Travel Hints and Security

Odd bits to help you on your travels...

Packing Tips to Save Space and Avoid Wrinkles Some Tips on Tipping
Security in a Taxi Mobile Phone Hints

Self Help health Tips

Safety rules for Females

Bag Snatching Petty Thieves
Pick Pockets Travelling with Seniors
Disaster Survival Guide Make a Will
Responsible Souvenir Shopping Hand Gestures
Animals used for Photo Souvenirs Internet Security
Secure against identity theft  


Facebook, Twitter and Skype are a few examples of outlets that are a blessing and a curse. It’s easy to find yourself using any of these technologies at late hours to stay in touch with your wonderful friends and family back home. Beware. If you spend too much time with them, you won’t allow yourself to live in the present. This can lead to isolation and loneliness. By spending time with people down the street, you’ll create a wonderful local group of friends with whom you can share the good and bad times.

Make sure you understand any important traditions of your host city. For example, Japan has levels of bowing. France and many other Western European cities have different levels of formality woven into their languages. Time and punctuality are often treated very differently between cultures. It’s important that you understand and respect significant cultural behaviours in order to be accepted and set your expectations.

If you move to another country, learning the local language is important for communicating basic needs, but even more important to develop friendships. However, don’t fall into “The Perfect Language Trap”. The one who will be most insulted by your language mistakes is – YOU. Most foreigners will be delighted that you at least tried to speak their language, even if you butchered it. You immediately receive compassion, some language tips, and someone who will be glad to help you as you transition. Also, you may begin some of your best friendships with hilarious language blunders. Remember, laughter is a very bonding experience!

Packing Tips to Save Space and Avoid Wrinkles

Regardless of whether you prefer hard-sided or soft-side luggage, Pullman cases or garment bags, wheeled cases, duffel bags or backpacks, you need a packing strategy. For starters, never pack any valuables--financial, medical, or emotional--in anything but a carry-on bag. Then consider the following tips to manage the rest of your luggage. And never overpack: luggage that's too heavy to carry to your car won't be any lighter when you're dragging it to the airport check-in line or at your destination.


Make a list of the items you'll need to take on your trip. Concentrate on mix-and-match clothes, shoes and accessories. Emphasize neutral shades, complimentary colors, and clothing that may be hand-washed and drip dried. Don't forget specialty items such as resort wear, bad-weather gear, and, if appropriate, formal attire. Then check the list and eliminate anything that you can't justify the second time around.


Lay out all the clothes you plan to pack. Then, one more time, weed out what isn't essential. A good strategy: Eliminate what you KNIOW you can buy at good prices at your destination. For example, if you're headed to Ireland, buy jumpers (translation 'sweaters') there. Sometimes you may be travelling to both 'warm' and 'cold' places in the same trip. This situation may mean you buy a jumper or coat when you get to the colder place. Just make sure you leave room for your purchases or bring a foldable tote bag.


Pack bags from bottom to top, heaviest items at the bottom, lightest items on top. For an extended trip, however, pack according to itinerary- clothing for the last stop at the bottom, garments for each earlier stop layered on top. Underwear and socks can be stuffed inside your shoes and around the edges of the luggage. Another way to lighten your load: wear your heaviest shoes and bulkiest clothes on the day of departure so you won't have to pack them - also helps with the weight limits for the flights!!


Items like slacks and ties can be loosely rolled to keep wrinkles away. For other garments, minimize wrinkles by wrapping them in tissue paper or plastic bags used by dry cleaners. And be sure to unpack as soon as you reach your destination. Accept the fact that some wrinkles are inevitable no matter how carefully you pack. Hotels will usually lend you an iron and an ironing board or fall back on a time-tested trick: hang wrinkled clothes on the shower rod in the bathroom, close the bathroom door and run the hot water. The steam will eliminate many wrinkles.


Leave room in your bag for travel essentials: plastic bags for soiled garments, extra film and books, a small umbrella and a travel clock, a copy of your travel documents, and a foldable tote for packing the purchases you'll make during your trip. And remember three all-purpose items favoured by most experienced travelers: zip-lock bags, a Swiss Army knife, and a tube of multi purpose Glue.


Place a piece of paper in your luggage with your name and telephone numbers where you can be reached on the road. This information can be used to contact you if your bag is lost and your external baggage tags have been removed.


Some Tips on Tipping

Want to make an otherwise confident traveler squirm? Just ask about tipping.

"No one is comfortable with tipping," suggests Thomas Kinhaven, who has managed swanky hotels in Chicago, Dallas, New York and Hawaii. "Every traveler feels they need to know more. Everyone feels they don't know the local rules."

