High Risk Destination
There are many social differences in the world. This, for many, is precisely what makes cross-cultural travel so enjoyable. However, it is important to research these differences prior to going overseas. Understanding social, cultural differences can help a traveller adapt more quickly into her environment.
It is important to understand the political culture that you will be living in. Consider what the countries attitudes are towards foreigners and Canadians in specific? Historically, what relationship exists between the two countries? Canadians tend to enjoy a favourable reputation in most parts of the world, however, this is subject to change. As our commitment to foreign events unfold, opinions of Canadians will change.
Remember that in some parts of the world, we may be thought more as North Americans then as a separate entity from the states.
To find out more about Canadians and their place in the world, visit the Department of Foreign Affairs web site.
Demonstrations happen throughout the word, prompted by a variety of reasons. As a traveller, you probably won't be able to fully comprehend the politics behind the demonstration. Equally important is to remember that as a foreigner, you will not always be welcomed by protesters or government agencies. If you encounter a demonstration, it is best to leave the area. Keep in tune with local radio and check in with DFAIT or your countries' consular affairs to stay apprised of the situation.
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Prior to departing, learn about the economic situation of a country. Unfortunately, in many countries there appears to be a correlation between a countries attitude towards foreigners and the economic condition of that country. This is particularly important to research if you are planning to work in the country while abroad.
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One of the more difficult challenges in travelling can be properly dealing with beggars and street children. Giving money to people/ children in obvious need can be an instinctive reaction. Doing so opens you up to not only theft (sometime a racket of pick pocketing is orchestrated around children begging) and aggressive swarming (giving to one child, inevitable leads to more children and adults asking for money) but it also leads to a question of ethics. In many communities, those working to help street children will often encourage you not to give money. Sadly, the money you give to children often is taken away be a watchful adult. And the fact that begging works puts more and more children out on the streets to collect money.
Giving money to those so severely effected by poverty is part of any good travellers budget. Give intelligently. Rather then a quick feel good by giving to those who approach you, invest some time to find a local charity that helps the poor. Better yet, invest more time in lending a helping hand. Visit the CIE @ Cumberland House for more information regarding volunteering overseas.
Food may be quite different from what you are used to. Be prepared! You should be able to ‘test out’ foods from any country at one of the many varieties of restaurants in Toronto. Know in advance what typical meals consist of and the customs regarding dining.
It is also important to be able to convey specific dietary needs. If you are vegetarian, it may be necessary to clearly explain what that means to you. If you have an allergy, it may be necessary to be very specific about the dangers that this food may have on you. It is also a good idea to be able to communicate your dietary needs in the local language. Be sure that the food you are eating is safe. This can be a particular problem in areas that are unsanitized. Raw food, unpasteurized milk, fish and seafood can be dangerous. Generally fruit that you peel is safe.
When eating out in regions where food is a concern, it may be advisable to dine at places frequent by other travellers. Foreigners living in an area can provide valuable information as to what restaurant have favourable reputations and others where there have been incidents of travellers getting sick.
Don't drink the water
In many parts of the world, special attention must be taken concerning drinking water. If there is a warning advising travellers not to drink the water, don't. In some parts, locals may find this confusing as they may not see the harm. In part this may be because they have developed a tolerance to the bacteria in the water. In other cases, they may have viruses from impure water without realizing it. At times, such as a dinner invitation, it may seem rude not to accept water from your host, but carefully explain to them that your stomach cannot handle it.
In areas that have a warning or poor sanitation, drink only water that has safely been brought to a boil. This generally means items such as tea is safe for consumption, but be wary. The water needs to be brought to a vigorous boil, add a few minutes to places with a high altitude. Restaurant may, for example, cut the time short, to avoid fuel costs. Chemicals, such as iodine, may also be used to treat water. If you are unsure whether the chemical is effective, consult with an expert. Don't drink the water also means --
- don't drink ice (unless you know it has been treated)
- don't eat raw vegetables
- ensuring that cutlery and plates are properly dried before being used
Before going overseas you may wish to research and dangerous flora and fauna indigenous to the region where you will be travelling to. This is particularly important in areas where you may encounter dangerous animals. Know in advance how to identify dangerous animals and know what to do should you encounter them. In the case where you are bitten or stung potentially by a dangerous snake, scorpion or spider consult with a reliable medical source immediately. Be able to recognize wide plant life that may give you skin rash infection such as poison ivy.
