If you find yourself worrying far too much about all the terrible things that might happen to you whilst traveling overseas, remember that generally, overseas travel is surprisingly safe, group travel even more so. If you have not done much traveling before, a few simple guidelines may be useful.
- Enjoy your time in a new environment – don’t worry yourself sick.
- Conversely, don’t be lulled into a false sense of security.
- The best advice is simply to take at least the same precautions you would when traveling around your home country.
- Although it can be traumatic and distressing to lose personal belongings, remember that almost everything can be replaced.
- Your valuables are your responsibility to look after them. Either keep items like cash, travelers cheques, tickets, passports, etc. on your person in a hidden money belt or stored in the hotel safe.
- Leave all non-essential jewelry at home.
The Himalayan Trails core business of operating adventurous trips in the Himalayas carries with it inherent risks for both its field staff and travelers. Some reasons for these risks are:
- The laxity of laws and regulations governing transport, infrastructure and the travel industry in general when compared with western laws;
- The potentially volatile political environment of the countries in which we operate; and
- The nature of the itineraries that we run, which often involves physically strenuous activities in remote locations.
With these factors in mind, we recognise that we have a responsibility to ensure that all reasonable precautions are taken to provide work and travel conditions that are safe. The aim of this document is to give our travelers an insight into the safety standards they should expect
When on a Himalayan trip
Generally, no set of guidelines can anticipate all possible conditions that may arise. We ask our field staff to put sound judgment ahead of hard and fast rules, judging each situation as it arises. Our field staffs are employed because they demonstrate sound operational judgment, and this extends to the application of safe travel practices. If in doubt about the safety of any activity on a trip, whether it is mentioned within these guidelines or not, we ask the staff to take the safer option.
Himalayan Trails does not recommend riding on the roof of any form of transport we use, whether this be trains, boats, or buses.
- Buses and cars
In general traveling in any bus in Asia can be a hairy experience, with the existence of an invisible middle overtaking lane that doesn’t exist on western roads. If your guide thinks a bus driver is driving dangerously he/she will ask the driver to slow down. We accept that seat belts are not readily available on the transport we take in Asia, on either charter or public vehicles. When we charter a vehicle for the sole use of our group we wish to ensure that:
- The driver has the appropriate local license to drive the vehicle;
- and The vehicle is regularly serviced – at least once every 12 months
In most Asian countries bicycle helmets are not a legal requirement. In general, we do not require travelers to wear helmets when on bike rides that are part of our itinerary. Helmets are not readily available in Asia and you may wish to bring your own if this is a concern to you. The exception to this our trips where cycling is the predominant activity. On these trips, we require all travelers to bring their own bike helmets and recommend that they are worn at all times when cycling. Groups should not be riding at night without proper lights and reflectors – unlikely additions to any hire bike in Asia.
Government regulations on safety standards in hotels and guesthouses we use in Asia are less stringent than those in the West. However, wherever feasible, the accommodation we stay in should have, in the case of “closed” hotels (with corridors, multi-stories, etc), a second exit point in case of fire in the main exit. In basic accommodation such as tea houses or homestays, your guide will inform the group about the dangers of elevated platforms, particularly in places where the group sleeps at night and are likely to be wandering around in the dark. You should use a torch/flashlight when making a night-time toilet visit.
In general, we ask that you inform us of any pre-existing medical conditions before traveling. If our field staff is of the opinion that a group member is unsuitable for an activity on the trip, they have the discretion and authority to refuse that person to participate in the activity, for the safety of themselves and the rest of the group. Exposure to the sun is a real risk for travelers when doing any outside activity in Asia. We recommend that you slip, slop, slap at all times – that’s slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen and slap on a hat.
Many of our trips include a trekking component, whether it be an overnight jaunt or a strenuous 30-day walk. Trekking should be the highlight of the trip, but as it necessarily involves travel in remote areas it also attracts a greater degree of risk. The following guidelines apply to all treks that we run. All travelers should have the correct footwear and equipment for the trek. Organize this before leaving home. At the end of each day of the trek, your guide will outline the following day’s walk and plans, as well as debriefing on the walk you have done that day. When walking, the group will have a designated scout and sweep, the scout and sweep will be two Sherpa guides. Group members should leave their packs on the trail if going into the bushes for a toilet stop, so they are not unknowingly passed by the sweep.The group can walk in pairs or small groups but should meet up together in its entirety at a minimum of every couple of hours, to ensure that all members are accounted for. The group should meet up at all major trail intersections, to make sure everyone takes the correct fork. Travelers can walk at their own pace in between-group meets. If local conditions such as weather, landslides, etc become an issue, your local guides will consult on the safety of the conditions and risks involved in continuing with you. The ultimate decision on whether to continue rests with the group leader.
- Flatwater canoeing/kayaking/bamboo rafting
Lifejackets must be worn by all group members and leaders when doing organised kayaking or rafting as part of the group. Helmets are not essential for flat-water paddling. Group members should wear trainers or sandals, to protect their feet from rocks, but not interfere with their ability to swim.Group members should not go canoeing or rafting if they cannot swim confidently when in water above head height.
When riding elephants during our trips helmets are not available to travelers. We, therefore, ensure that only slow plodders are provided by the operator.
First Aid Kits
Your guides will carry a medical kit with him/her at all times during your trip, including any trek, cycle ride, etc. This medical kit contains basic first aid supplies.
Natural disaster / political conflict / unsafe regions to travel
Himalayan Trails relies on 2 main sources of information when deciding whether to run a trip to a region that is a safety risk for any reason – the Travel Advisories put out by the various Government Departments of Foreign Affairs, and the on-the-ground accounts given by our staff. When a Travel Advisory warns against travel to a region or by a certain means we follow this advice. We will also cancel trips or alter itineraries which are not the subject of Travel Advisories, on the basis of information from field staff once more.
Change of plans
We make every possible effort to inform travelers of a change of itinerary or trip cancellation before traveling. However, we reserve the right to make alterations or cancellations at any time due to safety concerns.