Greece is reeling from austerity measures; Mexico is at war with narcotics traffickers; and Egypt is undergoing an unprecedented political transition. Normally, American travelers would avoid these areas, but maybe now is a good time to snatch up deals to these locations. What does it mean to travel during this time of international uncertainty and how might the average traveler save a buck?
Tour operators are a good place to look for deals. Abercrombie & Kent, an experienced travel outfitter, has great fall itineraries to Egypt with discounts on certain packages of 30 to 40 percent, and reports from their summer expeditions to the land of the pharaohs indicate that travelers are very happy with the reduced crowds, friendly locals and renewed energy from the Egyptians. Security has not been a problem, and with a staff of over 400 in Egypt, A&K is able to respond quickly to changes. Some of their best discounts are for solo travelers, so leave your partner at home and hit the road!
For those DIY travelers, deal directly with hotels, and don’t be afraid to inquire about discounts. Many hotels are under booked and owners are eager for business. Same with daytrips, attractions and sites; look for discounts online, and call or email directly for more information.
Besides leaving copies of your itinerary at home, consider registering with the U.S. Embassy in the destination country. Using the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) offered through the U.S. Department of State Consular Affairs, travelers can quickly indicate travel plans and itineraries, which are shared with the destination embassies. U.S. Consular officers are able to assist U.S. citizens with serious legal, medical or financial difficulties.
Greece is a beautiful destination for singles and families alike, with ancient ruins alongside beautiful beaches. This summer, with taxi driver strikes and protests in the streets, it might have seemed a destination to avoid. Not so, says Marie President, who traveled to Greece this summer and “felt perfectly safe the entire vacation”. Even traveling with her family, Marie found the protesters to be courteous and respectful of tourists, and while she did not notice any discounts per se, “merchants were anxious for our business and were quite accommodating”.
Always when traveling, consider your personal safety and learn about your destination before you go. Take standard precautions such as keeping your eyes and ears open, limiting the amount of luggage you carry, keeping cash and valuables out of sight, and using the buddy system when out at night.
Make a copy of your passport and leave one at home, and pack another separate from your original. Call your credit card company before departure to let them know you are traveling, and prevent credit card transactions from being denied. Keep phone numbers (not the 1-800 numbers, the direct dial numbers) for your credit card company in a safe place away from your credit cards in case cards are lost or stolen.
Insurance for a trip to one of these “in-the-headlines” destinations is fiscally prudent – in case of cancellation or interruption of the trip, you would recoup some of the cost. According to Chris Harvey of Squaremouth, insurance companies are trending towards a new product in the coming year, which would cover non-medical evacuation. Most current trip insurance plans have coverage for terrorism, but in most cases (London, Egypt) the situation is really civil unrest. This new product, for non-medical evacuation, helps bridge that gap in coverage.
Double-check with your insurance company about their reimbursement policies. In the case of Greece, where strikes are shutting down public transportation and closing tourist sites, most insurance companies required proof of a common carrier ticket in order to reimburse stranded travelers.
Gudrun Enger is a travel, food and lifestyle blogger based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Find her @kitchengirl.