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Staying Safe While Traveling in Columbia

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Authored by H. Clare Callow in South America
Published on 12-01-2009

Every area of the world has its own particular dangers for travelers. South America is an area that is the source of many scary stories. Like anywhere, Columbia requires a certain amount of caution, but just a little preparation will make your holiday an enjoyable one.

The best thing you can do before heading to any foreign country is to check the travelers’ information on your government website. This will provide warnings, general information, and also helpful tips.

There are some basic things you should do before you leave. Take photocopies of your passport and any other ID, leaving one at home and taking one with you. This will prove helpful if your identification is stolen. Organize money in different forms, and devise different safe places to keep it while you travel. Finally, leave an itinerary with a friend or family member, with hotel details if you have them.

Travelers from Western countries need to be cautious whenever traveling overseas. Unfortunately, the behavior of certain Westerners in the past can influence how locals treat you today. It’s important to be sensitive to the fact that not everyone will welcome you, and to be respectful of the social and political ideas of the area.

On the other hand, locals can provide you with some of the best information on the area. Talk with your taxi driver and with hotel staff about good areas to go, and bad areas that should be avoided. Most people are friendly and interested in helping you stay safe.

It’s never a good idea to look like a tourist when in unfamiliar territory. Try to dress like locals, or at least as plainly as possible. It’s never a good idea to wear a fanny pack or carry your camera around your neck. Keep your money in smaller bills so that you’re not showing large amounts at any stage in public. Research where you’re going so that you can become familiar with its customs and geography.

If you are traveling with children, have a talk with them about the different situations they might find themselves in. Discuss what they should do if they get lost or if they are approached by a stranger. It’s a good idea to equip them with the basics of the language and a card identifying who they are and which hotel they’re staying in. It can also help to dress your kids in distinctive or bright clothes, helping you to spot or describe them.

If something bad does happen to you, try to keep it in perspective. Millions of tourists have their valuables stolen all over the world. This is because tourists make an easy target for petty thieves. Theft is an unhappy reality when you’re traveling. This doesn’t make it any less painful to deal with, but having travel insurance can help lessen the sting. It also helps to be mentally prepared for the eventuality, so that you can carry on and enjoy your holiday.

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