Visiting other countries implies leaving your known settings behind and entering other cultures with other rules and regulations. This of course is what makes travelling exciting and adventurous, but it also brings about unknown and unexpected dangers.
To at least have a rough idea of what dangers await us during our trip, we have read a number of books and websites about this topic. An excerpt of this you will find below:
Safety on the road:
- In nearly every city in every country there are guarded parking places where you can park safely and cheaply. If you have a camper van you can even sleep there: the cheapest place to stay in the centre of town!
- Ask the local police for a safe place to park your vehicle for the night so they know that you are there and can check on you every now and then.
- Avoid driving at night: make sure you have found a safe place to stay before dusk.
- In Pakistan and India you will be able to find a safe place to sleep at the parking places of the "state resthouses", which you will find in each city and bigger village.
- In Thailand you can sleep near the buddhist monasteries.
- Other places you can stay: petrol stations (not everywhere!), scouting places, hotel parkings, police stations, military barracks (ask for permission!) or in small villages on the village square under a street latern.
- In cities: after dusk and just before you go to sleep, you can close all curtains and drive into a quiet neigbourhood or the parking of a hotel. If you are lucky, no one will notice that you sleep there and leave you alone. You will have to leave early though.
And don't try it in Holland, where the police is alert and gives you a 90 euro fine for wild camping.
- Watch out when you park in a dried-up river bed for the night. These can suddenly be filled with water (e.g. by heavy rain or the opening of a dam a few kilometers away..).
- Always park in a way that allows you to drive away instantly (front of the car facing the road) and leave the keys in.
Be wary if you are being involved in a car accident: it might be the start of a robbery.
Look at how the locals are dressed and dress similarly to attract less attention.
- Tips about traffic in e.g. India and China can be found here
Securing the car:
Corruption / Theft:
- Leave a note behind your windscreen which says in English and in the local language that you will be back in a minute.
- Ask somebody (e.g. the shopkeeper of the shop in front of which you park) to keep an eye on your car while you're away.
- If your car has a plastic camper-roof, beware that this makes your car a dangerous place to stay in during lightning. You can make it safer when you attach a special strip to the car that builds a connection between the metal of the car and the earth.
- Possible security measures for the car:
- use a Data Safe (e.g. ANWB Datakluis 0031 70 314 70 99) to register important papers, bank cards, credit cards, etc. All your cards and accounts will be blocked when you report them stolen.
- If custom officials want larger sums of money from you (e.g. for letting your car pass the border), ask for their ID-cards: sometimes they are not really custom officials, but criminals in a custom-uniform who want to rip you off. Also ask for an official document in English which states that you have to pay the asked amount. E.g. at the border crossing from Russia to Mongolia you do NOT have to pay "entry rights" for your car! Don't pay anything at the borders to or from Peru either.
- It is usually enough to ask for an official receipt to stop custom officials from asking money, but not always.
- Some ATM-machines are manipulated in a way that they copy your pincode when you withdraw money from them. Afterwards, the one who manipulated the machine can withdraw money from you bank account without problems! Always check if the keyboard or the card-entry is in the original state before withdrawing money.
- Watch out when entering your pincode: some thieves have small cameras with which they can look over your shoulder.
- If people point out a spot on your clothes, give them a friendly nod and hold on to your belongings. Do not let them touch you to "rub it off", they usually let your purse disappear as well.
- Carry an extra purse that contains only a little amount of money and some fake (bank/credit) cards in case you get robbed. Carry your real purse somewhere safe (see our section "Money").
- Do not try to defend your purse. Your life is worth nothing to some people, they will kill you for a pair of Nikes if they want them.
- Always report theft or robbery to the police, even if you don't expect to see your belongings back. You need the police report for the insurance.
- If your passport gets stolen, you can apply for an emergency pass ("laissez-passer") at your embassy or consulate.
Top ten dangerous places in 2002 (source: The Times):
- Classic self defence courses.
- Ving Tsun / Wing Tsun courses.
- Snake Alley in Taipei
- Khao San Road in Bangkok
- King's Cross in Sydney
- Times Square in New York
- Tverskaya Ulitsa in Moscow
- Bois de Boulogne in Paris
- Chandn Chowk in Delhi
- Frenchtown in Shanghai
- Las Ramblas in Barcelona
- Station Termini in Rome