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TRAVEL & STUFF

UK tops most dangerous list

By roving hack Ignatius Rake

Posted March 03, 2013
dartmoor ponies UK more dangerous than Russia
Dangerous place: Two Dartmoor ponies prepare to strike. © Ignatius Rake

The UK has beaten off Russia and Albania to be named Europe's most dangerous country to visit. Mind you, the same poll says it's also the seventh safest.


Globelink International Travel Insurance has announced the results of a poll of travellers (viz people who travel to different countries as opposed to New Age travellers) that saw them ranking European countries in order of the most and least dangerous to visit last year.

And it's good news for the UK, which, despite all the knocking it gets from tofu-chomping Guardian readers, came right at the top of the rankings.

That's right.

Finally something Britain can be proud of other than just excellent beer; pies, pasties and sausage rolls; punk music; chip shops; and did I mention the excellent beer?

Yes indeedy, Britain really is great, having just scooped the coveted Single Most Dangerous European Country To Visit gong ahead of such bookie's favourites as Russia, Albania and Romania to name but three.

So stick that up your jinker, Germany and France.

Ha!


MIND YOU...
However, that said, the survey's results are somewhat conflicting.

According to the accompanying press release, the Globelink poll, "which gleaned more than 200 travellers' responses", also placed the UK seventh in terms of the safest countries to visit.

Hmm.

Perhaps countries aren't all blanketly uniformed after all.

Or maybe the people polled had differing opinions and experiences.

Who knows?

Possibly Globelink, which states: "The poll reveals some obvious contradictions regarding the safety status of such countries as Spain [third most dangerous yet also the safest] and the UK."

"It's a reminder that some familiar destinations contain hidden dangers and travellers cannot afford to be complacent," the company continues.

So what does it all mean?

Well, according to Globelink, "the ranking highlights the importance of taking appropriate precautions according to the country you are visiting."

"Always keep your wits about you when you go abroad."

Quite.



keep your map folded
Map: Keep it folded. © Ignatius Rake

ONE HACK'S ADVICE
As someone who is regularly sent on assignment to countries both rich and poor alike (67 on six continents to date), this particular hack has taken it upon himself to offer you, yes YOU, some handy tips to avoid hassle abroad.

Firstly, don't wear obvious tourist clothes that shout "I'm on holiday and not from round here".

Secondly, don't walk around with a camera and/or a guidebook on open display as nothing marks you out more as a tourist to fleece other than a big sign saying "Rip Me Off!".

Furthermore, while this might seem like pointing out the bleeding obvious, keep your valuables stashed, your bag closed and close and your passport safe and not sticking out your back pocket.

Not only are passports bloody important for crossing borders and getting a hotel, but they also fetch shedloads on the black market (10 grand for a UK one last I heard) and they're a right pain in the nipsy to replace.

And when it comes to stashing stuff, don't trust in-room hotel safes as the staff have a master key/code that means any dodgy employees can easily open them up to have a rifle about should they so choose.

Instead, make sure you have a hard-shell suitcase that you not only keep locked, but, taking it to the next level, also chained and padlocked.

This might seem like overkill but if you're travelling with valuable kit, anyone wanting to swipe your swag will have to get a pair of bolt cutters first.

Most crime everywhere is opportunistic so even if you can't be arsed with a chain and padlock don't leave your baggage open in your hotel room when you're out or likewise leave cash etc lying around.

If you tempt someone who probably earns peanuts compared to a jetsetter like you, can you really blame them for morally crumbling and pocketing your pennies and prized trinkets?

Oh, and on the subject of pennies, get your head round the local currency pretty damn sharpish.

Faffing about with rolls of wedge when you want to buy an ice cream, if not asking for trouble, makes you look silly and contemptible, especially if you're in a country where the average wage is less than what you earn in a minute.

Moving on to navigation, don't rely on a smartphone or similar piece of gadgetry to help you find your way around.

Batteries go flat and flashy bits of kit are a great thing to nick.

Instead, always have a physical map on you and one that you can fold up to be as small and unobtrusive as possible (palm-sized and kept in the same pocket so you know where it is).

And when you do need to check it, do so discretely.

What's more, keep you map centred on your immediate vicinity.

If you're visiting the town centre, have it folded to only show the town centre and not the suburbs as well.

Certainly, whatever you do, don't stand on a busy street corner with the whole thing open while you and your friend ponderously try to find out where all the muggers, scamsters, touts and other blaggers who make a living by feeding off witless foreigners are because you'll soon find out if someone doesn't tuttingly push you out the way first.

