No need to kill your travel bug, with the right precautions

Even as apprehension builds over the global spread of the novel coronavirus, there might be a way around abandoning your travel plans for the new year.

In the latest edition of the askST@NLB talk, The Straits Times Travel Editor Lee Siew Hua delved into precautions for travelling safely and the most important travel trends this year.

A total of 155 people attended the 90-minute session at the Central Public Library last Friday, where she shared some precautions to take while travelling. These include e-registering with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs before embarking on a trip as well as practising the right etiquette on board flights.

“For me, the first line of defence is having a healthy lifestyle and good immunity before setting foot outside the country,” said Ms Lee.

Essential etiquette while travelling includes wiping down trays or armrests in airline seats and being mindful to cover up while coughing or sneezing at airports and on board planes.

Drawing on suggestions by travel and medical security services company International SOS, Ms Lee said consuming thoroughly cooked food and practising personal hygiene were also important safety precautions.

“Beyond disease outbreaks, a vigilant mindset is useful for travel emergencies any time, anywhere,” she added.

She cited travel emergencies such as possible terrorist attacks, accidents or theft of belongings.

Besides safety precautions for emergencies such as the current coronavirus outbreak or terrorism, Ms Lee also discussed seven trends to embrace while travelling this year.

Tips she shared include seizing affordable business-class tickets when flying to your dream destination and maximising the use of “super apps” while travelling.

Ms Lee quoted online travelling company Skyscanner’s report which said that business class fares dropped 5 per cent last year, while premium economy fares dropped 9 per cent – a result of more airlines reaching out to consumers in the lucrative premium market.

Super apps like Grab and WeChat, which offer multiple services on a single platform, are an indispensable tool for travellers, she said.

Google Maps, for instance, can help travellers locate the best places to shop, dine or visit and allows easy sharing of links.

For environmentally-conscious travellers, she suggested using high-speed rail networks instead of flying, to reduce one’s carbon footprint. Opting for e-documents also reduces the use of paper.

During the question-and-answer segment after the talk, members of the audience asked questions regarding modesty and respecting local cultures in lesser-known destinations such as Saudi Arabia, which opens its doors to international tourists this year.

Human resource manager Darran Lim, 34, said the talk helped him narrow down his travel plans for this year.

Mr Lim, who has been to 70 countries so far, said he was interested to discover off-the-radar places mentioned during the talk, including the mountainous region of Suan Phueng in Thailand and Madain Saleh, a hidden desert city in Saudi Arabia.

The askST@NLB talks are a collaboration between The Straits Times and the National Library Board. The sessions are streamed live on the ST Facebook page.

The next talk, slated for Feb 28, will be Budget 2020 – What Is It, And Why Does It Matter?

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