No one wants to dwell on the negative aspects of travel. However, the reality is that it's better to consider what could go wrong while traveling and prepare a plan to deal with whatever comes up than to simply hope for the best.
Most travel agents will attempt to sell you travel insurance, mostly as an add on to get a refund should you be unable to travel on the dates your ticket is for. Some include minimal health or injury coverage as well, and some policies even include coverage for lost luggage or stolen personal belongings. Insurance is good, and some policies are better than others, which will be discussed at length here. But what about personal safety while traveling, security for yourself, those traveling with you, and your property?
Much of what I consider of the utmost importance pertaining to personal security and taking appropriate measures when it comes to maintaining your health while traveling is common sense. Unfortunately, many people, especially those traveling to popular tourist meccas with tour groups, assume someone else is looking out for their well being, such as their tour operators, hotel management, travel agents, and so on. Nothing could be further from the truth...
Basically, the same rules for avoiding being cheated at home apply while trekking the globe, such as "If it sounds too good to be true, it is", "accept nothing you're told by a stranger as being truthful", "if it smells fishy it's bait, and you're the fish", and so on.
I think the best, and most entertaining way to educate readers it to highlight some of the attempted con jobs, frauds or scams that I have been the target of. All were unsuccessful but many of the perpetrators gave award winning performances.
I want to tell this tale because it is the perfect example of a well executed con, and proof that no matter where you are, you're responsible for your own safety and well being.
I was sitting with business associates at a restaurant table in a very nice, downtown Bucharest hotel that's owned, or at least managed by a well known, well respected, American hotel chain. I excused myself to go to the washroom. As I entered I was followed in by a well dressed young man who had been standing near the facility entrance. Seeing he was loitering near the washrooms was a red flag, so I was on my guard immediately.
I usually exchange currency at a hotel exchange if there is one, or at banks. I use the in house hotel exchange for convenience, banks if I'm exchanging a large amount of currency, getting a cash advance on a credit or debit card, or cashing in travellers cheques. However, it isn't always convenient to use a bank, if one can be found that is even able to do currency exchanges.
Some countries have restrictions as to which banks can trade in foreign currencies. Likewise, not every hotel offers currency exchange services, or if they do it's at a highway robbery rate of exchange. Then the only options are to pay in dollars for whatever I want, which usually means running the risk of paying an even worst exchange rate, or seek out a private currency exchanger.