Myths are stories that become widely held beliefs simply because they get told over and over. The problem with a myth is that after a while, it’s hard to discover the real truth.
Safety has always been a concern of travelers. Hollywood horror movies and news media stories can portray a tainted view of travel that confuses travelers (and their advisors).
Many travelers have heard, and may even believe, a range of misconceptions about travel that were born out of rumors, misinformation, and fear of the unknown.
Here are the top 4 currently circulating travel safety myths busted.
Myth: hostels are dirty, unsafe, and filled with partiers.
Just like hotels can be high-end or low-budget, so can hostels. Some of the newer hostel chains (yes, hostels have chains too) have modern decor, comfy (not bunk) beds, and thoughtful finishes like charging stations. Just like hotels, hostels cater to specific kinds of travelers. You can find hostels that are appropriate for couples, families with children, and also young partying backpackers.
Truth is, as long as you’re careful about choosing the location and reading the reviews, a hostel can often save you money and give you a more authentic travel experience than a stale hotel in the tourist district.
Myth: traveling by yourself, particularly if you are a woman, or a person of color, or a senior, is dangerous.
This myth has plagued solo travelers with well-meaning (usually unsolicited) advice forever. Solo travel isn’t dangerous in itself any more than it’s dangerous to travel across town by yourself.
Being safe means different things to different people and a little research blended with a lot of common sense goes a long way. Most of the expert recommendations for how to stay safe while traveling apply even if the traveler isn’t traveling alone. Here’s just one example.
Recommended hotel safety tips:
All of these tips are important for any traveler to follow, not just solo travelers.
Myth: travel alerts and warnings mean you should cancel your trip and avoid the entire country.
Countries are generally quite large and the level of risk in one portion of a country may have no effect on other parts. Both travel alerts and travel warnings (they’re actually quite different) help travelers gauge their personal level of risk for a broad area.
Unless the reported turmoil is happening on a wide scale across the entire country, it’s not necessary to avoid it altogether.
Myth: the recycled air on planes is filled with germs and airborne virus particles that will make you sick
There are many factors to consider about getting on a plane right now, and the COVID-19 pandemic has made travelers jittery. This particular myth, however, has been around long before the pandemic and it’s still false.
Here’s why: airplanes aren’t hermetically sealed environments, so fresh air from the outside is continuously circulated through the cabin. While some of it is recycled, that doesn’t mean it’s not clean.
The majority of airplanes have hospital-grade air filters for the specific purpose of keeping the air clean. These High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters cycle the air every few minutes and capture 99.97% of airborne particles.
Finally, most modern aircraft have HEPA filtration systems, except the Embraer 145 or 145. There is no federally approved HEPA filter available for these aircraft, which are used as regional jets. If you want to avoid these aircraft check with the airline. Most airlines will tell you what kind of plane a flight is using.
Another reason to skip basic economy. Delta will no longer allow basic economy to qualify for frequent flier miles.
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Damian Tysdal is the founder of CoverTrip, and is a licensed agent for travel insurance (MA 1883287). He believes travel insurance should be easier to understand, and started the first travel insurance blog in 2006.