Meanwhile, if you act the obvious tourist in a bar or restaurant, don't be surprised if your bill comes back bigger than an elephant's cock with a chirp on.

'Tourist tax' is inevitable when you're in a strange place, but why pay even more than you have to?


UWAGA! SHARKS
Most people you'll meet are honest and friendly but take heed: sharks swim in these waters and if you keep dripping fish guts they'll come and have a nibble.

That nice man asking if you want to see the elephant?

It's a scam he pulls day in, day out.

And that man who says he recognises you because he works in your hotel?

He doesn't.

He's after your cash.

Different countries are characterised by different scams.

Fortunately, there are various websites and internet fora where you can familiarise yourself with the main ones before you set off but as a rule of thumb a pretty good and concise starting point is Wikitravel.

It's not perfect and sometimes very wide of the mark, but on the whole it's surprisingly useful, especially if you have to travel at very short notice.

But no matter how savvy you might be back home or how genned up you get before you're trip, don't, as Globelink warn, get complacent.

Regardless of how cool you think you are, when you're abroad you're always just an emmet and the locals will always know the score better than you.

Remember, tourists always stand out thus making them an easy target for shysters so try not to be too obvious.

However, while there will probably be times when you will have to be firm and put your foot down, always try to be courteous and polite, especially towards everyday folk.

And ask people's permission if you want to take their photograph.

Don't just snap away, especially if you're in a place of worship.

Those people there have come to pray not to be a quaint little extra in someone's amazing Disneyland adventure.

Thankfully, most travel is devoid of notably negative experiences.

However, if you act like a dick, you'll be treated like a dick regardless of where you're from or where you visit.

But should things go shit-shaped, remember the words of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: "Don't panic!"

That said, keep your north eye open.

Clock the land marks for means of navigation, notice how people respond to your presence and generally try to act as much like the locals as possible – when in Rome and all that...

Also, while a little bit of the local lingo always goes a long way, never openly diss a place, a people or their customs, even if you're in a total shithole like Sanok or Istanbul.

Remember, lots of people speak English these days so don't think no one will understand your gripes.

You may think that where you are from is the greatest place on Earth but it's unlikely they will too.

Be humble, discrete, polite and low-key and don't ever mess with the local cops or crims.

They'll eat you for f--king breakfast.


BASE JUMPING
Anyway, coming back to the press release, Globelink continues: "Travellers aged 66 and over should be extremely careful because they have a tendency to put their lives in danger most often."

Paragliding, BASE jumping and freebasing, I guess.

Meanwhile, those aged 46-65 "were the most active respondents, indicating that this group care most about their safety and are willing to take necessary steps to protect it".

Travellers aged 26-45, on the other hand, "are less concerned about their safety and their response rate was 40% lower than that of the 46-65 age group".

Or maybe they're just less inclined to partake in surveys.

Either way, here are the two Top 10s....


THE TWO TOP TENS IN FULL
First, the 10 most dangerous European countries according to the Globelink poll:

1) The UK;

2) Russia;

3) Spain;

4) Albania;

5) Ukraine;

6) Serbia;

7) Portugal;

8) Romania;

9) Italy; and

10) Bulgaria.


And now the 10 safest countries:

1) Spain;

2) France;

3) Switzerland;

4) Portugal;

5) Germany;

6) Norway;

7) The UK;

8) Austria;

9) The Netherlands; and

10) Denmark.


But where does Liechtenstein fit into all this?

Flippin' heck, when I was there I went in a bar and got asked if I wanted to mind the till!

If that kind of attitude towards strangers doesn't win a country a spot in the Top 10 safest places, what the hairy pant knackers does?

Anyway, whatever the respondents reckon, the UK ain't that bad and certainly nothing like Manila.

Besides, the beer's ace and therefore the country's well worth a visit.

Just watch out for Dartmoor ponies.

They eat about 3,000 people a week.


Globelink, by the way, "is a UK-based provider of travel insurance for UK and EU residents" that "offers different travel insurance plans for travellers and holidaymakers from more than 30 countries and regions [providing] coverage for almost any type of journey and age group (up to 84)". To find out more, have a click of this. Also, if you're from the UK, you might want to watch the following video from the company's YouTube channel as it contains some useful advice should you go abroad and your passport suddenly sprouts legs.






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