Archive for the ‘travel warnings’ Category

Safety Advice from the Recently Pickpocketed

Sunday, December 11th, 2011

I was robbed last night by a guy who looked like a drug-addled Alfred E. Neuman and a girl in gaucho pants. Now, I’ve got no proof that they were the pair that lifted my wallet out of my purse at a subterranean Village bar where I was attending a holiday gathering, but I’m pretty certain. Fortunately, the heist wasn’t totally catastrophic (though it has been upsetting enough!!) because I had my phone and keys with me and after dinner (but before the karaoke crime scene) I had failed to put my trusty American Express back in my wallet. It was in my pocket.

Now you might be asking yourself what this has to do with travel? Here it is: I had two thoughts upon realizing that my wallet had been swiped. The first was a series of expletives and the second was that this scenario is why, when traveling, you should never have all your important stuff with you or stashed in the same place.

Kate, Mitch (our director) and I were very nearly robbed in Honduras. It was scary. And thwarted (by me, thank you very much). But that night, walking through Tegucigalpa, I had everything with me. Passport, ID, cash, hotel key, credit cards. Had the hoodlums gotten my bag, the trip would have been over in a nanosecond. I would have spent the next week waiting around the U.S. Embassy, calling family and friends asking them to wire money. It would have been a disaster because there would have be no way to pay my way out of anything.

So I’m here to offer some advice. When traveling, pull from your wallet the essentials. Debit card. Primary credit card. Identification. Leave behind the $20 gift card to the Gap or your Jake’s Coffee frequent buyer card. Last night I lost my Hale and Hearty “green card,” just one stamp shy of my free salad. So that was money (and hard work!) lost too.

The idea is to minimize risk. If you have everything with you in one place, then everything is gone if it is lost or stolen. Put a little spare cash in a sock. Don’t keep your passport with your credit cards. Always keep a photo-copy of that document hidden away in a suitcase or something. Also, keep a list of emergency contact numbers separate from your phone, just in case.

-VC

Travel Warnings: Where do you stand?

Friday, February 4th, 2011

Coastline of Alexandria

Two days ago the state department issued a travel warning to all Americans living in and traveling to Egypt: Don’t go. There’s “social and political unrest”. Now, I can’t claim to imagine how unstable it must feel to be there right now, as if the world is daily on the brink of something unimaginable (aren’t we sort of always?) But the latest crop of warnings got me thinking about these state department releases and about the countries that are perpetually on that list. How do the state department travel warnings affect the way we plan travel abroad?

Now, I know folks of several opinions on this. In 2002 my parents spent half a year worried about my sister, who was living in Nepal at the time, because the country was on a “hot list” (Maoists, anyone?) To them, state department travel warnings are no joke — issued in the name of safety — but also signifying a call to reconsider where you set your American feet. Before we went to Honduras to shoot the pilot episode of Off the Radar, I spent a fretful night reading the state department’s travel warnings. Sure, there had been an increase in “drug-related violence” and travelers were advised to exercise caution in large cities. But instead of packing the warning into my luggage along with all of my other (founded or un) traveler concerns, I worried for days about the black-helmeted motorcycle jackers said  to pull up alongside cars and commit heinous robberies and even murders. I’m not saying that didn’t happen to Americans in Honduras. It did. But for a few days that specific image of stealth, violent motorcycle jackers replaced all the other unknowns in my imagination. And I’m not sure that’s a good thing.

Let me be clear: I don’t slide too far the other way into the whole blow-off-government-warnings-because-they-are-meant-to-vilify-foreign-countries-and-scare-travelers bit (even if they do a little bit). But the fact is, lots of places people want to visit are dangerous and have been for decades. When I look through the current warnings list I see countries that have been on my must-visit list for years. Nepal, Philippines, Mali. Lebanon, Colombia, Saudia Arabia. Shit, says here even Mexico’s no good. But there’s caution and then there’s caution. The images of angry men riding into Tahrir Square on horseback brandishing whips don’t exactly make me want to hop onto Kayak and start searching for flights. But neither do they make me fundamentally afraid to go to the places that our government deems dangerous. Does that make me nuts?

-KC

Saturday, January 29th, 2011

If you have a trip planned to Egypt — or Tunisia or Yemen — in the next few days, you might want to check with your airline, though the U.S. has eased travel restrictions to Tunisia.

If you are looking to rebook, or finally plan that dream vacation to Tahiti, it might be wise to wait until Tuesday to  firm up that reservation.  That’s according to a new Wall Street Journal piece that finds airfare sales are usually in place midweek.

There’s a lot of other great info in the piece too, even if doesn’t tell you exactly what to do if you can’t book by Wednesday or why the sales are generally over after 48 hours, even if there’s many unsold tickets.  Basically, what we really learn is that we are at the mercy of the airlines, who play with prices by up to $300 for the same coach ticket, just seeing what the market will accept.

-VC