Always wanted to experience Rio Carnival, New Orleans Mardi Gras or a three day music festival? Whether it’s culture, sport, music or food, we have some helpful tips to keep you safe and enjoy the festivities.
We know these events are about having fun, but be aware that there are a small number of people who prey on others and use these special events as the perfect opportunity to pick pocket, steal and take advantage of unsuspecting people when their guard is down.
No matter how friendly some people are, do not accept drinks from anyone you are not well acquainted with. Drink spiking is increasingly common at some events and accepting even one drink from a “friendly” stranger can end badly.
Be aware of strangers suddenly taking an interest in you and wanting to be your new best friend. They may be friendly and hospitable but they could also be scoping out where your accommodation is so they can organise a burglary while you’re out enjoying yourself. Never tell a stranger where you’re staying.
Lost and found
Take one credit card that is widely acceptable in most countries. If you lose it or it is stolen, make sure you cancel the card as soon as possible and borrow money from your travel companion until you get home. It pays to have a copy of all your credit card and passport numbers, especially if you’re overseas.
Don’t take your passport with you. If you need ID, take your driver’s licence or another form of photo ID with your date of birth.
Only take what you can afford to lose. Don’t take flashy jewellery, an expensive bag or your new camera. If something does go missing, make sure you check with lost property, you will be surprised what gets handed in. At Glastonbury Festival last year over 700 items were handed in, including 250 wallets with contents, 118 mobile phones and 38 cameras.
Your travel insurance will cover you if your personal items are lost, stolen or damaged due to an unexpected event, but it is vital that a written report from an official is obtained within 24 hours of the loss/theft. It can be from the lost and found department, security within the festival, or the police in the local area.
The camping dream is a spacious tent with all the mod cons but the reality for most is a cramped sea of tents. Hide your valuables and cash when sleeping, you may not hear someone come into your tent at night so it pays to separate your valuables and money into small amounts and hide them in different places. Travel insurance can’t cover any valuables that you leave unattended.
If you need to take something valuable, make sure you can look after it at all times, otherwise you should keep it locked in a safe place. It’s perfectly reasonable for you to take things like a phone, wallet/cash, sunglasses etc, but you should consider whether you really need a laptop or expensive jewellery with you at a festival.
Safety in numbers
It pays to spend some time with your travel companions to gain an idea of the layout of the venue before you start your day. Take note of where the medical sites are, bathrooms, food/drink vendors and exits.
With so many people in one area, cell phone reception can be compromised and overloaded. Try to memorise one friend’s phone number just in case you lose your phone. If you get lost make sure you have a designated meeting place throughout the day and night, and set times to check in with each other.
If you need to use a cash machine at night, take a friend with you, avoid unlit areas and stick to the main walkways.
What to wear
Comfort is king at any carnival or festival. You might find yourself in a hot climate where you will be walking everywhere so layering is key. Wear shoes or boots that are well worn and comfortable, this is not the place to break in your brand new trainers!
Some cultural festivals are particularly hard on your clothing. If you are going to La Tomatina (the Spanish tomato throwing festival) or Holi (the South Asia festival where they throw powdered dye) you will want to wear old clothing that you don’t mind getting ruined.
Less is more
If you’re staying in a hotel, try to limit the things you take on the day and remember to leave anything of value locked up in the safe. Don’t carry your wallet in your back pocket, instead do what the locals do and take a money belt and hide it under your clothing. You should also consider keeping your mobile phone in a plastic bag because at some festivals they spray the crowds with water cannons. It’s a great way to cool down but not great for your unprotected phone.
Remember thieves and pickpockets thrive in these festive environments and are constantly on the lookout for someone to target.
Drinking and drugs
It is important to remember that if alcohol or drugs are responsible for the loss or theft of your belongings, your travel insurance can’t cover it. So if you have too much to drink, pass out in the middle of the field and wake up to find your pockets are empty, then there isn’t much you can do about it.
Prescription drugs are not a problem, as long as you are taking them as prescribed by your doctor.
This is an experience of a lifetime, enjoy, have fun, but remember to be safe and aware of your new exciting surroundings.