Earthquake Safety: Because It Never Hurts to Be Prepared

By Budget Travel
October 3, 2012
Courtesy <a href="" target="_blank">mtb/myBudgetTravel</a>

You may associate the Italian peninsula with a certain amount of historical upheaval—Hannibal leading his conquering army, including war elephants, over the Alps to march on Rome; the Borgias turning the Vatican into their personal playground; Benito Mussolini… well, you get the idea. But we sometimes forget that the region is also prime territory for a more literal kind of upheaval: earthquakes.

The 6.3 quake that struck 22 miles north of Bologna in the early morning hours of May 20 killed at least seven people, injured about 50, and was felt as far away as Milan and Venice. More than 3,000 people were evacuated from the region so that building safety could be assessed, and the damage to dozens of churches and other historical sites is still being assessed.

Yes, seismic activity is a downside to one of the world’s favorite travel destinations, but a little background info and some preparedness tips should go a long way toward easing your mind.

Italy is earthquake-prone because the African tectonic plate is moving northward at the rate of about 2 centimeters per year, pressing against the Eurasian plate. At the same time, there appears to be considerable seismic activity between Italy and Sardinia; along the Apennine Mountains that run down the center of the country; and in the Adriatic Sea, to Italy’s west, where the earth’s crust may be slowly moving under the peninsula. Translation: The stones of Florence—and of Rome, Naples, and Palermo for that matter—may very well shake under your feet.

Of course, your chances of being caught in an earthquake are slim, but it never hurts to be prepared. The U.S. Geological Survey offers some easy-to-remember tips for people who live in seismically active areas, such as California, and some of the USGS’s advice can be readily adapted to travel:

Duck, cover, and hold. When an earthquake strikes, get under a desk or table and hold on; stay away from windows. If you are outside, get into an open area away from anything that could rain debris on you (buildings, power lines, chimneys). If you are driving, carefully pull over and stop your car (but get clear of bridges, overpasses, trees, or light posts first).

Pack smart. Before you leave home, pack a first-aid kit (along with a handbook), bottled water, and several day’s worth of packaged foods (if you bring canned food, don’t forget a mechanical can opener), a portable radio, flashlights, and batteries. Pack at least one pair of sturdy shoes and a set of tough “play” clothes.

Make a plan. Agree with your traveling companion(s) in advance on an emergency meeting place in the event that you lose phone reception or your hotel is evacuated. It should be simple and easy to remember—like the public fountain nearest your hotel. When you check in, assess your hotel room for earthquake safety: Remember, an earthquake can make light fixtures fall, furniture move, and shelves fall over.

Robert Firpo-Cappiello


12 Most Beautiful Paths

11 Surprisingly Lovable Airlines

12 Great Memorial Day Getaways

Plan Your Next Getaway
Keep reading
Travel Tips

The 2012 Hurricane Season Forecast Has Been Released, And It Looks Good

After a mild winter, and with memories of 2011's erratic hurricane season still fresh, we were already bracing ourselves for a summer of storms. But a report released today offers hope. The Atlantic hurricane season stretches from June 1 to November 30th, and it's been a rule of thumb that you are tempting fate by booking a trip to the Caribbean, Mexico's Riviera Maya, or Florida's coast during those months. Well, really anywhere on the Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean Sea, or the Gulf of Mexico. And those are just the places you would like to be when the weather turns warm and your thoughts turn to the beach. The good news is that, according to the experts over at, the projection for the 2012 hurricane season is "below average," with 11 named storms, six hurricanes, and two major hurricanes in the forecast. (That may sound like a lot, but the average from 1995 to 2011 has been 15 named storms, eight hurricanes, and four major hurricanes.) Which means planning a trip to beach may not be such a gamble. Of course, just like with every weather forecast, the usual caveats apply. And it's always good to be prepared. But does this news make you want to instantly book a Caribbean vacation? Or are you still cautious? MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL: Prepping for Hurricane Season 41 Mother-Daughter Trips of a Lifetime Is It Time to Start Using a Travel Agent Again?

