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Staying Safe in Third World Countries

By: David Cawley - Updated: 18 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
Third World Travel Vaccinations Travel

In many respects travelling to the Third World is no different to visiting any other part of the globe. Whether it be Mogadishu, Majorca or Margate, forward planning and a few extra precautionary always practised rules during your stay should make for a rewarding, memorable and life enhancing experience.


Once a destination has been established and before any money has been handed over to your travel agent - suitcases wedged down from the attic and pith helmet and safari suite bought - do your research.. Remember that situations can change over night so if your trip is planned months in advance, its as well to keep checking on the site and scanning the foreign news sections of the quality newspapers.


The next step is a visit to your health practise for advice on the required inoculations to be injected, swallowed or otherwise into your body. Ideally the first visit should be no later than 8 weeks before departure as some vaccines only become effective following a pre-longed course regime. Although they will keep records, ask for an International Travel Vaccination Record card to help you keep upto date with boosters. Protection against Hepatitis A for example is only effective for 12 months whereas Diphtheria prevention can last 10 years. Finally always remember that strains of Malaria (the world's number one killer) vary from region to region and proper guidance is needed on which medication to take.

Anopheles, the female mosquito, is the virus carrier and tends to come out after 4pm. Pack quality Mosquito nets and when there, keep windows closed, lights off and apply insect bite protection on top of sunscreen for best effect. If your plans include getting away from major cities it's also worth taking sterile needles, syringes and rehydration tablets as local rural medical practises have little in the way of resources and you as tourist would be depleting what little they did have. Any drugs or medical equipment not used should be donated to an appropriate health centre before returning home. .


Before leaving check your mobile will work in the places your visiting which usually means a Tri or Quad band phone. Land lines in some Third World countries cannot always be relied upon and phone calls to close ones concerned about your travels is always good practise, also make sure these same people have copies of you're passport, itinerary and travel documents.

If you don't have an itinerary planned, at least make sure your first night accommodation is pre-booked. People are most vulnerable the first few hours after arrival - out of sorts through tiredness, jet lag, culture shock and sheer wonderment - and having a place to call home after touching down is always worthwhile.


Once arrived, similar 'street smart' rules apply as they would in any unfamiliar place in the world. Follow your instincts, staying away from unlit streets and if uncomfortable in a particular neighbourhood, make your way out or enter a cafe and ask for them to call you a taxi. While on the subject, negotiate the price before getting inside any taxi and if taking a rural tour check the condition first as many are prone to breaking down. Families should also bear in mind that child seats are pretty unheard of, as for that matter are seatbelts.

If your in a group, make sure you have a plan should you get separated and everyone should keep a copy of the accommodations address in the local language. Original documents - passports, traveller's cheques and insurance papers - should be left in the hotel safe. Duplicates of these should be kept with you at all times and extra copies exchanged with other members of your group.

Families with children of walking age should try and walk in a diamond formation i.e. adult at the back, adult and smallest child next to each other in the middle and child most prone to independent behaviour to the front in view of everyone. Single parents with children should form a triangle using the same combination.

Dress appropriately for the climate and culture, clothes, shoes, watches and sun glasses should be cut-price (consider washing and leaving these as a donation at the end of your trip) and expensive jewellery always left at home. Cameras should always be in hidden in bags and mobile phones programmed not to make the most cacophonous and attention seeking noise when ringing.


The amount of cash carried during the day should be kept to an absolute minimum. Some travellers choose to use decoy wallets, the rest kept hidden in travel belts and some women opt to carry emergency cash pinned to the inside of their bra. Be wary of local street scams that include using children and females as distraction decoys. If your instincts are telling you that people are too close to you for comfort, then those alarm bells are probably right. Under no circumstances should you resist if the victim of violent theft.

Hard currency, such as the Pound, Dollar or Euro is highly desirable in the Third World and people can approach you on the street offering tempting exchange rates. In some countries such transactions are illegal and can incur serious problems with the police, alternatively you could simply be ripped off by a number of slight of hand tricks used when counting the money out.

Eating and Drinking

There are a few very basic rules concerning eating and drinking in the Third World. Water quality while fine in some cities may contain additives that simply do not agree with you and lead to a miserable and wasteful stint in bed (and the bathroom). Always use bottle water for drinking, brushing your teeth and washing your face but only if the cap seal has not been tampered with. Like bottled beer and fizzy drinks, this should always be checked and even then it's still worth wiping the lid. If not cold, put the bottle in ice; never add ice to the contents and milk for coffee or tea should be boiled prior to using. Do carry water purification tablets for when bottled water is hard to come by. Unless you do it yourself, food that needs washing but not cooking should be left well alone such as salads, fruit and vegetables and under no circumstances should raw shellfish be consumed. Street food vendors while offering an authentic flavour of a country may not always cook food through thoroughly so it's worth checking before biting into anything that no part is uncooked.


Finally, casual sex in any country is not to be encouraged, but in the Third World where Hepatitis B and HIV/AID's is devastatingly rampant (17% of Malawi's population is infected with the AIDS virus) it can be fatal to the visitor and emotionally destructive to the local.

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