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Tips & Advice for Travelling Safely in the USA

The USA is an incredible country, but it isn't surprising that when you are in the country, the hills, mountains and deserts, there are things you need to watch out for. Here's how to avoid them and to deal with them in the rare event that they happen to you.

Firstly, always make sure you know...

  • Where you're going and make sure that other people know too -
    they should also know when you're due back.
  • What the weather could be like and that you've got the clothes
    to deal with it.
  • The potential natural hazards you could meet and how to deal
    with them if you do.

Please bear in mind that these tips are just guidelines and general advice. As with all new places and experiences, it is essential to get further expert advice and help from professionals on the on the spot. In the meantime, here's some quick tips on potential dangers...

Poison ivy

If you're into hiking, you're more than likely to encounter poison ivy which can cause nasty skin irritations. It's a low growing plant (make sure you check before you sit down!) that also creeps up trees like British ivy. Each branch has got three dark shiny leaves. If you think you’ve touched some, try and wash it off with soap and water. If it's in your eyes, see a doctor. Remember "leaves three, leave it be".


The rattlesnake is the most common of all North America's poisonous snakes - however, you're unlikely to ever come across one in the wild as they are shy and reclusive, despite their scary reputation. Remember, if you see a snake, stay away from it. Obviously! Snakes are generally not looking for trouble, so make plenty of noise (especially if you find yourself in the wilds at night), and you're unlikely to meet each other unexpectedly. Be careful when you're picking things up - don't stick your hands in places if you can't see what's lurking there!

If you're bitten, as with all snakes, try and see exactly what kind of snake it was that got you - this helps get the medication right. Never put on a tourniquet or try to cut the wound, take off any rings or bracelets you've got on before the wound swells, keep movement to a minimum, put a lightweight bandage around the bite and get to a hospital as quick as you can. Bites from a rattler won't kill you but they are incredibly painful.


North America's big bears, the Black bear and the Grizzly, are generally shy and will try to avoid any contact with humans. The problem comes when some start to try to hassle humans for food, coming close to towns or campsites to see what they can steal. Bears are amazing animals - it’s quite something if you do get to see one. Just make sure that you know the ‘bear’ neccesities to make sure there are no misunderstandings between you and Mr Grizzly.

Don't travel alone - a big group is noisier and you're less likely to surprise any bears in the area. Avoid areas where you can see scavenging birds circling - it may be the site of a kill and bears won't like you turning up for dinner uninvited.

Don't encourage them to come looking for food in your tent - keep all your food away from the camp and hung in trees out of reach, and always clear up your litter. Don't get too close to a bear if you see one - they'll most likely leave you alone if you do the same. Be very careful of mother bears with cubs - she will be very protective of them and is likely to feel more threatened than usual.

Mountain lions (cougars)

Cougars are very shy creatures that you're really unlikely to meet face-to-face. Pretty much the same general rules apply for cougars as with bears - don't surprise them, try and back out of the situation if you meet one. If it still looks like it wants to eat you, make yourself as big, noisy and human-looking as possible. Honestly.

Dangers in the desert

The USA has some of the hottest, driest places on earth and there are a few things worth bearing in mind if you're travelling out there...
Beware of rattlesnakes - avoid them if you can, don't annoy them if you can't and get medical help as quickly as possible if they bite you. Always carry enough water for you AND your car. Take precautions against heatstroke and sunstroke and, of course, sunburn.

Tornadoes in the MidWest

Storms can whip up from nowhere in America's flat Mid-West and can devastate whole areas within minutes. Watch the weather, stay alert and bear in mind these general guidelines if you get caught in a twister...

  • You want to try and get underground if you possibly can - if you haven't got a basement, find someone who has.
  • If you're out and about, go to the nearest public building and ask if you can join them in the basement.
  • If you're driving, the best place to be is tucked right under a bridge (get out of your car - tornadoes can easily pick them up and throw them!). And if there's really nothing about that is secure enough to hide under, lie flat on your face as low on the ground as you can.