You’re going international! That’s exciting — now how can you stay safe while traveling abroad? Here are some background stats and tips to keep you informed and safe:
By far the leading cause of death and injury to travelers is vehicle accidents. Second is suicide, followed by homicide, and aquatic accidents. Non-fatal accidents causing injury include all of the above categories, and also include fire, carbon monoxide poisoning, adventure activities, small aircraft, and drug and alcohol abuse.
Vehicle (car, truck, motorcycle, train, bus) accidents are the number one risk to manage while traveling. The Centers for Disease Control recommends:
- Always wear seatbelts and put children in car seats.
- When possible, avoid riding in a car in a developing country at night.
- Don’t ride motorcycles. If you must ride a motorcycle, wear a helmet.
- Know local traffic laws before you get behind the wheel. Don’t drink and drive.
- Ride only in marked taxis that have seatbelts.
- Avoid overcrowded, overweight, or top-heavy buses or vans.
- Be alert when crossing the street, especially in countries where people drive on the left.
This very personal and difficult crisis can strike at unexpected times. There are certainly resources available around the world. With international dialing at very reasonable rates, often it’s best to “phone home,” and contact a resource in your native language. Here is a list of suicide crisis lines.
If you do encounter someone who has taken their life, contact a professional suicide cleaning company who is trained in dealing with sensitive issues like trauma and the biological hazards posed by a decomposing body.
As homicide cleanup professionals, we feel strongly about avoiding these incidents entirely. It’s important to realize the dangers surrounding you, particularly while traveling internationally. Mexico, the Philippines, Jamaica, and Haiti lead the list of homicides of foreign visitors. Risk can be mitigated by making smart decisions with your safety. To mitigate the risk of all crime, the Centers for Disease Control recommends:
- Limit travel at night; travel with a companion, and vary routine travel habits.
- Do not wear ostentatiously expensive clothing or accessories.
- Avoid accommodations on the ground floor or immediately next to the stairs, and lock all windows and doors.
- Take only recommended, safe modes of local transportation.
- If confronted in a robbery, give up all valuables and do not resist attackers. Resistance can escalate to violence and result in injury or death.
Water activities are inherently risky. In many countries and remote areas there is limited access to emergency services and hospital excellence is not assured, so extra caution is advised. Shallow diving, dangerous undertow, shoddy boat renters/operators, leaky boats, scuba scams, and inebriation are common dangers to avoid.
Fire and electrical issues
Of course, safety standards and regulations differ around the world. Be sure to know the evacuation plan for your accommodation and any large venue you are attending. Be careful of electrical shock – a 220 volt shock is something formidable, and in certain cases can kill you instantly.
Carbon monoxide poisoning
Anything that burns fuel (generators, cars, camp stoves, heaters, etc.) that is near you or your room/tent/cabin is a potential source of carbon monoxide poisoning. This silent gas is a killer. Be sure that you inspect the area around your accommodation and understand all the equipment in use or potentially in use.
This may include activities such as: mountaineering, trekking, bungee jumping, mountain biking, cycling, canoeing, scuba diving, rafting, kayaking, zip-lining, paragliding, extreme hiking, canyoneering, caving and rock climbing. Be sure you have good references for the operator; check all the equipment yourself; have good accident and repatriation insurance!
Drug and alcohol abuse
It should go without saying that over-indulgence in drugs and/or alcohol, in addition to being a separate risk of its own, greatly increases the danger of all the activities discussed above.