The recent demonstrations and violence in Egypt are the latest such display of civil unrest. In recent memory, there were demonstrations in France and, last year, Greece also had large protests and demonstrations. What does this mean for the average traveler or vacationer? Does it mean that they should lock themselves in their homes and never venture out because the world is such a scary place? Well, of course it doesn't. There are inherent risks to stepping outside your door to get a newspaper or visit the grocery store.
There are always potential risks when you travel. However, a smart traveler knows how to minimize those risks. There are some basic actions any vacationer can do, before they even leave home to lessen the risks no matter where they plan on traveling.
Ask a lot of questions
When you plan that once-in-a-lifetime vacation you are likely going to visit a travel agent. A travel agent knows all of the ins and outs of a location that you are unlikely to find when using an online booking site. In fact, they are so knowledgeable that you should be prepared to ask them a lot of questions.
What tour operator do they use? What provisions are in place if things go bad? What if flights are cancelled? Are they available at all hours to help and, if not, who can you call in the middle of the night? These may be just a few of the questions that pop into your head. The point is to ask them. Whatever concerns you might have about your trip, your destination or the things you are planning on doing once you arrive, make sure to ask your expert - the agent.
Know your tour operator
Not all tour operators are equal. So, when you ask the travel agent what tour operator they use, be sure to do your homework and find out everything you can about them. Then, start asking questions there as well.
How long have they been in business? Do they have offices in the locations you want to visit? How do they ensure the safety of the travelers that are on their trips? Do they take the time to personally visit each location or hand-pick the tour guides, bus drivers, etc.? Again, this all depends on how comfortable you are with the location and how concerned you are about what you might run into once you get there.
Study the culture
It may be your vacation, but that doesn't let you off the hook on doing some homework before you go. If you plan on visiting a location, you need to spend some time doing some research. The internet is a great place to start. However, your travel agent likely has lots of information about your destination. Also, the tour operator that they use should provide you with information including tips about the culture and suggestions about what to wear. Don't ignore that information. Take the time to read it and understand it.
In some areas of the world the manner in which you dress can get you into trouble, if you aren't careful. Some countries actually shut down almost entirely during certain days of the week. Don't think that because you watched the news, read a few newspaper stories or saw a movie featuring the location you plan to visit that you know it all.
Develop an action plan
Make sure you have a plan. This doesn't mean dwelling on the negative, but it never hurts to be prepared. If you don't have a plan and something goes wrong, you could find yourself in trouble. So, take the time to make a plan.
If something goes wrong, who do you call? Where will you go? Is there a certain place or location in the city that will be safer than another? Where is the American embassy? Where are the borders and can you make sure that you aren't going to cross any of them accidentally? Do you know anyone in the location you are visiting? Is there an area that is predominantly populated by other Americans? What contingency plans does the tour operator have in place? What about your travel agent? Do you have travel insurance?
Let people know
There have been far too many stories of travelers who head off to places that may or may not be risky and then ending up alone or in trouble because no one knows they are there. So, wherever you plan to travel, even if it is a place that is not perceived as risky or dangerous, make sure someone knows where you are.
Make sure that your family and friends know where you are and what your vacation itinerary is. Give them the phone numbers for the hotels and give them the phone numbers for your travel agent or tour operator. Do not rely on mobile phone coverage or Internet access alone. There might be times when communications in the country you are visiting are down, but if someone at home knows where you are and sees something on the news they can start making calls on your behalf.
There are always risks when you travel, no matter in what part of the world you find yourself. However, there are ways to make sure that you can be safe and secure. You don't have to be afraid to plan that dream vacation plan to that dream vacation spot. It just means you have to do a little bit of work beforehand and be smart about your traveling plans.