Important Travel Tips for Health and Security

Photo from Cagnan at Pexels.

I love to travel. I’ve traveled all over the world, and in my opinion, the world would be a much better place if people would get out more and experience different cultures.

I wanted to put together some random travel tips for you…

Pick-Pocket Proof Pants.

When you travel, you want to enjoy yourself. You want to get lost in the moment and focus on the sights, the people and the food. You don’t want to have to constantly think about keeping an eye on your valuables, and you certainly don’t want to end up with a stolen wallet or passport. If this happens, your trip is ruined. I love my Pick-Pocket-Proof Pants. If you use them right, you will be able to not worry (as much) about your valuables. I consider these to be a must! (Use this link for $15 off.)

A VPN is a MUST!

When you travel, don’t even think of getting online without using a VPN, which stands for a “Virtual Private Network”. I’ve talked about VPNs a number of times in the past, but they are especially important when you travel. A VPN is software that you load on your computer or phone that encrypts your online activity. Don’t do anything unless you know that your VPN is active and it’s working, but even with your VPN, I would be very careful about doing anything sensitive, such as online banking. This is the VPN that I use and recommend (click here).

Silent-Pocket!

I keep my credit cards and passports in Silent-Pocket wallets because these wallets protect thieves from stealing your data by scanning them, which they can do from a distance. All they have to do is walk by you with a scanner, and BAM, they stole your info.  UNLESS your wallet is shielded. Silent Pocket produces high quality RFID shielded wallets and handbags. Go to Silent Pocket’s site here to learn more. (use coupon code “socratesgold” to receive a discount).

Bring Toilet Paper.

Believe me, you will thank me for this suggestion. Anytime I travel to Latin America or Asia I always carry a travel-pack of Kleenex and some anti-bacterial gel.

Don’t Drink the Water.

Don’t drink the water if you are traveling to a developing country, or anywhere in Asia, Africa or South America. Drink bottled water, and preferably an imported bottled water from Europe. Make sure the cap is the right kind of cap and that it is properly sealed. When in doubt, choose sparkling water because the carbon dioxide makes for an inhospitable environment for bacteria, plus it’s harder to fake. When in real doubt, drink bottled beer. Also, as an extension of this, be careful with salads and drinks with ice.

Don’t Tell Social Media That You Are Traveling!

I never post on Facebook or other social media while I am traveling, because why tell people that I’m not home right now. It doesn’t seem like a good idea to me. Instead, if I’m going to post pictures about my trip, I wait until I get back from the trip and then talk about the trip in the past tense.

Don’t Go To Prison.

In a way, Americans are often quite ignorant when they travel. I remember being in Mexico on Spring Break when I was in college. I got lost, and then saw a couple policemen. So I went up to them to ask directions, because that’s what I would do in the USA. They looked at me menacingly, and then I realized that regular Mexicans had been giving the police officers wide berth. At that moment I realized that I wasn’t in America anymore and my assumptions about the police being servants of the people may have been off the mark. Then I watched the show “Locked Up Abroad” a few times, and that show will make you wary of ever stepping foot outside of the USA. I saw an interview of an American lady who was thrown in jail in Mexico. She didn’t know why. No one ever told her. She had been in jail for 6 months and never had a hearing. She didn’t know when she’d be released and the US Embassy was powerless to help her. In the USA, we take our rights for granted.

Don’t Necessarily Wait for the Ambulance.

When I lived in Malaysia, I learned a very sad truth. While the city looked like a modern city, even more modern in some ways than the USA, what really matters is the unseen infrastructure, such as having a reliable ambulance service. At the apartment complex we were staying at, there were about 30 people at the pool one day. Someone looked over at one point and a girl, about seven years old way floating face down in the pool. Someone jumped in and pulled her out, and then she was given mouth to mouth. She survived, but never regained consciousness. Someone called the ambulance immediately, but after waiting half an hour for the ambulance, the parents took the girl to the hospital in their car. I don’t think the ambulance ever came. I’m not sure what happened to the girl, but I believe that the delay of emergency care would certainly have hurt her permanently.

Upgrade the Security Settings on your Phone.

