Posts Tagged ‘travel insurance’

Backpacking in the News

Tuesday, October 6th, 2009

Link to article: One in eight young backpackers has been a victim of theft

A British travel insurance company has found that 12 percent of young backpackers have been a victim of theft while traveling. Another 5 percent of British backpackers polled have been mugged in foreign countries.

Other findings:

  • Male backpackers are more likely to be mugged than females.
  • 7% of male backpackers have been mugged, versus 2% of females.
  • Likewise, 12% of male respondents have been victims of theft, versus 11% of females.

“For many young people, going traveling is the best time of their lives, but it’s all too easy to forget that some places are full of unscrupulous people who are waiting to prey on backpackers,” said Perry Wilson, founder of InsureandGo, the company behind the study. “Young people shouldn’t be put off having fun, but they should take care not to put themselves in dangerous situations and they should plan their trip as carefully as possible (i.e. buy expensive insurance from me).”

Personally, I don’t know if we should necessarily take advice from guys named Perry.

Despite the known risks associated with backpacking, a considerable number young adventurers go without travel insurance, as has been previously reported (see 22. Scooter accidents). InsureandGo noted that 37 percent of respondents “do not always have travel insurance while away,” and one in five (20%) “rarely or never have it,” and would therefore not be covered for any stolen possessions or medical bills resulting from being mugged overseas.

As a male backpacker who has never bought travel insurance and who has indeed been a victim of theft (see 6. Getting Pickpocketed and 16. iPod Thieves), I confess that I will continue to forgo travel insurance, not eat my vitamins, put my mean face on in public, and take whatever shit comes my way. Bring it on, gypsies! I’m ready.

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22. Scooter accidents

Sunday, August 30th, 2009

Something didn’t seem all that safe about renting a two-wheeled motorized vehicle to cruise around on, for five dollars a day*, with no prior training or experience in operating such vehicles. Often tourists to hot destinations ride scooters with no helmet** while wearing shorts, a tank top and flip-flops. Most backpackers, being broke, forgo travel insurance*** as well.

scooter2bSo it should come as no surprise that The Times (UK) reported last week (Aug. 25) that motorbike accidents are the main reason why Thailand is the deadliest holiday destination for Britons. Out of an estimated 860,000 British tourists who visited Thailand last year, 269 were killed, according to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). The majority of the 324 reported hospitalizations in Thailand were due to motorbike accidents, the FCO added, noting actual numbers are probably higher.

*About road worthiness: “Some vehicles are not road worthy. The FCO says that many of the motorcycles and scooters that are available for hire in beach resorts are unregistered and cannot legally be driven on a public road. This could invalidate any travel insurance policy should the driver wish to make a claim.”

**About helmets: “The Thai law that states safety helmets must be worn is widely ignored according to the FCO, which contributes to the high number of deaths each year. On average 38 people a day die in motorcycle accidents in Thailand.”

***About travel insurance: “The (FCO)  report found that financial pressures are causing many British holidaymakers to forgo travel insurance in a bid to save money.”

A few other reasons why scooter accidents are so common among backpackers, especially in Thailand:
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  • Limited experience. A couple of years ago, I was in Ko Chang and my friends and I were about to rent scooters. The scooter rental shop was near the beach, a short walk from the town. As we arrived at the turnoff of the main road, a British guy and his girlfriend were driving toward us, also turning in. The guy slowed down and turned in without a problem. The girl slowed down, began turning and immediately sped up, lost control and smashed into a pile of construction debris – aluminum siding, scrap wood and metal. It would have been hilarious if the girl hadn’t been shrieking with her foot cut open (she was wearing flip-flops), leaking blood all over the metal, sand and grass. The problem was clear: Not knowing how to drive the scooter, she accidentally hit the gas instead of braking, panicked and revved into the garbage pile.
  • Gravelly, dusty roads. I was in Bali with a bunch of Chilean guys I’d met and we were ripping all over the island on scooters (see video). All was well until, in a hurry to catch the sunset at Uluwatu, I took a gravelly corner too fast and bam! I wiped out, scraping up my palms pretty badly. I had to drive to a nearby clinic, blood running down my wrists, where a nurse scrubbed my wounds with hydrogen peroxide and used tweezers to remove pebbles from the flesh of my palms. Good times. 
  • Sheer cliffs and mountainsides. Driving a scooter on winding, narrow roads, devoid of guardrails, makes one wonder how many backpackers have lost control, fallen down slopes and died (see above statistics).
  • Wildlife. Monkeys and elephants pop up at any time.
  • Garbage. Garbage litters the roadsides.
  • Unyielding local drivers. People don’t care if you’re “farang.” Get out of their way.
  • Unyielding local driving habits. In many developing world countries, red lights are often considered optional. Proceed with caution.
  • Alcohol and recreational drug use. ‘Nuff said.
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