6 Common Travel Hazards & How to Avoid Them

smiling girlWhen it comes to travel, there is no doubt that for all the incredible benefits you will experience, you are more than likely putting yourself at some kind of risk. Whether you are going wild camping in Botswana or taking a city break in Johannesburg, you are bound to expose yourself to risks you wouldn’t experience if you stayed home on the couch. That’s if you’re doing it right anyway.

The risks or hazards that are implicit in travel tend not to be as overwhelmingly awful as some people make them out to be and generally, giving them some thought before you set off greatly decreases the threat as well as the chances of them actually affecting you.

The World Health Organisation breaks travel-related risks down into 6 categories. Here they are…

Your mode of transport

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It doesn’t take a great stretch of the imagination to realise that flying in an aeroplane has very different risks attached to it than say, driving or cycling across land. For many South Africans, driving is the most common form of travel. Unfortunately it is also one of the most dangerous.

How to minimise the risk

Although you can’t always control how other people behave on the road, you can (and should) take simple steps like never driving drunk or when you are over-tired. If you’re driving on a particularly bad stretch of road – where there are potholes, no street lights or wild/domestic animals that could wander into the road for example – avoid driving at night.

Your destination

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This is another potentially obvious factor. Visiting a place such as a South African city which has very good infrastructure is going to pose far fewer hazards than a rural area where basics like running water are a scarcity. Furthermore, a trip into the hot desert of Namibia is going to be tougher on the body than a sedate weekend away to a mild climate like the Garden Route.

How to minimise the risk

The best way to prevent any nasty mishaps spoiling your holiday is to research your destination and plan accordingly. If you plan on going to a sunny and hot beach destination, pack sun block and a sun hat, if you are going camping in rural northern Mozambique, make sure you pack enough fresh water and a decently appointed 1st aid kit.

The duration and season of travel

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The longer you’re away, the more chance you have of running into trouble on the road, that’s a given. The time of year can also affect the health risks posed though. For example, travelling to the Kruger Park area over the rainy months means that there will be more mosquito breeding sites, which leads to more mosquitos, which in turn increases your chance of contracting malaria (carried by mosquitos).

How to minimise the risk

If you want to avoid these kinds of issues while you’re travelling, travel in the recommended travel period for your given destination, and failing that, make sure you take the relevant precautions.

The purpose of your travel

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Folks zipping into a well-developed city for work will likely stay in a reasonably smart hotel and eat business lunches in nice restaurants whereas budget travellers looking for adventure may well be staying in questionable abodes and eating street food of indeterminate origin. Guess who is more at risk…

How to minimise the risk

You know which category you fall into, and if you know you will be travelling in slightly less style, be sensible (for example, the 10 second rule for food does not apply in the central market in a bustling African town).

The behaviour of the traveller

That old saying, ‘You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink’? That’s what this point is all about. If you are a bit of a loose cannon who behaves irresponsibly, your chances of running into trouble improve.

How to minimise the risk

The crux of the matter is that when you are travelling, be sensible. Heed the advice you receive. If you are driving through an area renowned for road accidents, try to pick an alternative route, or at the very least don’t drive there at night. If you are in a malaria area, make sure you keep up with your malaria medication and wear long sleeves and pants to avoid being bitten. That sort of thing.

Underlying health conditions of traveller

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The final factor which increases your chances of having health issues on the road is if you have an underlying health issue. For example, an undiagnosed heart condition may not bode well for someone attempting to climb Mount Kenya.

How to minimise the risk

If you have an undiagnosed condition there aren’t many precautions you can take. However, getting a medical before a big trip is always a good idea, and if you do have a diagnosed condition, make sure you plan accordingly and only partake in activities that won’t aggravate the situation.

In short, remember to do your research, plan accordingly and use your common sense. With that, may you all have safe and happy travels!

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