Although tipping has become more a world wide phenomenon, the U.S.A is still the most 'tip orientated' nation. With a fairly large number of outbound tourists their approach to tipping has been exported. Thankfully a lot of countries only expect a tip if something 'extra' happens. Not so in the U.S. where it is seems to be considered a natural 'right'.

Visitors to the U.S.A can feel quiet intimidated by tipping. I did every time I visited. You soon learn to go with the flow, but don't tip if things are not up to scratch! I have followed my own advice a few times and suffered the verbal comments from waiters who considered it their 'god given right' to receive a tip.

Here is a quick guide to tipping practices in the United States.


The commonly accepted rule of thumb is about 20 percent on bills under $10 (and never less than a dollar on bills under $5) and 15 percent on larger bills. In cities such as New York and Los Angeles, however, consider tipping 20 percent. And the larger the dining party, the larger the tip you should leave. If you want to be remembered by the service staff on a future visit, tip big and leave it in cash. In most restaurants, tips are usually pooled, so leaving a separate gratuity for the maitre'd or sommelier is no longer required. However, if either performed a special service, tip according to how you value their contribution to your meal.


Bellman usually receive $1-$2 a bag. For routine requests, the concierge staff rarely expects a tip. But if you need special help--reservations at a sold-out restaurants, sporting or cultural events--tip accordingly. If you expect to call on the concierge regularly during your visit, introduce yourself when you check in, leave an appropriate tip on the spot (and at least $20 at top hotels), and thank them in advance for their help. Tip the room-service waiter only if a service charge hasn't already been added to your bill. Don't tip a doorman if his only assistance is opening or closing the door, but a gratuity of $1 is appropriate if he secures you a cab. Valet parking attendants generally receive $1-$2 when they retrieve your car.

One final thought about hotels: tip the chambermaids. They work extremely hard and often earn only the minimum wage. At smaller hotels and in small cities, $2 a day left on the pillow of your bed will go a long way. In big cities or swanky resorts consider leaving $5 a day.


A skycap (porter) at your departure gate can be your best ally, checking you in for a flight, checking your bags, and possibly even getting you a boarding pass without waiting in line. Tip at least $5, and more if you're checked several bags or if he's helped you circumvent lines during extremely busy periods. If he only checks your bag, $1 for each piece should suffice. If you use a skycap at baggage claim, $1 a bag will do.


Ten to 15 percent of the fare on the meter is standard in most of the nation. But in large, Eastern cities, where taxis are a way of life, cabbies expect at least 15 to 20 percent.


Security in a Taxi

Although there is no foolproof method to avoid being robbed, one of our embassies has supplied some basic tips that can prevent you being taken by surprise.

* Only use an official taxi from an airport. These are usually available from a designated, signposted counter. Do not try to save money by trying to negotiate with someone who is "unofficial".

* Do not use a taxi which is parked outside a bank or any other financial establishment.

* Do not get into a taxi immediately after withdrawing money from any financial establishment.

* Never count your money while inside a taxi.

* As soon as you get into the taxi, lock the back doors. Make sure that the backdoor can be opened from the inside.

* If you order a car by telephone, always check what type of vehicle is being sent to collect you.

* Make sure that the cards identifying the driver and the owner of the vehicle are clearly visible. If they are not, leave the taxi as soon as   possible.

*Whenever possible, tell the driver the exact route you wish to take.

* Be alert if the driver goes at minimum speed for no apparent reason or takes an unusual route.

* Memorise the car number plates or the taxi license number. 

Foreign Affairs & Trade
Consular Newsletter


Mobile Phone Hints

The shocking debt that people find themselves in after using their phone for not even five minutes or forgetting to turn off ‘push’ notifications can reach thousands of dollars very easily and whilst arguing with the network provider can bring down the cost a little, the bill will still usually be extraordinarily high.

Recent horror stories include a traveller who spent a week in Istanbul using an iPhone to navigate the city, running up a bill of USD 3632 from T-Mobile. A paper map, for comparison, costs USD 5.

A British traveller to South Africa downloaded the greatest hits of Neil Diamond there and received a bill from UK telco Orange for USD 4088. Orange later massively reduced the amount.

A 14-year-old Briton on a five-day family holiday to New York kept posting updates to Facebook and uploading photos. Cost: USD 5954.

To avoid roaming charges there are three options:

  • Keep your phone on flight mode for the entirety of the journey and only switch it back on when you are 100 percent sure that you have access to Wi-Fi,
  • Ensure that you turn off all push notifications and block cellular data so that you only use Wi-Fi. This is a semi-safe option, however if you receive a lot of calls, you will be charged each time making flight mode a better option to avoid extra charges,
  • Have a dedicated travel card that you use each time you travel.

