Going For a Swim in the Ocean Abroad? Find Answers to These Questions First.

Once you reach the hot sand, the first thing you want to do is make a beeline for the water.

But, there are some questions that need to be answered first. Here are the most important ones:

Am I Allowed To Be There?

This should be the first question before you consider anything else. There are private beaches all over the world. They are especially common in tourist locations.

The consequences for trespassing vary in different countries. You could be charged a heavy fine, or may even face imprisonment.

All private properties will be marked prominently, so be sure to check if there are any signs before entering. These signs may not be in a language you understand, so use the internet or a translation app to be sure. Also, check if there are other tourists there. If there are, it could mean that the beach is open for public use.

What Will The Temperature And Weather Be?

No one likes swimming in cold water, and if the land temperature is cold as well, that’s a double whammy.

Remember to check both the land and sea temperatures before you head to the beach.

Another important thing to know before you’re at the beach is if it will rain. The weather is known to change rapidly near the coast, so you could go from a bright sunny day to an ugly thunderstorm in a matter of minutes.

Check the whole-day forecast so you can avoid nasty weather changes.

What Is The Local Beach Etiquette?

Be aware of the rules and etiquette around the world.

If you’re traveling to a Middle Eastern country, most laws demand that you wear fairly modest attire. Some countries have however lessened the restrictions in a bid to attract tourists.

So before you may your way to the beach, check official websites on what is and isn’t allowed.

What Are The Flags, Signs And What Do They Mean?

Most often, you will see flags and signs at the entrance of a beach. They are mostly yellow, red, green, and blue. Here are the meanings for the various colors.

  • Red (With Swimmer Symbol): Water is closed to public use
  • Red: This indicates a high hazard. It could be high surf or strong currents. It is advised to not enter the water when a red flag is up.
  • Yellow: This signifies medium hazard. It could mean moderate surf or currents. Though you will be allowed in the water, please do so with caution. Do not take children into the water when a yellow flag is up.
  • Green: This indicates a low hazard. The water will be calm and safe to enter.
  • Blue: A blue-colored flag indicates dangerous marine life. It is a good idea to stay away from the ocean when this flag is up.

These colors indicate the same thing in most parts of the world, but it doesn’t hurt to verify what the flags mean in the part of the world you’re traveling to before you go.

Where Are The Lifeguards?

Even if you are a professional swimmer, it is advised that you don’t swim in bodies of water without a lifeguard on duty.

Lifeguards are typically posted on high towers, called lifeguard towers. This will help increase their range of vision.

There are usually two or three lifeguards on a beach. The number will increase if the beach is larger. Right when you get to the beach, locate where the closest lifeguard post is.

If you’re with a child, make sure they understand what a lifeguard is and where they are posted. There is a chance they could get lost at the beach, and in this case, they should seek help from a lifeguard.

How to Signal For Help?

Lifeguards are trained to look for those in distress, but it is a good idea to learn how to signal for help.

Raise one arm in the air and use the other to thread water. If you wave your hands, it could be confusing for the lifeguards.

If there are waves, turn away from the waves while doing this. Crashing waves can knock the air out of you. Doing this constantly is tiring, so try to take breaks by floating in the water.

If the accident is very serious, you might need to take a trip to the doctor. To best protect your finances from medical expenses while abroad, you should purchase a travel medical insurance or travel insurance plan. For water activities, there are specific coverages you may need.

Where Does The Water Get Deeper?

When you’re out swimming in the ocean, there will be a point where the seafloor drops. At this point, the ocean gets much deeper and is only safe for more advanced swimmers.

Research where this shelf ends before going to the beach. You can also ask the lifeguards posted there.

Never pass the drop point without someone accompanying you. If you’re not a strong swimmer, use a floatation device for buoyancy, or avoid the area altogether.

What Wildlife Will I See?

The first thing to note is to not touch the wildlife. Beaches often have crabs or other shellfish making their way around. Do not disturb them.

This is both for your personal safety, and the safety of the animals.

Out in the ocean, you may encounter larger animals. Turtles and colorful fish are commonly found, and jellyfish and stingrays are popular near Florida.

It is prudent to know what animals you may come across. If you’re snorkeling, then you’ll know to keep an eye out for the popular species in that area. 

What Are The Safety Measures for Potentially Dangerous Wildlife?

You should also know which species are dangerous and learn how to avoid them or protect yourself from them. Here are a few common species and how to protect yourself from them:

  • Sharks: If you think you’ve spotted a shark, make eccentric gestures. Flail your arms around to drive it away. If it gets too close to you, remember its eyes and snout are the weakest parts. Aim any blows to that region.
  • Stingrays: Stingrays are found in beds of sand. They lurk near the ocean floor. Take a pole with you as you’re walking in the ocean to feel around. Remember to walk in a shuffling motion. The vibrations will scare stingrays away.
  • Jellyfish: This is one of the most common encounters you’ll have. If stung, remain calm until the effects wear off. Once you’re back on shore, apply diluted ammonia water to soothe the pain.

What Are The High-Tide Timings?

Typically, tides are high early in the morning and late at night. Depending on the part of the world, the high tide may also hit at noon.

Wherever you are, check out the time when water currents will be strong and avoid it during that time.

Ask the locals when the best time to go to the beach is. They will be able to give you valuable information.

How to Spot and Survive Riptides

Riptides are narrow channels of currents that pull you away from the shore. It is important to remember that riptides will not drown you, so remain calm.

The first measure of precaution is spotting rip currents. Go to a dune and try to find where waves are breaking. This is where the ocean will be flat, and indicates a rip current. Riptides occur most often at low tide, so avoid the beach during this time.

If you get caught in a rip current, remember that there is no point swimming against it. It will just tire you out. Swim parallel to the shore until you feel the currents becoming weaker. Once you’re out of the current, swim diagonally to the shore.

A beach excursion is extremely thrilling, but no matter how strong of a swimmer you are, the ocean is stronger. Do everything you can to stay safe, and remember to take necessary precautions.

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