My #1 Travel Safety Tip: Know the Emergency # of Where You're Traveling. Photo courtesy of 911 Dispatch.
My #1 travel safety tip is to know how to call emergency services in the country you are traveling. The emergency number is different in every country. I was reminded of how important this travel safety tip is last night.
I am still on crutches from knee surgery three weeks ago (Culture Shock in a German Hospital) and had a 5 minute walk from the train station to the bus station. It was just before 10:00 pm and part of the walk is by a parking lot which is not busy in the evening. As I was walking a car pulled over and in German the male, early 30 something guy asked me if I wanted a ride. I politely replied “No thank you” and kept walking. He then drove away and I thought “Well that was nice, he was just trying to be helpful.”
A minute later he drove by me slowly again. He didn’t say anything, but I found the look on his face rather menacing and all my senses went on full alert. This happened three more times. I was really freaked out by this point as I was on crutches and couldn’t walk very quickly, despite trying to hide my vulnerability as best as I could. I didn’t know what he wanted from me, but I had a few ideas, none of which were very pleasant. I took a deep breath and on the fourth time he drove by I purposely took a key out of my pocket and made sure he saw it as I gave him what was intended to be a threatening look, masking my fear. In my head, I calculated my plan in case he attacked me: hit him over the head with a crutch, push the key into his stomach, hobble away as quickly as I could and dial 112 (the emergency number for Germany and most countries in Europe, but not all). Despite having lived in Germany for almost 10 months, I had only learned the emergency number several weeks earlier. Knowing this was somewhat of a relief, but I still felt I was in danger.
About 10 minutes later, I arrived at the bus stop and thankfully there were two other people waiting there. I felt a sigh of relief until I looked across the street and saw him staring at me, from his car parked on the street. He sat and stared at me for 6 minutes (I know this because I kept looking at the clock on my iPhone every 30 seconds) until my bus finally arrived.
Thankfully, that was the last I saw of him.
This may sound like an isolated incident, but unfortunately it’s not. When I was living in Bangkok, I was woken up by someone trying to break into my apartment at 2:00 in the morning and I lived alone. I could here the perpetrator through the open window and told him in Thai to go away or I would call the police. It turns out it was an American guy completely stoned who insisted that this was his apartment and that if I didn’t open the door he would shoot me. Seeing how easy it is to get a gun in Thailand, I believed that it was quite possible that he would make good on his threat. My heart skipped a beat as I debated the options in my head: jump out of my third story apartment onto my neighbors rickety tin roof or take my chances and get shot. I tried calling the apartments security guard but he didn’t answer. My guess is that he was either sleeping or on the street talking with some other security guards. Fortunately, I remembered the emergency number for Thailand (191) and called the police. I was also fortunate that at that time I spoke some Thai and was able to communicate the problem and my address. When the would-be intruder heard me calling the police he disappeared and I never saw him again.
99% of the time I feel safe when traveling, but both of these instances have been frightening reminders of how important it is to know how to call emergency services when traveling abroad which is why it is my #1 travel safety tip.
In Canada and the U.S. the emergency # is 911. For most countries in Europe it is 112. For a list of more emergency numbers in other countries see: Wikipedia Emergency Telephone Numbers