Here is an example related to Australia. The basic premise is the same from other countries as well.

By leaving your Australian phone card at home, and using a travel card instead, you will be leaving the risk of international roaming charges whilst still having the convenience of voice calls, SMS and data use when you are away. Here are some of the options that are available using the UK as an example of the travel destination:

Product Name

Cost of Card

UK call to Australia p/min (AUD)

UK call to UK p/min (AUD)

SMS within UK (AUD)

Data Use p/MB (AUD)












$0.65 (USD)

Ekit Global Premium Service







Usual monthly cost






Usual monthly cost



$0.55 + standard SMS rate


Based on the above comparison, travel cards are significantly cheaper and would be of great convenience especially to those travelling through many countries. As rates are generally based on ‘zones’ it is best to check each individual option to see if it is the cheapest rate if you are travelling to a specific country, especially if it is isn’t in Europe.

Make sure that you ‘unlock’ your phone by calling your service provider and then check that the card works whilst you are still at home.

TIP: To keep costs even lower, take advantage of Wi-Fi based apps that allow you to make calls and text for free. To use these services, both users must have the app and be connected to the internet.

Here are some of the apps that allow you to call and text for free:


Other helpful tactics

Here are a few things that can be done with your mobile phone in times of grave emergencies.
Your mobile phone can actually be a life saver or an emergency tool for survival. Check out the things that you can do with it:

1. The Emergency Number worldwide for **Mobile** is 112 . If you find yourself out of coverage area of your mobile network and there is an emergency, dial 112 and the mobile will search any existing network to establish the emergency number for you, and interestingly this number 112
can be dialled even if the keypad is locked.

2 Have you locked your keys in the car? Does you car have remote keys? This may come in handy someday. A good reason to own a cell phone: If you lock your keys in the car and the spare keys are at home, call someone at home on their cell phone from your cell phone.
Hold your cell phone about a foot from your car door and have the person at your home press the unlock button, holding it near the mobile phone on their end. Your car will unlock. This saves someone from having to drive your keys to you. Distance is no object. You could be hundreds of miles away,
and if you can reach someone who has the other "remote" for your car, you can unlock the doors (or the trunk).

3 Hidden Battery power. Imagine your cell battery is very low , you are expecting an important call and you don't have a charger. Nokia instruments come with a reserve battery. To activate, press the keys *3370# Your cell will restart with this reserve and the instrument will show a 50% increase in battery. This reserve will get charged when you charge your cell next time.

4 How to disable a stolen mobile phone? To check your Mobile phone's serial number, key in the following digits on your phone: * # 0 6 #.

A 15-digit code will appear on the screen. This number is unique to your handset. Write it down and keep it somewhere safe. If your phone gets stolen, you can phone your service provider and give them this code. They will then be able to block your handset so even if the thief changes the SIM card, your phone will be totally useless. You probably won't get your phone back, but at least you know that whoever stole it can't use or sell it either.

We have all heard the stories, and they are sometimes quite scary; they usually start something like this: “my mate bought himself a brand new mobile, got global roaming put on and took it to New Zealand; he thought it was fantastic and managed to keep in contact with everyone.

When he got back he got a bill from his phone company for $3,500.00 for all the downloading and talking he had done”!

Some reports show that mobile roaming is now the third highest cost for overseas travelers, after airfares and accommodation.  The rates charged by the major carriers to Australian customers when they roam overseas are outrageous and forces most to seek alternatives like a ‘world roaming prepaid global sim card, or purchase local cards for the countries people visit. Local sim cards can be the cheapest, but are not often the most convenient, especially for short stays. This is where the global roaming sims come into play.

Here are a few tips for saving on your mobile phone bill when travelling overseas:

Receive calls when mobile roaming

Even though you will already be saving more money than usual, it is always a good idea to get people to call you, rather than the other way around. A great way to save is to try and receive as many calls as possible on the global roaming sim.

Turn off your voicemail

Ensure you switch off your voicemail as the call will bounce backwards and forwards to Australia and cost you an international roaming call to retrieve messages.


SMS is an excellent way to communicate cheaply when international roaming. Avoid tennis texting as these conversations can quickly become more expensive than a quick call.

Beware of Data

Using your iPhone or other smart phone overseas can cost you a fortune due to the way they use data, and the cost of data roaming. Every time your iPhone checks for emails can cost you over $10, and it will do this every minute unless you make changes to your settings! Bills of over $3000 are not uncommon for limited data overseas. Turn off all data roaming, and only use wifi connections.