When hiking always wear appropriate footwear and protective gear. Be particular cautious at night around the latrines or areas that are damp. These areas tend to be particularly attractive to snakes, spiders and scorpions. And give you clothes, sleeping bag a good shake prior to jumping in. More importantly, however, is probably recognizing that most flora and fauna will not cause you serious harm. You are much more in jeopardy of being hit by a car than any injury caused by an animal.
Killer Snakes and Venomous Scorpions
Most of us will never come into contact with snakes or scorpions that can kill or even really hurt a person. It is important, however, to know a little about dangerous animals in the area. And should you get bit by anything, consult a medical professional. Venomous snake bites tend to cause immediate swelling, pain and discolouration.
Be wary of applying local superstitions to treat snake bites. There local reputation could be more be the result of the odds in favour of recovery then a reliable medical practice.
In a scorpion infested region? Always try to wake up pushing your sheets away from you. Scorpions cannot sting while underneath your body. Wear boots in regions where there is a chance of snake and/ or scorpions.
If you encounter a snake or scorpion, stay still! Most animals will only attack if they feel threatened.
Annoying Bed Fleas and Pesky Mosquitoes
Low priced hostels and five star hotels (though more common with the former) are on occasion infested with bed fleas. Make sure your bed linen is clean and watch for small red marks on skin.
Mosquitoes can be a hazard in many countries, spreading serious diseases. When necessary, cover as much skin as possible wearing long sleeves and pants. The use of insect repellent on exposed skin is strongly recommended. Of the insect repellents registered in Canada, those containing 'N, N diethyl-m-toluamide' (DEET) are the most effective. Although the concentration of DEET varies from product to product, effectiveness is largely equivalent. There is some concern about using DEET repellent on children and high concentrations on adults. Please consult with a doctor. For more information, visit CDC Traveller's Health website.
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Getting away to warmer climates, can be a strong motivation for many students considering participation on an academic exchange or mobility program. Canadians have an advantage over other travellers in that our own weather expands to great lengths, exposing us to a variety of weather. However, we should take precautions when heading out to warmer climates. Sun damage is a common problem for many travellers. There are many contributing factors, that include increased photo sensitivity caused by travel medicine (ie malaria prophylaxis), lack of availability of suntan lotion. Bring sun tan lotion with you, apply properly and try to stay out of the sun all together during peak times.
Keep yourself hydrated! This is so important and especially important in countries where drinking water may not be as easily available. A general rule of thumb is that by the time one feels thirsty, there are past the point of dehydration.
Beware of heat exhaustion. If you begin to feel dizzy, have a slight change in your temperature, headache, thirst, nausea, skin becomes pale, cool or moist, move yourself to a cooler spot and try to replace your fluid by drinking a lot of water slowly.
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In many parts of the world, one of the most unavoidable hazards that a traveller can face is pollution. In cities such as Mumbai, Mexico City, Beijing, Jakarta (to name only a few, it will feel as though you can taste the pollution in the air. For those with asthma or emphysema, you may wish to keep your exposure to cities with high pollution to a limit. You will definitely want to bring an adequate supply of inhalers and other medicines. Consult with your doctor. Even those without, can feel effects of the pollution in a short period of time. You may wish to try to avoid much outdoor activity during smog advisories.
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Students may find themselves in locations at altitudes that they are completely unaccustomed to. Climbing to high altitudes possess specific risks and students should consult an expert before setting out. Use only reputable guides and do not rush yourself. Generally it is necessary to rest every 3,000 feet or so. Carefully monitor yourself for altitude sickness, exhaustion, dehydration and hypothermia.
You may be at a higher risk of danger, if you have had trouble with altitudes in the past, recently scuba dived (last 24 hours) or have other health problems. Consult with your doctor if you might be at risk.
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In many parts of the world, the pace of life may appear to be much more relaxed then what we are accustomed to in North America. For many travellers this can be a source of frustration. In countries where life seems to run slower, remember to plan a little more time for day to day things. Going to the bank, in some countries can be a day affair! Take advantage of these opportunities. Enjoy the cup of tea offered by the bank manager, meeting the family of the railroad attendant and the opportunity to people watch in the 4 hour line up at the post office.
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