This is a great graphic from Consumer Reports that shows you the basics that you need to do…

How well do Consumer Reports survey respondents and you protect mobile phone data?

What tips do you have? Please tell us in the comments. Also, if you know someone who is about to travel, share this article with them.

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11 Comments

  1. In Japan, foreigners are forbidden to carry a knife with a blade longer than 2 centimeters. I first ran afoul of this law back in 1971 transferring from Haneda to Fukuoka. There was security at the airports then but it was much more lax than today. The security guard was fiddling with my LAX to Haneda luggage tag and asked me if I had a knife. I handed him my little jewelry pocket knife with engraved sterling silver scales on it. It had a blade exactly 1 inch long. Certainly not the kind of instrument that I would attempt to use to take over an aircraft. I would feel more secure using my index finger in my trouser’s pocket than pulling out that decorative knife. He opened the blade and stuck his tape measure against it. I could see the “blade” extended about a quarter of an inch past the big red mark on his measuring tape.

    He hollered for the supervisor who came running over with an armed cop who had his hand on the butt of his .357 mag revolver. There was a heated discussion in Japanese faster than I could follow. I didn’t want to give up the knife that was a gift from my wife. Actually she bought it in Japan. I told them to break the blade off if they wanted. More rapid fire Japanese. Finally I was allowed to keep my knife intact, but I had to put it in my carry-on baggage. I happily complied and we went on our way. I didn’t volunteer the knife for the rest of the trip nor any subsequent trips to Japan.

    Within the past couple of years an American tourist in Tokyo went up to two cops on the street to ask directions to a famous bookstore. Unfortunately for him he was wearing a Buck knife on his belt. Bad scene. Very bad scene. He would up spending a couple of days in pre-detention in the local Tokyo bastille before the Japanese released him sans his Buck knife.

    Now his actions were just plain dumb. No foreigner in any country should carry a knife of any size in plain sight. Even here in the U.S. there are jurisdiction where the Buck folding knife on your belt will lead, at a minimum, to a prolonged discussion with local law enforcement. There is no upper end on the maximum bad results.

    If you wear a knife on your belt in a foreign country you are wearing a big sign that says “Arrest me!” If you wear a knife like that on your belt in London I can guarantee you will spend at least some time in discussions with the Bobbies and wind up if very, very lucky, just sans your Buck knife and sheath.

    If you are carrying some kind of device that could be construed as a weapon and are asked if you have a weapon, act like you don’t understand the question. Many times in dealings with foreigners, a cop who doesn’t speak the language will give up as long as it isn’t completely obvious that you are violating the law. Unfortunately for our uninformed Tokyo tourist, the first inkling he had that he was in trouble was when he found himself in a judo submission hold applied by one of the black belt cops (all Tokyo cops are at an absolute minimum first degree black belts. Most hold higher degrees. It’s a requirement for the job.) while the other cop took the knife away.

    As an aside on the Japanese legal system, the police in Japan can hold a suspect 15 days for initial investigation without having to notify ANYONE. That means ANYONE. They are free to question a suspect as much as they want during that fifteen days, although recently they have come under fairly heavy criticism from the judiciary for team questioning for as long as 48 hours non-stop. They are not allowed to physically touch a suspect other than when handcuffing or moving him from place to place. If a female suspect, they must have a female officer present at all times during interrogation and movement.

    The prosecutor has a period of 15 days after the cops notify him they have a suspect to decide what charges he will file. At that point the suspect will appear in court for a bail hearing. The French president of Toyota Motors spent about 3 months in pre-trial custody before his bail was set at several million dollars cash bail — no securities, no property, all cash. Right off the top of my head I can’t remember his name. It will come to me at 0300 tomorrow morning. He got to spend Christmas and New Years in Tokyo pre-trial detention waiting for the prosecution to decide what they wanted to charge him with and after they filed preliminary charges, they filed supplemental charges which started the pre-trial detention time all over again. He is accused of supplementing his rather significant salary and bonus package with a private bonus package on the side to the tune of several millions of dollars.

