Travelers like you and me want to have that epic story to post to our Facebook and Instagram feeds, and tell our family when we get home. Travel lets us check many things off our bucket lists, and dangerous activities are easily had. Of course, you want to survive them in one piece. Heart-pumping, but safe, things to do can be harder to judge when you’re in a foreign country with unfamiliar laws, safety standards, and languages.
Whether it’s feeling the wind on your face as you plummet to the Earth from a plane amid the mountains of Switzerland, or seeing vibrant fish eye-to-eye as they swirl by you in the Great Barrier Reef, you’ve got plenty of options. These five are really the go-to classics, and they take you from high in the sky to deep underwater:
- Skydiving, Parachuting
- Scuba Diving
- Bungee Jumping
- Whitewater Rafting
- Hang Gliding
Skydiving starts with finding a reliable provider and knowing what to expect. Here’s how to make sure you have a safe experience.
If it’s your first time, you’ll be flying tandem. Tandem is when you’re fastened to an experienced instructor during the entire freefall. Your instructor will give you peace of mind, as you don’t have to second guess how to get out of the plane, pull the parachute release, or land properly. They may even add a few fun loopty-loops in the air as you glide down.
If you do wish to solo skydive, make sure to check with the country you’re traveling to for what certifications they require. If you want to get certified while you’re adventuring, it will usually involve a number of free-fall jumps both tandem and solo. You’ll then take a written or oral exam. Check out this USPA site to find high-quality drop zones worldwide that pledge to uphold high safety standards.
Make sure to wear close-toed footwear, ideally sneakers, that can be tightly secured. Sandals, heels, or boots with hooks aren’t allowed. You won’t always be provided with a suit to wear, so formfitting/secure layers will work best. This takes the stress away of any flapping shirts or pants that may interrupt your time. They’ll also keep you warm. It’s much colder up there.
Lastly, bring extra ample cash and arrive early. There may be an extra fee for photos or videos taken during your dive. They may be overpriced, but still, you may not do this again anytime soon. Get there early, as you will need to watch, read, and sign various consent forms and safety videos. Here is a great list of more tips for your first jump.
Best destinations: UAE (Dubai), Namibia, Zambia, Switzerland, Mauritius
Many countries will have operators that advertise scuba diving trips with no previous experience required. These are typically manned on beaches and don’t have websites to provide you with solid information. But they’ll try to pull you in with cheap prices. It’s tempting to take this shortcut, but you’re putting your health and even your life at risk. Without being properly certified and trained, these dangers can be barotrauma, pulmonary embolism, decompression sickness, nitrogen narcosis, and even DEATH. No joke.
Getting certified can be done in as little as a week, provided your school and your own schedule allows it. These steps usually involve taking a health quiz and studying up on learning materials. After this you’ll practice confined water dives and going on open water dives. PADI is an authoritative resource to learn more about course requirements and locations.
The company you go with will provide all the necessary equipment. Just be sure to bring your swimsuit, and maybe an underwater camera to take some amazing photos. Click here for a list of well-vetted companies around the world.
Best destinations: Australia, most anywhere in the Pacific, Egypt, Honduras, Belize
Bungee jumping is very popular in developed countries like New Zealand (here’s a great list of destinations). You’re basically guaranteed a safe and thrilling jump, as long as you don’t have health issues.
These days, buildings and bridges all over the world are offering bungee options. And this increases the chances for an accident.
Most bungee jumping accidents happen because the equipment isn’t properly secured on the jumper. Put your safety and trust in a company that specializes in jumping and is certified by a government agency such as OSHA.
The operator will also have specific training, height, weight, health, and age requirements. We recommend going to your healthcare physician to help decide if you’re OK to do this. Wear close-fitting clothing and leave the jewelry, glasses, and contacts in a locker or back at your Airbnb.
Then get ready to scream… all the way down, and up, and down, and up.
Best destinations: New Zealand, Italy, Switzerland, China (yes, China!), and basically anywhere with tourists and high structures
So you’re ready to take on the rapids? But before booking your trip, do a little review.
Whitewater rafting can range from tame little trips down slow inclines to spinning 720s and flipping in rough rapids.
Whitewater rafting dangers can include drowning, overexertion, hypothermia, and injuries from getting throw from the boat and/or colliding with rocks.
Pay close attention to your guide’s safety instructions. And don’t be afraid to ask questions. These instructions often go over command warnings, paddle-holding styles, and swimming methods if you fall off the raft.
Now choose your destination. This NatGeo page shows out some of the top whitewater rafting spots around the world!
You can also choose a good intensity level for you, your family, and friends. Lots of companies have a wide range of options for you to choose from.
Many places will give you a wetsuit, lifejacket, and helmet. Sometimes they’ll have shoes for you, but some do charge an extra fee. Be sure to wear water shoes, tight-fitting quick-dry pants and t-shirt, and a swimsuit. And don’t forget your sunscreen and sunglasses with a strap.
Best destinations: Nepal, Chile, Zimbabwe, Ecuador, and most anywhere with mountains
Hang gliding safety and requirements are very different for tandem vs. solo. If you do hang glide solo, the country you’re in will have certified associations available to begin your training. This training can take anywhere from 10 days to several months. The weather and location are major factors in this.
Typical training will go over equipment basics and getting comfortable with being in the air. Your pilot will cover things like steering, reading wind conditions, finding a good launch and landing site, as well as gaining and losing altitude. You’ll also need to perform several hours of logged flight practice.
Then take a quiz at the end of your training. Solo gliders should invest in quality equipment that includes a hang glider, boots, helmet, harness, and flying suit.
If you’re gliding tandem, it’s certainly less stressful and much more reassuring. Many places require very little other than being of a certain age and weight. Remember to wear good running shoes for your running take off. And close-fitting clothing to prevent bunching up around your harness.
Check this amazing list of top hang gliding places around the world.
Best Destinations: Brazil, Turkey, South Africa, New Zealand
The Final Verdict
Doing dangerous and thrilling activities while traveling isn’t a must, but for some people, it’s the highlight of the trip. Being in a different country can make it harder to find someone to trust, so read up and follow these tips for choosing safe but adrenaline-charging activities. Make sure you get your photos and your social media will be packed with Likes and envious comments. That’s some satisfaction that will last long after the thrill’s gone and you’re on to your next adventure.