Buy a prepaid GLOBALSIM roaming simcard before you leave home

You will get one number and one sim and will save up to 80% on your global roaming bill in over 190 countries. There are no charges for receiving calls in 50 countries.

Take your mobile

Of course if you don’t take your mobile, you will completely eliminate international roaming charges but then your family, friends and clients can’t contact you. Hotel phones can be horrendously expensive. Emergencies, such as delayed flights, means you need a mobile phone to remain in touch.


Some self help health tactics.

Although bedbugs pose no real threat to human health, tourists prefer never meeting any. It does not necessarily mean a hotel in Africa, but can be in Paris and new York. In fact N.Y. had a recognized problem in this area through 2011!

Restoration Industry Association, a non-profit (U.S.) trade association that promotes best practices in the cleaning and restoration industry, says although bedbugs are about the size of an apple seed and visible to the naked eye, their flat, rusty-red oval bodies can travel through walls via cracks and crevices.
They often hide behind headboards, in the seams and tufts of mattresses, inside box springs, along baseboards, in and around nightstands and inside pictures, moldings and loose wallpaper, as well as furniture, Restoration officials say.
They can attach themselves to anything and can easily make their way back into a tourists home. To prevent taking bedbugs home, Restoration officials advise that if you feel suspicious, or just want to be sure:
-- Before traveling, pack clothes in large Ziploc bags.
-- At a hotel, check the piping along the mattress and frame around the bed, look for empty body shells under the bed and between the mattress and box spring.
-- Check the closet for evidence of bedbugs before using.
-- Leave clothes in a suitcase on a luggage rack.
-- Place shoes out in the open instead of under the bed.
-- At home, immediately unpack in a laundry room or garage, wash clothes and inspect the suitcases.
-- If bedbugs are discovered once home: washable items should be laundered using the hottest temperature for washing and drying. Suitcases, purses and unwashable items can be placed in a plastic bag and left in the sun for a day.


Rule number one: Know Yourself

Understanding your profile and how that profile may be perceived when you travel is vital. Key areas to consider include your physical appearance, travel experience, personality type and budget.

Rule number two: Do your research

Don’t assume, do your research before you travel and know the geography of the city you are visiting, plus be aware of any cultural differences.

Rule number three: Don’t be an easy target

Plan your flights so you arrive in the daytime especially if you are planning to catch a taxi and always use official taxis.

Rule number four: Be assertive

Be confident as appearing unfamiliar can make you a potential target. Trust your instincts, if something doesn’t feel right it probably isn’t.

Rule number five: Stay calm in a crisis

Statistics have proven that woman are more prone to harassment, assault and hand bag theft therefore it important to know how to respond in a crisis. Being prepared is key to reducing risk while on business travel


Bag Snatching

Following the tragic murder in June 2012 of Perth travel agent Michelle Smith during a bungled bag snatch in Phuket, a leading travel insurance provider for travel agents has issued a range of tips that agents can pass on to their clients. SureSave, one of the best-known names in travel insurance, says the murder of Smith is indicative of a troubling travel trend. From Bangkok to Rome, bag snatching is on the rise.

The insurer has revealed that 47% of its bag snatching claims originate from South East Asia, with most incidents occurring in Vietnam. A further 25% of cases occur in Europe, with Spain emerging as a hotspot, and about 16% of claims come from travellers in South America.

Michael McAuliffe, Executive Director at SureSave, says travellers can limit opportunities for criminals to strike by making a few small changes to their behaviour while travelling. “It might surprise some people that bag snatchers are opportunistic thieves who don’t necessarily discriminate based on age or gender. Because of this, there are a few simple things we can all do to prevent ourselves from falling victim. Firstly, don’t walk on the kerbside of the footpath. If at all possible move one or two steps away from the road and out of the reach of a drive-by bagsnatcher,” says McAuliffe. “Criminals will go looking for an easy target, so put your bag on the shoulder furthest from the road. Or better yet, loop your bag over your head and one shoulder, which makes it obvious that snatching the bag will not be easy.” McAuIiffe adds that if someone does try to snatch your bag, it’s better to let them take it rather than fight or resist. “This is a good option especially if there’s nothing of any great value in the bag, so empty it of your passport, cash and credit cards – keep them in a money belt or pouch underneath your clothing,” McAuliffe says.

Editors Note: As an ex tour leader I used to advise the above concepts to passengers and I feel they do help, especially the idea that you sling your bag so that is facing the buildings rather than the road side. If you think, buildings and road it helps get around confusing 'left and right' especially if you are in a country where the traffic is driving the opposite to where you are from. People get 'left and right' muddled more than 'road and buildings'.