  2. Chuck should be a writer if not one already. Excellent accounting and possibly very valuable to those seeking to visit Japan.

  3. It came to me while I was preparing dinner. It was Carlos Ghosn and it wasn’t Toyota, it was Nissan/Mitsubishi where he is alleged to have wrongfully directed millions to which he was not entitled to private offshore accounts. Sorry about the incorrect information. When one considers his potential income from his five top executive position with really major companies, stealing from them seems beyond comprehension to me. While Mitsubishi is not well known in this country, It is bigger in Japan than General Motors ever was. In addition to motor cars, they make buses, trucks from pickups to heavy duty Freightliners to aircraft. You may have heard of the Mitsubishi Zero which wreaked havoc during the early days of WWII. That was brought to us by the ingenuous designers at Mitsubishi. After the war the allies thought they had broken the company up, but the pieces seemed to come back together like parts of a broken magnet.

    “Carlos Ghosn, KBE is a Brazilian-born French businessman of Lebanese ancestry. Ghosn formerly served as the CEO of Michelin North America, chairman and CEO of Renault, chairman of AvtoVAZ, chairman and CEO of Nissan, and chairman of Mitsubishi Motors. Ghosn was also chairman and CEO of the Renault–Nissan–Mitsubishi Alliance, a strategic partnership between those automotive manufacturers through a complex cross-shareholding agreement. The venture has held an approximately 10% market share since 2010, and as of 2017 was reckoned to be the largest automobile group worldwide. ”

    Mr. Ghosn is presently unemployed in contrast to his former busy schedule.

    Thanks for the kind comments. I don’t get paid for writing, although I do contribute regularly to a prepper website.

  4. Hi Glenn
    Good information but, having travelled extensively in North Africa, India and SE Asia, I was always shocked by the amount of plastic bottles which were discarded. On small Greek islands, they will often just throw garbage over the cliff into the sea and, in a little backpacker guest house in the beautiful desert fort town of Jaisalmer, I looked over the parapet wall and saw a small vacant lot literally full of plastic bottles.
    Polluting our own country is one thing, but polluting other people’s countries is particularly immoral!
    So we now always use ‘Travel Tap’ filter bottles which, since it is also an anti-bacterial filter, we can fill up anywhere, including taps on the trains. The filter lasts a very long time and we never have to buy bottled water or throw away polluting plastic bottles. And, you also don’t need to continually worry about whether you have enough water for the night, or for a long journey or a day out walking in the heat!
    In addition, I am always suspicious of the ‘never drink the tap water’ mantra since, in large cities (like Bombay, for example) the water is so heavily chlorinated that it smells like a swimming pool! Of course, in a place where you need your gut bacteria to be very active, drinking chlorine isn’t a brilliant idea – hence the filter, again. But there is certainly no need to use bottled water for cleaning your teeth, as many travellers seem to do!
    All the best
    Andrew

    1. Andrew, be careful of making blanket statements such as, “But there is certainly no need to use bottled water for cleaning your teeth, as many travellers seem to do!”. This depends upon where you go and what is happening. You mentioned Bombay. India has very dangerous water, so I would NEVER drink the tap water there, even if it is fully chlorinated. First of all, it may be adequately chlorinated now, but tomorrow or in different parts of the city it may not be. Plus there are dangerous biologicals that are highly resistant to chlorine, such as cryptosporidium.

      1. Well, we’ve been low budget backpacking to India 6 times, often eating from street stalls and staying in very cheap guest houses, so are pretty knowledgeable about the country, I reckon, so I have to disagree with what you say!
        No matter where in the world we’ve been, we’ve never used bottled water for cleaning our teeth, since we feel that there are limits to how paranoid one wants to become! Saliva is a pretty good disinfectant and the small amount of water is spat out anyway.
        By far the worst hazard is ‘filth-to-mouth’ diseases, like Hepatitis A, which can be easily caught via someone preparing food who hasn’t washed their hands after a toilet visit. We now take Beta Glucan capsules, which stimulate the immune system and a very good acidophilus supplement and, since then we have never got ill wherever we’ve been. In contrast, we had always previously got mild stomach upsets on every trip.
        A key to our health success when travelling is probably that we never compromise our immune systems by having vaccinations, relying instead on homeopathic ‘nosodes’ and maintaining good health. We also never use antibiotics and eat only organic food at home, thus maintaining a good gut microbiome.

