Imagine this – you’re on vacation abroad and you decide it would be a great time to try scuba diving, zip-lining, or other new adventure for the first time. “Why not?” you say to yourself, ignoring that little piece of doubt in your head, and convincing yourself you’ll never get the chance again.
You decide to try surfing – there’s a local surfer you met on the beach who will teach you for well below the cost of other instructors. Fast forward to a few hours later, you see there’s a storm in the forecast and waves that look extremely intense from the beach. You see slivers of doubt in the surfer’s eyes, and after a quick practice on the beach and decide to go out on the water anyway. When you get on the board you start to have that sinking feeling that this wasn’t such a great idea, but it’s too late to turn back.
Participating in adventurous tours and excursions while traveling can be great, and they can turn out to be the best experiences we ever have. But taking these kinds of risks abroad can be dangerous and can result in serious injury or complications. Here are a few safety tips for travelers who want to take part in an adventurous activity while abroad:
Do Your Research
It is important to do research on the vendor or tour operator ahead of time. Check TripAdvisor, Yelp, or other commonly used review websites to read about past experiences with the company. Make sure the vendor or tour operator is licensed and reputable. Inquire with your hotel or cruise ship as to which company meets safety regulations. You can also check your destination’s country information page to read up on common safety concerns and issues for adventure travelers for that specific location.
Check Local Conditions
Check the weather forecast if you are planning an outdoor activity – a flash flood could derail a hiking trip; a whiteout blizzard could deter you from skiing in that area. Know about risks posed by indigenous animals or plant life. For example, in parts of Africa, hippopotamuses are known to be unfriendly and could attack if feeling threatened. If you are planning an ocean-based excursion, make sure you understand local risks of rip tides and strong currents.
Take All Safety Precautions Available
If a helmet is available for you to use, go ahead and use it. Double check that provided equipment, such as harnesses or life preservers, are not broken or otherwise unsafe to use. Do not drink alcohol or use mind-altering drugs before or during excursions with an element of risk (such as shark cage diving or scuba diving).
Use the Buddy System
Always take a buddy along with you when you are hiking, scuba diving, snorkeling, or skiing. It is also a good idea to let a third party know where you are going, and to keep your cell phone on or near you for non-water based activities (if possible). Have a plan for a meet up location in the event that you get separated. Check out more tips for adventure travelers on our website as well!
About the Author: Alyssa Zalenski is a Digital Content Manager for the Bureau of Consular Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.