for whatever you buy. Dress cheap to get cheap prices!!

1) GENERAL TRICKS TO WATCH OUT FOR - Keeping your travels cheap and affordable.

> In Egypt and other countries, there are no coins for cents - the cent equivalent is paper money. If you can not read Arabic numbers or words, be careful that they do not give you change in cents instead of the dollar equivalent!! You may not end up paying the cheap price you thought you were!!

> Taxi drivers will often try to change the subject or imply that they agree with you on a price when you ask how much to go somewhere. Ensure you don't get into a taxi until you have a firm agreement on the cost. Do not expect the right change. Get in there with the exact amount and pay last thing before you step out of the taxi, don't give them time to disagree. You can find out the fair price to pay to go somewhere by asking a local who works at the hostel/hotel you are staying at. I know a New Zealander who ripped off to the tune of US$50 for a cab ride that should have been as cheap as $3!!

Keep in mind there are also very nice, honest people in this profession who are simply trying to support and feed their families.

> NEVER exchange your money at a currency office, you will never get a cheap / fair price - go to a bank. Or, if you need to use a currency office, read every bit of the fine print very carefully and ask them how much they will give you for $100 for example. This way you can compare from shop to shop to ensure you get the cheapest price. The ones with Western Union tend to be slightly more reliable and cheaper. Never change money with people on the street, they may pretend they are cheaper, but they either use fake money or old money which is no longer valid.

> Always bargain for the cheapest price - never accept the first price they give you, the locals bargain, you should too. Start with half the price they ask for and slowly go up. This is the best way to get the cheapest price possible.

> Know the cost of your visa before you get to the border. Do not just trust they will tell you an honest price, also ensure the cost of the visa is the price written on the stamp/sticker they give you.

Follow these guidelines and you should end up avoiding the hell that this guy experienced in Bali.

Lastly, although these tips are important, don't get into a paranoid mentality - at the end of the day these people are just desperate and have families to feed, and chances are that if you grew up in that country you would also behave the same. Stay in touch with your breath, compassion, and open mindedness, and you are bound to have a good time :)

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