Staying safe and being prepared for hazards
Every adventure will have some hazards, so it is best to be prepared and not let such possible dangers stop one from travelling, one might never go anywhere if one thought of all the possible dangers and hazards. Most of the dangers are imagined, so best to put energy into working out how to stay safe, rather than worrying about what could be the worst thing that could happen.
We have always used the internet, touring cyclists blogs, forums and well established message boards (e.g. the Lonely Planet Thorn Tree or Trip Advisor). It is best to read a few and cherry pick the best information. Beware of horror stories from only one unfortunate, unlucky or maybe unwise traveller. We hope that we can add to this body of internet knowledge with our thoughts, ideas and shared experience.
Dogs…. the cyclist’s worst nightmares
Dogs are everywhere and cyclists can be attacked by a dog in any country. We had particular problems with dogs cycling through Romania. However, in some countries there is more risk. You need to be aware if rabies is prevalent in the country you are travelling in. It is always worth checking the UK NHS “Fit for Travel”, for a full list of health issues, including rabies.
Getting a bite in a rabies prevalent country is a more troubling affair than if you are in the UK. If you are going to a country where you may be in a remote place and find it difficult to get to a major centre of population, then this is more difficult. It may be wise to get a rabies vaccine. This is usually available from travel clinics and involves a course of three shots over three weeks, so allow time. Be aware that having a vaccine does not prevent you getting rabies if bitten by an infected animal, it buys you time to get a series of post exposure shots. If you have been inoculated, you need less post exposure shots than someone who has not had pre exposure vaccine.
Our advice about dogs is mainly about prevention.
Staying as calm as possible around dogs is very helpful. Sometimes we chant mantras to help us. It seems to help us remain calm and this does really seem to affect the dogs too.
- If a dog becomes aggressive and starts barking and running at us we tend to slow down. Dogs are incensed by the spin of your bike wheels. On the other hand , if you are able to get up a really good speed (downhill), then you can try and out cycle the running dog.
- Shouting at a dog can work but make sure you have a loud, stong and low voice, not a high pitched scream!
- If slowing down does not stop the attack then we put our bikes together and get between them, using the frames as a barrier between us and the dogs.
- If the dogs ever got more aggressive (jumping at us, to bite us), then we would then use a pepper spray in the eyes of the dog (not your eyes, watch the wind) if necessary. We always carry pepper spray but it is illegal in most countries. We have bought a pepper spray from the USA that the US postal service issues to protect its postmen. We attach it to the handlebars where we can grab it fast, not in the panniers, (you don’t have time to find it). We have actually never had to use it. Sometimes we carry hairspray instead of pepper spray. We have been told that it can work too.
- If you are bitten, scrub the wound with a scrubbing brush and alcohol to get as many of the potential rabies germs out. Get a post exposure course of rabies shots as soon as you can get to a clinic.
- Recently there has been a worldwide shortage of rabies vaccine, making pre exposure shots even more important.
Tim’s personal mantra method, that he learned to use when he lived in rural India, is to do low voice chanting of the Indian Hindu mantra “Shri Ram, Jai Ram, Jai Jai Ram“. If chanted low and with loud authority, this seems to work. Maybe give it a go or find your own method.
Keeping your money safe
Normally we draw money out as and when we need it. For this we carry a card with no foreign cash withdrawal bank charges. We use Starling Bank, which is an excellent “mobile app” based bank.
There are only a few UK banks that offer free foreign cash withdrawals and free use of a Debit Card. So check how much your bank charges (usually a minimum of 2.5%) and if possible get a bank account and Debit Card with no charges.
In Iran we were unable to draw money out of ATMs and had to carry all the cash for the trip with us.
Here are some hints about carrying cash;
- Pack your cash in a number of different places hidden in your panniers (among clothes)
- Carry a money belt
- Consider sewing secret money pockets into your clothes. We did this whilst travelling through Georgia and Armenia, when we had to carry cash for our travels in Iran.
MORE TO COME LATER
- Locking bicycles
- Staying safe on the road, particularly with big lorries & speeding cars