Posted on 31st May 2016 at 10:19am
Staying Safe at Airports.
Travelling is a great way to expand horizons and our understanding of the world around us. It is exciting and thrilling in equal measure, mixed with a certain amount of uncertainty.
When travelling, everyone needs a heightened sense of themselves and what is going on around them, whether it is a last minute, all-inclusive break in the sun or six months of backpacking far-flung places.
Travelling inevitably involves taking some kind of transport from one place to another, from underground train systems, to bus stations and airports. Keeping yourself safe at domestic and foreign airports is important.
Are you ‘vulnerable’?
Since the several acts of terrorism we have seen in recent years, airports have upped their security measures and procedures considerably.
From the moment someone sets foot on airport property, dozens of trained security personnel and staff are watching for people exhibiting suspicious behaviour. There will also be a certain amount of profiling too and wizened security personnel will tell you that people with criminal intentions or ‘something to hide’ will act very differently to those who are there to catch their flight to an exciting holiday destination.
This heightened security can do two things – make the travelling public more nervous but also make us unaware of how vulnerable we may be ‘acting’ too. The phrase ‘a false sense of security’ can often lead people to act in ways that leave them open to theft or being duped.
The truth is, you probably don’t think of yourself as vulnerable. But, people who are unaware of local customs and cultures, unfamiliar with the airport and its territory may be ‘vulnerable’ to being taken advantage of by people with criminal intentions, whether that is theft or some other kind of act.
In essence, this means regardless of who you are, always retaining a sense of where you are, your belongings and who may be close to you in the airport too, is an important consideration for ensuring your personal safety, as well as belongings.
Generally, airports are safe places but if you are setting off on your travels, you do need to be aware of some basic safety hints and tips.
One of the biggest security risks at airports of which you need to be aware is theft, mainly of luggage and handbags, rucksacks etc. Again, being careful about where you put your bag, not losing sight of it and so on is important.
Some airports in some countries report that the biggest problem they face is pickpockets and theft but that the traveling public make it very easy for thieves to operate.
Bear in mind the following:
Luggage Tags – tagging your luggage is important for all kinds of reasons, mainly to help identify it in a sea of other similar suitcases and bags. However, don’t over out too much personal information on the tag, and never include your address. You want to supply enough information for someone to contact you if your bag is lost.
In sight at all times – you should never leave your bag unattended, even for a few seconds and always keep it within sight. This is a basic security measure and if you see a bag unattended, you should report it immediately.
List items in your check-in luggage – luggage can sometimes be lost after check-in but there have also been cases where travellers when reunited with their checked-in bags find that some items are missing. Never pack valuables in your check-in luggage!
Check out our page about Tag & Track, a fantastic tagging system which hides your identity plus if your luggage or any of your other belongings are ever lost they will do all of the work to get it back asap.
When you travel, you will carry a variety of paperwork and documentation, including passport, driving licence and other important information.
Keep it with you at all times – from your passport to your tickets, to your driving licence and any other kind of documentation, you should keep all this on you at all times.
Suspicious activity – to the untrained and inexperienced eye, it can be difficult to spot suspicious activity. However, there are times when it can be spotted from spotting the same person several times and within close vicinity of yourself.
Cash – travelling with large amounts of cash is never a good idea and in this technological age of credit cards, debit cards and so on, there really is no need to carry too much cash. Clearly, having a small amount of local currency in your pocket is not a bad idea, ensuring that you keep it with you at all times is essential.
Frequent travellers advise keeping cash in your front pockets where you can see it at all times. There have been several stories recently of people being robbed as they go through security, and this report, from the New Zealand Herald is a perfect example.
Prohibited items – you will also notice that airports will have clear signs about what constitutes a prohibited item and in some cases, this can be a fairly long list. As a traveller, you also need to be aware that different airports have different rules and so checking what is and what it not allowed before you travel is also advisable. Becoming stressed at an airport increases your state of anxiety, which could lead to some poor decisions.
Travelling to and from the airport, both at home and abroad, should also be something that you take seriously and pre-plan. There are various stories of travellers catching what they think is a taxi at the airport, only to find to their cost that it is not what they thought.
Keeping safe to and from the airport is easier with these following tips;
Pre-plan – always pre-plan and book transport to and from the airport beforehand. In some countries where you are familiar with public transport and you are not travelling alone, taking the bus or catching a taxi at the official taxi rank is a great way to move about.
Never leave transport to chance if you are travelling to or from an airport late at night or early in the morning, as there are some unscrupulous unlicenced taxi drivers in countries around the world that won’t hesitate to take advantage.
Never accept a lift or offer of transport – unfortunately, there are people who prey on travellers, lulling them into a false sense of security by being ‘kind’ and offering them lifts. Even when travelling in a group, this is not advisable. If you are unsure about transport arrangements, seek help from the airport help desk who will have contact details for local taxi firms etc.
Airports are busy places, with even the smallest airports welcoming thousands of visitors through their doors every week. For larger airports, this number can be thousands of passengers in a day.
Whilst this doesn’t make them dangerous in themselves, it can lead to safety issues when it comes to health. With this in mind, consider the following health tips:
Infections – bacterial and fungal infections can be common but unwelcome souvenirs from your holiday or travels. Many of these infections, although not fatal but incredibly unpleasant, will have been picked up from the airport. Simple things like wearing socks can be helpful in not picking up foot infections, especially if you are asked to remove your shoes at the security gate etc.
Security bins – the trays used to transport your hand luggage and other items through x-ray are used by thousands of people every day. Carry anti-bacterial wipes to wipe your hands and other items once you have used these facilities.
Travel sized medications etc. – keeping various medications with you can be one way of passing through airports and other busy places without compromising on your health. Again, always check rules and regulations of any airports you will be passing through; in some travel hubs, you may be required to declare these medications but in others, you will not need to. It goes without saying that carrying medication on you is the best way of taking it with you and not in your checked-in luggage.
Staying safe – simpler with some forethought
Many people worry about acts of terrorism when they travel. In many ways, these incidences are extremely rare but in the increasingly complex world we live in, ensuring that we act in a way which keeps us safe is very important.
By following these few tips, you can make a positive impact to your personal safety, but in light of recent events in which travellers and tourists were caught up in acts of terrorism, it pays to be vigilant.
When you enter an airport, for example, check where the emergency exits are and, if there is information on what to do in the event of an emergency, make sure you acquaint yourself with these instructions.
In the event of an emergency, your mobile phone will no doubt lose signal so you need to be confident you know where to reach out for help. Ensuring you know how to contact your embassy is one idea, but also understanding how to evacuate the building and get as far away from danger as possible is important too.
Travelling is all part of the experience of finding new countries, enjoying new places and meeting new people. However, taking care and not being open to someone else taking advantage of you is part of this experience too. Some airports are akin to small cities. Enjoy your travels and everything that the airport has to offer in the safest way you can.