Travel Tips

Why You Don't Want to Have an Accident When Driving a Rental Car in Mexico

Last year, Wade Bruleson of Enid, Oklahoma, learned the hard way what could go wrong when you rent a car in Mexico. During a vacation stop in Cozumel, Bruleson went on a quick trip in his family's rental car to pick up a map from a local shop. During the drive, he accidentally broadsided a motorcycle, which led to a few broken bones for its two riders. At the police station, Bruleson discovered that the premium insurance policy he bought from his rental car company wouldn't cover everything. In Mexico, the guilty party in a car accident that causes injury must pay a cash settlement to victims, something that's not covered by insurance. The cash settlement is equal to the wages that injured are expected to lose because they will be out of work during their physical recovery. Bruleson had to wait in jail while his car rental company and the family of the victims agreed on a figure for compensation. At one point, the victims wanted $6,000 for lost wages during the time they were recovering. That number was eventually talked down. Burleson walked free after about 30 hours, thanks to the help of many people, such as his son, family friends who wired money, the American consulate, and others. In the US, a personal auto insurance policy or credit card coverage tends to meet the requirements of car rental companies and the legal system. The same is not true in Mexico. The law requires that foreign drivers buy liability insurance from a Mexican company, such as Sanborn's Insurance. This liability insurance is generally not included as a perk on a US credit card, but it's worth buying because it greatly reduces the chances a traveler may be jailed or face steep financial penalties. Policies typically include coverage of attorney and bail bonds. Besides liability insurance, a traveler should also get collision and damage insurance (which more or less covers the vehicle) as well as personal accident insurance (which essentially covers the driver and other passengers). Being fully insured is important in keeping a situation from getting out of hand. But there is no readily available insurance to pay a settlement to cover their wages. That has to come out of the traveler's pockets, and can soar to thousands of dollars, as Burleson found out the hard way. And the guilty party has to stay behind bars until the financial settlement is reached. Spending a night in a Mexican jail is no picnic, as Burleson described on his blog: One concrete bed for two men, one concrete toilet in the center, ants and spiders crawling over the walls, feces and urine staining the floor and bed, no lights and only a small window that let an outside street lamp light shine through. I was not offered a pillow or a blanket, nor was I given any water. I would not eat or drink for the next 24 hours. MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL 6 Foreign Car-Rental Fees to Watch for on Vacation Mexico City Unmasked Airlines Suspected of Fibbing About Seat Availability for Families Max Out AAA and Senior Discounts on Hotels With Room 77

Travel Tips

New York City Bike-Sharing Program To Debut This Summer

As New Yorkers, we like to think we set the trends. Yet there was one thing this city didn't have that most other major cities already feature: bike&ndash;sharing. But pack your helmets&mdash;starting this summer, locals and travelers alike will easily be able to take a two&ndash;wheeler for a spin. The Citi Bike program will include 10,000 bikes in 600 locations around Manhattan and Brooklyn. The locations are still being worked out, but it looks like a good number of docking stations will be set up in high&ndash;traffic areas (like Columbus Circle at the southwest corner of Central Park) and transit hubs (outside Port Authority Bus Terminal). Of course, just like everything else in Manhattan, the rentals are not cheap, even with branded sponsorship by Citibank. A 24&ndash;hour membership is $9.95, with the first half hour of each ride free (pricing from there is $4 if you keep the bike for an hour, $13 for an hour and a half, and $25 for two hours). Compare that to Boston, where a 24&ndash;hour membership is half the price of New York's system, with the first 30 minutes free. In Montreal, a 24&ndash;hour membership costs about $7 (the first half hour is also free). Chattanooga, Tennessee even beat NYC to the punch by launching their bike&ndash;sharing program last month, with a 24&ndash;hour membership costing $6&mdash;and the first full hour of your ride is included in the membership cost. I planned on wrapping up this list by making the point that the only place more expensive then New York, in terms of most things, is London. I was shocked to see that the cycle hire program there is only 1 GBP (about $1.60) for a 24&ndash;hour membership! It can be inferred that heavy underwriting by sponsor Barclays keeps cost down. I've lived in New York for a dozen years and have never biked, mostly because I am petrified of car doors being flung open and taxi drivers who take red lights as just a suggestion. But I'm tempted to take one of these for a spin (bring your own helmet). What about you? Would you be intimidated by renting a bike in a strange city, or does that sound like a great way to see the sites? MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL San Francisco: 3 worthy bike rides New trend: Urban bike tours in Los Angeles and New York Electric bike rentals smooth out sightseeing

Travel Tips

Beat $4 Gas With Premium Buses in California, Texas, and Washington State

Traveling between cities by bus is classier it used to be, thanks to new premium lines like Greyhound Express, BoltBus, and Megabus. In good news, Greyhound Express and BoltBus are expanding their route maps to California and Washington State this month, after having begun to cover Texas on February 28. These buses offer reserved seating, free Wi-Fi, additional legroom, and plusher seats. These perks have become standard on intercity routes in the Midwest and on the East Coast. On Wednesday, Greyhound Express coaches began service on routes connecting L.A., San Francisco, and other Californian cities. Tickets rarely cost more than $45 each way, and occasionally can be bought for as little as $1. To compare, a bus ticket between L.A. and San Francisco at $45 is much cheaper than a plane ticket between those cities purchased three-week in advance, recently starting at $79. Budget Travel wishes the new service well. A couple of years ago, Megabus tried to take on the California market but failed. Hopefully Greyhound Premium can succeed where Megabus failed. It hopes to soon launch a route between L.A. and Las Vegas, which would be great for out-of-town visitors. On May 17, BoltBus begins running four daily departures both ways between Seattle and Portland, Ore, as MSNBC has reported, with fares typically between $12 and $26 roundtrip. Amtrak's fares on the same route are roughly double that, booked three weeks out. BoltBus hopes to add a service linking Seattle and Vancouver, B.C. Two months ago, Greyhound Express started service between Dallas and Houston. Expansion to San Antonio is now in the works. All in all, good news for budget travelers! SEE MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL Megabus Continues to Grow, Benefiting Travelers 6 Best Budget Bus Companies in the U.S. Buses Are Back, at Least for Trips Between Cities