        I have to say that, apart from my severe misgivings about the whole idea of buying imported water, I do have to wonder where you go and where you stay, that you find it so easy to buy this imported water!

        Oh, and you didn’t give any opinion on use of the Travel Tap or equivalent products ….

        1. Andrew, if you feel comfortable with that, do what you want to do. My message is going to more people and I feel a responsibility to offer the best advice I can, which I did. I can tell you that I know multiple people who have died from drinking contaminated water in 3rd world countries. Some of the parasites are terrible and are ones that no one in the west even knows much about. Regarding my comment about foreign bottled water, my comment was to drink it if possible. Evian, where available, has an odd sized bottle cap specifically because a very common thing in 3rd world countries is people fishing out used bottles of water from the trash, refilling them with tap water and then putting a new cap on top. The odd cap size for evian makes this more difficult to do. By the way, there are a number of parasites that can stay hidden in your body for quite a while without having any perceived negative health effects, until they do, and then it’s too late. You do what you want, but I recommend that people be very careful of water in these countries, especially India.

          1. Oh dear – I didn’t mean to make you so cross! I think it was worth pointing out the major pollution issue with plastic bottle, but it seems to have rubbed you up the wrong way!

            It would be nice to have your comments on the ‘Travel Tap’, vaccinations, antibiotics, homeopathy, beta glucan, acidophilus, the anti-bacterial efficacy of saliva … and the sort of places you stay and eat at which all, apparently, sell Evian! I have to say that I’ve never seen it anywhere on our travels outside Europe.

            I suppose I can be a lot more confident than most people in keeping myself and my family healthy, since I’m a trained herbalist, aromatherapist and nutritionist. Parasites can all be dealt with perfectly easily with herbs, so they hold no particular fears for us.

            I’m sorry to hear, however, that you have known people who’ve died from drinking contaminated water. How many was that – must be at least 20 or so, for you to say “multiple”? And are you sure that they all died from contaminated water, rather than something else – only a post mortem would provide that information?

            Oh, and that thing about people using old bottles and filling them with tap water is an old Lonely Planet story, but I don’t think it really happens much at all, unless you have first-hand experience to bring to bear, of course.

            Btw, India isn’t an especially dirty country, although I know a lot of people are very frightened about the whole idea of going there! For us, as a family (our twins were 4 the first time we went there), our trips there were a truly enriching experience and it would have been a great shame to miss out on that, simply through fear of the unknown.

            Anyway, as you say, you must do what you think is right, as we all must, and I’m sorry that what I said made you so upset.

          2. I’m not upset Andrew and I never was. I didn’t mean to come across that way. Yes, I have first hand experience with people filling up discarded bottles. It’s a real thing. My main point is that my message is to the community at large, and I feel a responsibility to be very careful in what I recommend. People are of course free to do what they want and follow whatever advice they want to follow.

            Regarding the anti-bacterial efficacy of saliva, no, I don’t agree. Your stomach acid is a defense against many bacteria, which is why I do not recommend alkaline water which lowers the acidity in your stomach and leaves you vulnerable to bacterial infection. Bacteria and parasites have developed defenses against saliva and stomach acid, which is how they infect people. If you could rely on saliva or stomach acid to protect you then there would be no need to worry about bacteria or parasites. I will say that locals in these places have developed much more natural defenses than westerners traveling there, which is why a local can drink the water and be fine (at least in the short term) while someone from the USA will become seriously ill.

            As far as your comments on vaccines and homeopathy, etc., again, people can do what they want, but I will never give such advice. I believe that some vaccines are good, not all – I don’t just blindly believe what the pharmaceutical companies say, but I don’t automatically discount it either. I don’t believe that people should rely on homeopathy or other such natural cures when they are dealing with very dangerous contaminants.

            Again, I’m not arguing nor am I upset. I just try to be very precise in my language when people are looking to me for advice.

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