Traveling is a fulfilling adventure, but we need to keep our eyes open and stay vigilant. Everyday traveling in a country not our own can be challenging. Third world traffic, roads, and transportation options are especially difficult.
There is nothing like keeping your eyes open to your surroundings. When a situation looks sketchy or something doesn’t feel right, we need to listen to our instincts. There is a difference between judging others and using sensible discernment. God has given us a natural safety radar to determine physical threats. In our modern, sensitive world we have pushed this sensitivity below the surface. Yet, we tell our children not to talk to strangers. When someone rings our doorbell at home, we look before we open the door. Look, discern, and act (react). Listen to your instincts.
You need to keep yourself and others safe. If someone or a group of people look suspicious or threatening, it is better to avoid them if possible.
It is safer to travel by vehicle than by foot but not always possible. Driving in many countries is much more chaotic than in the United States so for the occasional traveler, it is safer to have a local driver.
Traveling at night in many places should be avoided. Again, the locals can usually advice you.
You are always safer with numbers of other people. Those who want to do bad things, look for the vulnerable. It is even better to have a local with you if possible. The locales know where it is safe and the places to avoid. Someone who is knowledgeable about the customs, language, people, and transportation options are invaluable. The local person needs to be someone you trust not some guy you hire on the street corner.
Avoid demonstrations and roadblocks. Do not attempt to force yourself through a roadblock. I learned by experience, if you are traveling on a busy road and suddenly there is no oncoming traffic, it is a sign of a roadblock so stop before you get there or detour.
When traveling by vehicle, keep your doors locked and window up. Any luggage on the outside of the vehicle such as a truck bed or luggage rack needs to be well secured.
Transportation options in countries with low vehicle ownership is sometimes better than you might think. The average person walks to more local places, but they also need taxis and other vehicles for hire. In a strange way, this gives you are few more options. However, these options may be on the rough side. A taxi may not have air conditioning. Your ride may be in a covered pickup bed with a wooden bench. Just be happy you have a ride!
Buses and trains may be very crowded and lack the modern amenities you are used to having. Itineraries and published rates may be non-existent. Punctuality will something you only dream about in your sleep. So be patient.
One great thing in such locations, especially if you can pool your resources with fellow travelers, is the possibility to hire a vehicle with the driver for a trip, a day, or the entire week. This type arrangement is the best because you can set the schedule and you have your own private vehicle with driver for the entire time.
Motorcycles are everywhere in under-developed countries. They are cheap, fast, and get you in and out tight places. They usually do not wear helmets and do not furnish helmets for their passengers. These guys drive at least twelve hours a day, so they have a lot of experience and are remarkably safe. Just be prepared for the ride of your life.
Enjoy your journey. Stay safe and enjoy the dust of the road, it will wash off.