You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Make overseas travel more affordable, safe

Associated Press logo Associated Press 6 days ago David Koenig

Foreign travel is expensive and can be intimidating for some, but there are strategies for saving money and staying safe.

RESEARCH LOCAL CUSTOMS

Travel experts have advice about what to do once you reach your destination, including how to act. Behaviour that is acceptable at home may be frowned upon - or even illegal - in many other countries.

"What it boils down to is, be respectful and be educated," says Kyle Olson, who just wrote a guide on do's and don'ts in 11 countries for a Chicago law firm. His long list of don'ts includes carrying recreational drugs, dressing scantily, drinking - an official taboo in Muslim countries - and, in many countries, taking photographs of military or government buildings.

INSURANCE

Get travel insurance, and check before you go to see what your health insurance will cover if you get sick in a foreign country. Medicare does not cover health expenses overseas, but some policies and short-term travel medical insurance do. Consider evacuation insurance - an air ambulance can cost thousands of dollars.

CASH OR CREDIT?

Cash is convenient for small purchases, but many frequent travellers stick to plastic overseas. If a clerk swipes your card and asks if you would like to pay in dollars, decline. The shop probably charges a less-favourable exchange rate than your card issuer.

Matt Kepnes, author of How to Travel the World on $US50 a Day, says any commercial bank should offer a decent exchange rate. He stays away from the exchange bureau Travelex and warns that airport ATMs and ATMs in stores like 7-Elevens give a less-favourable rate and charge higher fees.

STAYING CONNECTED

Bringing your own phone is often your best option. Talk to different network providers to see if you can find a plan that allows free roaming and unlimited data overseas. Some allow you to upload pictures and posts to Facebook and get emails at no extra charge.

Of course, always keep the phone charged in case of an emergency.

STAYING SAFE

Tourists are frequently targets for pickpockets and scammers of all kinds. You can lower your risk by looking less like a tourist.

Ditch the shorts, trainers and baseball caps and buy clothes that help you blend in. And remember comfortable shoes.

Evelyn Hannon, who edits the Journeywoman.com website, suggests a quick purchase at a local grocer. The bag will help you look like you belong.

STAY ON THE RIGHT SIDE OF THE LAW

Customs vary greatly by country - that's part of the appeal of travel, after all - and so do laws. That sometimes lands travellers in trouble.

Alcohol is banned in part of the United Arab Emirates, although tourists in Dubai can drink at hotel bars and clubs without consequences. Signs at shopping malls encourage dressing modestly and avoiding public displays of affection, but holding hands or giving a peck on the cheek are usually accepted. Tourists who wind up getting arrested for indecency typically ignored repeated warnings.

Taking someone's picture and putting it online without permission is a crime in the UAE, and people have been arrested for taking pictures of military installations or planes taking off and landing.

Gay or lesbian sex is punishable by death in Saudi Arabia and Iran and is frowned on in other countries. Carrying drugs can and often does carry the death penalty, especially for smugglers.

Each year around 1,000 Australians are arrested overseas and more than 250 are in prisons overseas at any one time, according to DFAT.

Australian consular assistance will do what it can to help prisoners and their families as much as possible within the local and international legal framework. For example, it will contact family and friends and provide names of local lawyers who speak English.

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon