Imagine arriving in a strange city after a sleepless night flight, tired and desperately seeking a comforting sleep, but lacking the local tongue and even familiarity of the place.
If you are in a developing or developed country, you can experience a few unpleasant surprises, and sometimes major disasters. You may be robbed, or cheated, or relived of all your cash and travelling documents, and approached by unsavoury characters posing as hotel representatives offering bargain prices in luxury hotels.
Experienced or not, travellers make mistakes, which may end up being extremely expensive.
Travelling with a companion or in a group is always more prudent.
If you want to avoid surprises try the following:
If you are planning to stay in the city reserve a room for at least the first night and inquire about the distance of your hotel from your arrival point (airport or railways station. If you are driving make sure you have a detailed map of the city and directions to the hotel).
Ask whether hiring a taxi is the best way and how much it costs. In many countries taxi drivers pretend to have meters that are nor working or are rigged, and in many instances take circuitous routes to get you to your destinations and charge unconscionable prices.
Before loading your luggage, how much the fare is likely to be and whether there is an extra charge for luggage.
The most important part of any trip is planning, and taking precautions to protect your cash, credit or debit cards, and travel documents.
Make a photocopy of the first three to four pages of your passport and keep them in a separate place. Carry as little cash as practicable.
Buy the currency of the country before you arrive. Airport exchange offices charge commissions or at the very least their rates are much more unfavourable than you would get at home, unless the currency is inconvertible.
Buy traveler’s cheques or cash before departure, and preferably in US dollars. Travel cheques are now cashed at a fee.
Record the emergency call numbers of all credit card offices and remember your PIN numbers.
Experience shows that a well designed belt protects your valuables best, unless you are physically and violently attacked.
If you decide to buy traveller’s cheques make sure they are traded world wide, and not only in a few countries.
These days most people travelling to developed countries carry credit cards, but be aware that banks charge fees every time you buy something in countries with other currencies.
In some countries you may have to declare the total convertible currency you carry and may be checked upon exit. (This happens in countries with inconvertible currencies).
At exit you may be asked to show how much you have exchanged and how many of the convertible currencies you declared you still have in your possession.
Tilley and comparable traveller’s shorts and pants almost always have well designed, difficult to pick pockets.
Do not strangers who approach you at airports or railways stations and offering to help you.
Should you be relieved of all your funds and travel documents, despite all precautions, what to do?
First, and foremost, do not panic!
After you reach your hotel (hopefully it was close to the railways station. If the airport was the scene of the crime seek the help of police immediately) or ask for the nearest police station.
Have the crime documented and photocopy those.
Call the emergency number of your credit company(ies) and report the loss.
Deposit whatever valuable you may have left with the hotel management, and do this against a receipt.
Better yet, ask for a safety box, which most hotels provide free of charge. New hotels have safes installed in the room.
Some credit companies will issue a new credit card within a day or two and courier it to you, if you happen to be in a city or well-known and frequented resort at your expense.
There is a long list of tricks criminals use to detract tourists ands relieve them of their valuables. They are merciless and take advantage of every opportunity.
If you are robbed and your passport was in the same folder, you need a replacement.
Industrialized countries maintain consulates and embassies in many cities and must how to help you.
Contact the nearest diplomatic post and ask how you can obtain a replacement. In some cases the consulate will advance you sufficient funds to reach the airport of the railways station.
Meanwhile, you should contact your family or a trusted friend to wire you funds, which can be done quickly at a high cost.
Airline tickets can be replaced relatively easily as very detail is recoded and in your airline’s computers.
Never leave your luggage unattended in airports, and never accept a package from a stranger to be delivered to someone in your home.
Being subject of a robbery is unpleasant anywhere, but particularly disturbing in a foreign country with a different language, culture and mentality.
The more precautions you take, the better you will fare, and enjoy your trip or vacation.