A guide for South African emigrants abroad: the safety of your family Skip to main content

A guide for South African emigrants abroad: the safety of your family

By October 6, 2015July 25th, 2020South African emigrants

A guide for South African emigrants abroad: the safety of your family

October 6, 2015

With yet another school shooting in the United States in the news, you may be wondering, as a South African emigrant, whether you’ve made the right choice to move abroad. After all, the reasons cited by most South African expats for relocating are crime, corruption and loadshedding.

South African emigrants: precautions to take

So if you’ve travelled halfway across the globe to get away from the violence, the latest gun violence, Dresden riots, international terrorist attacks and callous commentary about immigrants by top politicians may make you feel unwelcome in your new home. Of course, if you’re a parent, spouse or child, worrying about your family carries the same weight irrespective of where you find yourself in the globe. If you’re travelling or living abroad, however, there are certain precautions you can take for your own peace of mind and that of your family to ensure their safety.

Remember your paperwork

If you are travelling with children, you will need more paperwork than had you been travelling alone. Keep a file with all the important documents, including passports, birth certificates, visas, consent forms and affadavits. Make extra copies of these documents and keep them separate from the rest. Try to have these copies certified – even if the documents aren’t accepted at customs, this will make the admin process easier if you need to have them replaced.

Committing details to memory

Teach your kids to commit important numbers and locations to memory. This includes your phone number, emergency numbers like embassies and the local authorities and the addresses of your home, hotel, schools and business. It may not always be possible to remember these so leave a paper with all the important information in your child’s bag or hand luggage. Also teach your children to be aware of their surroundings and try to memorise important landmarks and buildings as you travel (this also makes for a fun game while you’re out and about).

Check-in times

Flights and hotels have official check-in times, so it only makes sense that your family has check-in times as well. Whenever you, or a family member, are travelling abroad, make sure to contact each other by a certain time each day just to let each other know everything’s still fine. Of course, your adult children may think this is a drag, but it’s a good habit and will ensure prompt action should something go wrong. If you or your family members have relocated permanently or temporarily, set a check-in day during the week to catch up with each other.

Laws and customs

Don’t be ignorant! If you’re travelling or staying abroad, it’s important you learn the laws and local customs to make sure you don’t offend anyone or transgress local regulations. If you are travelling with small children, family with special needs or elderly relatives, they may not always be able to remember these rules, or may struggle with impulse control. So be extra attentive to their actions when travelling abroad. Inform hotels and airlines of special needs travellers as well.

Don’t be afraid to impose

When we’re travelling or staying in a strange new place, we often try to be overly polite, or let our guard down. Of course, this may be necessary when it comes to point four above, but you should never compromise on your own sense of security. If your children or parents are travelling without you, be sure to enquire with the institutions, accommodation or transport agencies they will be utilising or attending should you be unclear about anything. If you feel unsafe, contact the local law enforcement or enquire at the nearest religious or other official institution for guidance and protection. And don’t feel bad if you phone someone up at odd hours – remember: safety first, and trust your gut!

Choosing accommodation abroad

Whether you are choosing a house to rent or buy, or a hotel to sleep in for a few nights – check the amenities and the safety of the surrounding area. You may want to be in the business hub if your travel or stay alone, but if you have elderly relatives or children who need to cross busy roads to get to shops or schools, things can become rather hazardous. You can even check the floor plan to see the distance between bedrooms and bathrooms, staircases, phones, security, type of floors, relative ease of using the bathrooms and the availability of shuttle services and nannies. Alternatively you can enquire with building supervisors or rental agents about your safety and security concerns.

Money matters for international travellers

Travelling with a money belt or fanny pack is undoubtedly one of the less sexy things you can do, but it definitely has its advantages. Let’s be honest – it’s more important for you to have money than it is for you to look attractive, so keeping your cards and money on your body simply makes more sense than putting it in a bag which could be snatched or get lost. Inform your bank that you are planning on travelling abroad and enquire as to the rules and regulations for travelling abroad as well as your swiping, transfer and the cash on hand limits. If you need to set up new bank accounts abroad or need help transferring your money abroad, consult a financial migration specialist like finglobal.com to assist you with the process. If your children are using their own bank cards, make sure to set their transfer and withdrawal limits before you embark on your journey and discuss these with them.

Don’t miss your checkups!

In addition to several countries requiring medical clearance and inoculation certificates, it’s always a good idea to visit your doctor before you travel or relocate abroad. Your doctor will be able to advise on medications which are safe to travel with, treat pre-existing conditions before you embark on your journey and give you the necessary paperwork to authorise your travels. If your doctor isn’t clued up, you can visit your local travel clinic. Also remember to inform your medical aid of your move or travels and enquire as to treatment centres at your destination should you or your family members require regular medical care.

What’s in the bag?

If you are travelling with children (and those big children called husbands), there’s a good chance something may end up in their travel bags which should not be there. We’ve heard stories of toddlers cramming live cats into bags and parents turning back on the way to the airport to return their feline travel-companions. Items you should be on the lookout for include sharp objects in their hand luggage, organic material like plants and food (such as bilton) and medication. Where possible, try to pack and check bags before you travel and keep a list of possessions and goods in boxes and suitcases to make sure everything arrives safe and sound on the other side.

Tag and track

If someone in your family suffers from a particular ailment or needs special care, make them wear a MedicAlert bracelet, child ID bracelet (see makemethis.com) or smart watch – which allows GPS tracking. The fact remains; you will simply not always be there to check up on your loved ones, but technology and accessories will allow others to assist them in times of need. Also remember to set the automatic backup and tracking of your smart phones to help you track these online while you are travelling or staying abroad.

For all those travelling abroad or relocating, we suggest you join social media groups for expats or travellers like yourself to stay abreast of new trends and get support no matter where you are.

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