Safety issues for trekking
Without advocating a completely gung-ho attitude, it is safe to say that the streets of most of our western cities are much more dangerous than those of the far-flung corners of the earth. Even at the height of the troubles in Kathmandu after the royal massacre in 2001, the Foreign Office still declared Nepal a safer destination than Florida. Up-to-date information and advice can be obtained from the UK government's Foreign Office website.
After the royal massacre in 2001, the Foreign Office still declared Nepal a safer destination than Florida
Consider the following:
You are highly visible as a tourist in most trekking regions of the world. Your air ticket cost more than most people earn in a year. You may have saved up for years for the trip of a lifetime but locally you are viewed as rich.
Dress and cultural codes
Many parts of the world - especially the Islamic nations - do not have the liberal attitudes to dress and public behaviour that we are used to at home. Your personal safety will be greatly enhanced, and you will win the respect of people you meet, if you take care to find out about and do not offend local sensibilities.
Clothing that reveals either the skin or shows the contour of your body is offensive to Muslims. Public displays of affection between couples are also offensive. That can include actions as innocent as holding hands. If you are travelling with your girlfriend or boyfriend it is often simpler and more prudent to say that you are husband and wife. Local dress is often the most sensible for the prevailing climate or conditions, and by wearing it you effectively vanish as a tourist.
Local dress is often the most sensible for the climate or conditions, and you effectively vanish as a tourist
The driving techniques and sheer volume of traffic volume in the cities of Asia and South America can often make even the Italians - or London cab drivers, depending on your experience or point of view - seem polite and considerate by comparison. In many countries the Highway Code can be expressed in three words; 'Might is right'. As a pedestrian you are at the bottom of the table and must give way to everything (even cows, in India!). Put the other way, unless you are driving an articulated lorry or tank, keep your eyes and ears open at all times! Political and religious processions or festivals often attract fervent and enthusiastic crowds, and though as a visitor you will probably be treated well, even welcomed. If you do get caught up in such events, do keep your wits about you and maintain your common sense.
Unless you are fluent in the local dialect, a trusted local guide will make life easier and safer for you. If you are travelling independently, finding such a person may take time and a certain amount of luck. Register with the local police or consular officials before setting out. Familiarise yourself with the locations of police or army posts and if they have two-way radios. Take out full and proper evacuation and rescue insurance and know the procedures for implementing emergency procedures just in case something untoward should happen.
Steve Razzetti is a freelance guide, photographer and journalist. He has travelled extensively in the Himalaya on foot and by mountain bike and journeyed to Africa and South America. Steve has been with KE Adventure Travel as a mountain guide for almost 30 years.
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