Ask Phil

Ask Phil

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  • +2 rating

    Is it safe to travel to San Miguel de Allende in Mexico?

    San Miguel is relatively safe day and night. Mexico has problems (big problems and getting worse), but mostly that's in the cities closest to the US border. Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez notably. San Miguel is a popular destination for wealthy Mexicans and is a hot spot for retired Americans and Canadians - if retirees consider it safe enough to live, you'll be okay. The usual rules apply; don't be flashy and keep your cameras and cell phones locked up back at the hotel or out of sight while you're walking around. about 10 years ago

  • +4 rating

    I heard that there is some kind of river tubing thing where you can get really really really drunk while floating down a river. Cant find it

    Ah, Vang Vieng! I recently posted on tubing in Laos which covers the safety aspects, and gives some tips on Tubing Without Drowning http://bit.ly/abTxQE The things already posted here are all great advice. Go, have a good time, it's a great party, but take care it an be really, really dangerous. Just one other word of advice, and it applies everywhere not just VV: if you get blind drunk and injure yourself your insurance claim for the medical evacuation might be knocked back. Travel insurance is not a licence to be stupid. It assumes you'll take reasonable steps to ensure your own safety. "I thought it was a good idea to jump off a 10 metre tower while blind drunk and broke my leg." probably won't go down well with your insurer, and you'll be stuck with the medical bill and a holiday cut short.(ps they do check if you were drunk or drug affected!). Please take care. Phil about 10 years ago

  • +1 rating

    Is Venezuela safe to travel to?

    You're really going to need your wits about you to stay safe in Venezuela, unfortunately it's a very dangerous place (for locals as well as visitors). This is not the sort of place where you can wear jewellery or watches in public. Your camera will certainly raise the interest of thieves. If ever there was a place to blend in, to try to look like a local, it's here. If you know someone who lives in Venezuela, ask them to show you around - locals know the danger spots better than any guide book. A Venezuelan I know says 'everyone' gets mugged and robbed eventually. best advice: don't take anything valuable, use a second credit card with a low limit, stick to the popular tourist destinations, check with locals where the safe places are, and if you are mugged - don't fight back. about 10 years ago

  • +2 rating

    Need health insurance por my trip to Ecuador

    Medical treatment in Ecuador is significantly less expensive than USA, and therefore so is health insurance. However if your son intends to travel around REcuador he ought to be aware that medical facilities outside the major cities are poor or non-existent. There is no hospital on the Galapagos islands, and alarmingly for a popular scuba diving spot, no decompression chamber. Medical emergencies on the islands require evacuation - which can be very expensive. Also, Quito which is situated at 2800 metres above sea level causes many visitors 'altitude sickness', and unfortunately decompression chamber facilities are limited, an again medical evacuation would be needed. Malaria and Dengue Fever is widespread in Ecuador. These diseases often don't show up until after the traveller returns home. For all these reasons I strongly recommend your son have adequate TRAVEL INSURANCE in addition to any health insurance he takes out in Ecuador. Phil about 10 years ago

  • +1 rating

    Is it safe to travel to Colombia?

    other South American countries haven't been as successful as Colombia at reducing kidnap.... in fact it's getting worse in some place - like Ecuador, where Express Kidnap (Sucuestro express) is rife. You get kidnapped for an hour or so... as long as it takes for them to drive you around town visiting ATMs to empty your bank account and max-out your credit card. It usually begins when the victim gets into a taxi. It drives around the corner and the bandits jump in. They 'persuade' you to cooperate with knives, guns, a punch or two and unfortunately for women, sexual assault. In June 2010, depending on whose figures you believe, there were between 194 and 363 express kidnaps... that's in one month. Middle class locals are the main target, but wealthy ex-pats who aren't vigilant are also common victims. If this happens to you, your travel insurance will cover medical expenses for injuries they give you, and you'll have access to an emergency assistance helpline which will put you in touch with consular officials and other agencies. You'll have to argue with your bank about the credit card bill. Perhaps you should take a second credit card with a low limit for Ecuador, and leave the main card at home, or locked in the hotel safe (not the room safe, they might take you back there and force you to open it). Try to keep a low profile in Ecuador, don't flash your money or valuables. Don't use illegal taxis. Buses are also a problem, as are rural roads where a single car with 4 occupants is an easy target. Don't drive on rural roads at night at all. Lock the doors of the car, and keep at least a half a tank of fuel. Don't travel alone. Watch out for drink spiking at bars and clubs. And finally if you are kidnapped - hand over what they want, fighting back will only make them more demanding and violent. One other warning; don't go to the top of the volcano west of Quito. Several tourists have been robbed and raped at gunpoint. Some countries have added the spot to their Do Not Travel alert lists. Follow those safety tips and you should be able to enjoy what I'm told is a beautiful and fascinating country. over 10 years ago

  • 0 rating

    I want to go to South America for 6 months but which language should I focus on - Portuguese or Spanish?

    Roughly half of the population speak Portuguese, the other half speak Spanish. But ALL of the Portuguese speakers are in one country, Brazil. here's a map to show you what's spoken where: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Map-Romance_Latin_America.svg Spanish is spoken in the MOST South American countries (it's also a second language in Brazil) . Just remember this Portuguese phrase: VocĂȘ fala espanhol? over 10 years ago

  • +4 rating

    Is it safe to travel to Colombia?

    Colombia is not as bad as it once was, but you need to use common sense and caution to stay safe. The bad news first: 3 foreign tourists were among the 146 people kidnapped (for ransom) so far this year, they've since been released. The number of kidnappings is down hugely from a few years ago, but there's been a surge in 2010... 25% more than the same time last year. The south of the country is especially dangerous and many foreign governments recommend against any travel to that region because of the risk of kidnap or being caught in the crossfire of a gun battle. The US State department reissued its warning that it considers Colombia "dangerous" in March 2010 and said: "...violence by narco-terrorist groups continues to affect some rural areas as well as large cities." http://bit.ly/akTzev The Australian government (mine) says Do Not Travel to the south - at all. it recommends you Reconsider Your Need To Travel to: provinces of Cesar, La Guajira and Antioquia (excluding Medellin), the cities of Cali and Popayan, and most rural areas. Of Colombia as a whole it says Exercise A High Degree of Caution. (It says the same thing about Brazil.) http://bit.ly/9iF5uV The good news now: In February 2010 the French government declared parts of Colombia to be "safe": adding Santa Marta, Barranquilla, Bogota, Tunja, Bucaramanga, as well as the Zona Cafetero departments of Quindio, Risaralda and Caldas to Cartagena and San Andres as destinations approved for travel. http://bit.ly/9J74G0 Traveller forums (people who've actually been there - this year) overwhelmingly rave about the place; they say it's beautiful and it's safer than other Sth Am countries.... as long as you stick to the popular tourist destinations. Which seems to be the key: Going off the beaten path might not be the best idea, and when you're in the cities ask locals or other travellers which are the areas to avoid. The city of Cali continues to be troublesome and best avoided, as are most rural areas, and the whole of the south. And as always use care on your travels. Phil over 10 years ago

  • +1 rating

    Am I allowed to carry a knapsack in American airports and public buildings?

    Subject to the usual security screening processes, you should be fine. Some buildings, from time-to-time prohibit knapsacks, but usually provide a bag check service. (Note anyone travelling to Commonwealth Games in Delhi this 2010 summer: NO BAGS at all in venues.) Just don't EVER leave a bag unattended, that will cause security to come down on you very heavily, it could cause evacuation of the airport/building and it will be very embarrassing. Plus, your insurance doesn't cover anything you lose if the bag was unattended. over 10 years ago