Deciding to leave it all back at your hotel in the room safe is another option, although, disturbingly, safes are not always as secure as travellers think. Many common brands can be opened simply by hitting the top of the safe and twisting the door dial at the same time, SureSave discloses. Some have a standard key lock hidden beneath the front panel, used to override the electronic code. Basic lock-picking skills will open the safe. See more on this subject below

Beating petty thieves

Rule number 1 for beating the pickpockets and bag-snatchers: leave the valuables behind and only take enough cash for the day. What do you do with the cash, cards and cameras you leave behind? Stick them in the room safe, right? But how safe are room safes? They’re certainly better than leaving your valuables lying around for any opportunistic thief, or unscrupulous staff member to pocket, but sadly they’re not that secure.

Not so safe safes

Many common brands can be opened simply by hitting the top of the device, and twisting the door dial at the same time! Some have a standard key lock hidden beneath the front panel, this is used to over-ride the electronic code. Basic lock-picking skills will open the safe. All room safes ship from the manufacturer with a standard ‘reset’ code – usually all zeroes. Amazingly, many hotels don’t bother re-setting that master code. Give it a try - lock the room safe with your code, then try entering all zeroes, or 1,2,3,4. Obviously the safe is effective only if it’s bolted to the structure of your room, otherwise the thief could pick it up and walk away with it and your valuables.
Who to trust Large, brand name, up-market hotels tend to take security more seriously. These are hotels with key pass entry to each room, so they know (or should) who entered your room and at what time.

Budget hotels usually mean budget security. Check that the safe is actually bolted down to something substantial, check that it doesn’t have an obvious default master code, and look for signs of tampering before using it. It is usually more secure to use the front-of-house safe or security deposit box for valuable items. Access to these safes is more strictly controlled, but don’t forget to get a receipt from the desk staff stating exactly what it is that they’ve put in the safe, and ask them to sign it.
Make Your Will before Travel

This is provided as a prompt to seek further advice. The link to a third part website is for you to gather more information from which you can make a decision.


Not enough people are updating or preparing their will before they travel, according to new research. The State of Trustees research has revealed that last year, there were more than 8.2 million short term overseas holidays undertaken by Australians alone.

While 1000 Australians died overseas last year, less than 20 percent of travellers updated or prepared their will before departing on trips, yet 60 percent of travellers took out travel insurance. I am sure other countries will have similar trends. State of Trustees has developed a new online will kit encouraging people to be legally protected.

“While many people think they don’t have enough money or assets to justify a will you would be surprised how much trouble it can cause your loved ones if you die without a will,” State Trustees manager client insights Carmen Gould said. “If you die without a will the law will determine who gets your estate and your assets may go to someone who is not your preferred candidate, not to mention the added complications of trying to finalise someone’s affairs when they have passed away overseas,” Ms Gould said.

Secure against Identity Theft whilst travelling

Travellers these days need to be alert for any opportunities of identity theft while away on holidays or business trips. The Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) warns that you cannot trust anyone you meet with your personal information, including housekeeping staff, bellmen, security guards and front desk clerks.

Even when using ATM/Debit cards/Credit Cards, travellers need to be wary of fake ATM machines that are known to have been placed in high traffic tourist areas. Consider restricting the use of your ATM card to securely located Automated Teller Machines.  Business travellers utilising quiet evenings in the hotels to catch up on booking keeping and paying the bills are warned about the number of people who have access to your room. Don’t leave things ‘out’ and on display if you are away from your room. Suitcases are not a secure way to lock up valuables and ITRC highly recommends the use of in room or hotels safes while you are out of the room. Travellers should use bum bags or travel pouches as apposed to carrying a wallet or purse in your pocket. Better still are modern travel clothing with inbuilt security pockets. Pickpockets can be found in most major cities, especially in high traffic areas that attract business or holiday travellers. Studies revealed they are not just interested in your cash, but your identity from your SSN, credit cards and driver’s license and other such important documents.

ITRC also recommends travellers don’t take anything in your wallet that is not absolutely necessary, make sure that you have an emergency phone number (contact person) for emergency medical personnel to use and carry photocopies of all travel documents including plane tickets, hotel reservations and passports but keep these in a separate location from the originals.
Nothing says “we’re out of town” more than a pile of newspapers or overflowing mailbox. While away put your mail on “postal hold” and don’t forget to stop delivery of newspapers until you return, if you still get the traditional paper version! Also ensure a friendly neighbour puts out and takes in your rubbish bins, even if there is noting to dispose of.