Survey Reveals the Dark Side of the South African Traveller
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16 October 2013 - Seventeen percent of South Africa's travelling public have smuggled narcotics abroad while a further 24% have lied to a customs official.
This is according to a recent study by www.travelstart.co.za in which more than 10 000 business and leisure travellers were surveyed to gauge the darker side of South Africans and their dealings in foreign countries.
‘Less serious’ offences by SA’s jetset include stealing from hotel rooms (18%) and disobeying ‘No Photos Allowed’ signs at popular tourist sites such as the Sistine Chapel (33%), while some 3% owned up to being thrown out of their accommodation. Anonymous respondents cited various reasons leading up to this particular transgression which included “inviting ‘private entertainment’ into the room”, “public displays of affection in Jordan as an unmarried couple” and “skinny dipping in the hotel pool at night”.
Alcohol continues to be a major factor in fueling disorderly behaviour by South Africans with 9% of the survey respondents admitting they’ve been too drunk to find their way back to their hotel, 5% admitting to urinating in public, and a further 17% sleeping with a stranger abroad.
It seems too many people are losing a ‘sense of self’ as they fail to respect local laws and customs when travelling abroad.
Travel experts at Travelstart South Africa warn that serious punishments can be handed down for offences that might seem ‘minor’ back home; especially in countries in the Far and Middle East where drug and alcohol related offences are not tolerated and can even result in life imprisonment or the death penalty.
Ever since tourism began booming in the East, so has the amount of basic misdemeanors usually caused by unwitting tourists overstepping cultural boundaries. An infringement such as sitting with the undersides of feet pointed at others is offensive in Thailand, while patting a child’s head is considered disrespectful. Unfortunately these misunderstandings have become all too commonplace, often leaving tourism-dependent locals having to conceal their annoyance at the behaviour of visitors.
Jonty Medcalf, Head of Travelstart’s Direct Sales team advises people to research the country they’re planning to visit and to take some basic steps before departing to ensure a safe and incident-free trip.
“Think about what you’re doing at all times and respect foreign cultures even if their laws and customs seem ‘weird’ or ‘silly’ at the time. As a general rule, do not do abroad what you wouldn’t do at home and if you are doing it at home and its illegal then don’t do it on holiday either.”
“Take out comprehensive travel insurance before you leave and save the contact details of the South African Embassy in the country you’re visiting. Email copies of your itinerary to family members before you leave so that they’re aware of you movements, and don’t leave your luggage unattended when you hit the road.”
Travelstart advises tourists to familiarize themselves with the ‘small print’ of their travel insurance policy and to keep in mind that most insurers won’t pay out in cases where you injure yourself or others when you’ve been drinking alcohol.
On a lighter note, the Travelstart survey also revealed the item a South African is most likely to smuggle overseas – more than 80% of the respondents have tried to sneak biltong into their destination.
Ignoring local etiquette is usually an innocent oversight but it can leave you labelled a travel hazard, or even worse, on the wrong side of the law. Absorbing as much information about your destination as you can before you travel, learning a few basic pleasantries in the local language and ensuring your travel documents are in order can go a long way in guaranteeing a safe and pleasant trip.
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