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6 Risky Activities You Should Avoid Abroad

Risky Activities to Avoid Overseas
Allianz - Risky Activities to Avoid Overseas

Anything can happen when you’re traveling. Every year, our hotline assistance team helps thousands of travelers who are experiencing a serious medical emergency overseas.

There’s no way to prevent every possible emergency, but there are ways to reduce your risk of injury. The first, best thing you can do to protect yourself is to purchase travel insurance that includes emergency medical and emergency medical transportation benefits. Together, these benefits can help ensure you receive the best available care for a serious, covered medical emergency — without having to pay huge sums out of pocket.

The other important thing is to avoid risky activities while traveling. (In fact, injuries and losses resulting from participation in many high-risk / ultra-high-risk activities and extreme sports are not covered by travel insurance, so be sure to review your policy. We’ll elaborate more on that below.) If you wouldn’t do something in the United States, don’t do it abroad! Here are a few activities we recommend travelers avoid while overseas.

1. Don’t ride a motorcycle or moped.

Hopping on a moped to explore a Caribbean island seems like a fun, harmless way to spend an afternoon. It’s not. Mopeds, motorbikes, and motorcycles pose a major danger to tourists, and we often see travelers suffer serious injuries from riding them. In 2016, about 13 percent of road traffic deaths among American travelers overseas involved motorcycles.1

There are some countries in which the danger is higher. Most American deaths caused by crashes in Thailand and Vietnam involve motorcycles. In Bermuda, moped rentals are popular among visitors and cruise ship passengers looking for a fun, inexpensive way to get around the island. But popular doesn’t mean safe. The rate of motorbike injuries is much higher among tourists in Bermuda than among locals — especially for people aged 50-59.2

2. Don’t ride ATVs.

ATVs — all-terrain vehicles, also called four-wheelers — are popular on cruise excursions and at many tourist destinations. You can ride an ATV over a swinging wooden bridge in Cabo San Lucas, in the jungle in Belize, or through the desert in Dubai. But we really wish you wouldn’t.

ATVs are dangerous when they roll over or collide with objects. In the United States, they cause around 650 deaths and more than 100,000 injuries each year, according to the Consumer Products Safety Commission.3 Our hotline assistance team has seen several serious ATV accidents, including some that resulted in death. If you do decide to take an ATV tour, make sure you wear a helmet and fasten safety harnesses, if available.

3. Don’t drive in countries with terrible traffic.

Road traffic crashes are the number-one cause of injury-related deaths to U.S. citizens while abroad.4 Even in the best-case scenario — cruising down a country lane in France, for instance — driving overseas is stressful. You’re adjusting to different traffic laws, signs in a foreign language, and unfamiliar vehicle controls. That’s why we don’t recommend driving in countries that are known for traffic mayhem. These include (but are not limited to!) the Dominican Republic, Thailand, Venezuela and South Africa. All of these are on the list of the 10 most dangerous countries for drivers, according to the World Health Organization.5

Before you drive overseas, check the U.S. Department of State’s country information for your destination, and be sure to read the “Travel and Transportation” section for recommendations. The section for the Dominican Republic, for instance, describes “disconcerting and dangerous” traffic situations that include people driving at night without headlights, scooters, and motorcycles splitting lanes; and people driving against traffic or on sidewalks. The State Department recommends that American visitors hire a local professional driver instead — which is good advice for many destinations.6 And if you do decide to drive overseas, be sure to purchase the Rental Car Damage Protector, an economical plan that can provide primary coverage for covered collision, loss and damage up to $40,000.

Read more: Where can you find the worst traffic in the world?

4. Don’t ride in a vehicle that appears unsafe.

When you’re traveling overseas, you can’t expect every car or bus to match U.S. safety standards. And riding in a colorful camioneta in Guatemala or in a jeepney in Manila is all part of the adventure. But use your common sense — avoid riding in any vehicle if it seems unsafe or if the driver appears to be intoxicated or acting recklessly.

Also, be sure to wear your seatbelt. When a bus carrying Royal Caribbean cruise ship passengers crashed in Mexico in December 2017, killing 12 people, “the seat belts were tied below the seats, so no one told us to put the seatbelts on," one passenger told ABC News.7 Don’t wait to be told — just fasten your seat belts. If you’re traveling with young children, be sure to bring safety seats or booster seats from home.

5. Don’t take risks around water.

In 2016, drowning accounted for 20 percent of all deaths of U.S. citizens abroad.8 Drowning is the leading cause of death for American travelers in some countries, such as the Bahamas and Costa Rica. Young men are particularly at risk for head and spinal cord injuries from diving into shallow water.9

To reduce the risk of drowning while traveling:

  • Only swim at beaches or pools with a lifeguard.
  • Watch children carefully.
  • Don’t swim alone.
  • Be aware of rip tides and strong currents.
  • Never dive; enter water feet-first.
  • Never swim while intoxicated.

6. Don’t do anything that’s specifically excluded in your travel insurance plan documents.

When you buy travel insurance, make sure you read your plan documents — especially the part labeled “General Exclusions.” These are things your travel insurance plan will not cover. Note that you are not covered for any loss resulting from the use or abuse of alcohol or drugs, or any related physical complications. Also, you are not covered for any loss resulting directly or indirectly from activities including — but not limited to — the following:

  • Extreme, high-risk sports and activities:
  • Skydiving, BASE jumping, hang gliding, or parachuting;
  • Bungee jumping;
  • Caving, rappelling, or spelunking;
  • Skiing or snowboarding outside marked trails or in an area accessed by helicopter;
  • Climbing sports or free climbing;
  • Any high-altitude activity;
    • Personal combat or fighting sports;
    • Racing or practicing to race any motorized vehicle or watercraft;
    • Free diving; or
    • Scuba diving at a depth greater than 60 feet or without a dive master.

Ultra-high-risk sports and activities:

  • Any high-altitude activity, BASE jumping, or free climbing;
  • Rafting/kayaking above Class V rapids or canoeing above Class III rapids;
  • Heli-skiing or skiing or snowboarding in an area designated unsafe by the resort management;
  • Personal combat or fighting sports, Running of the Bulls, or rodeo activities;
  • Racing any motorized vehicle or watercraft other than go-karts; or
  • Free diving at a depth greater than 30 feet (10 meters) or scuba diving at a depth greater than 100 feet (30 meters) or, for uncertified divers, diving without a certified dive master.

Questions about what travel insurance can cover? Contact us! Travel safe, and have fun.

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Oct 09, 2018