Travelers often are concerned with their safety and well-being when abroad in a foreign country. While there are no guarantees (is there any in life?), many of your safety anxieties can be eliminated through advance research and preparation. The key to safe traveling in any area is situational awareness. Distractions because of luggage, children, lodging, strangers, etc. can put you at risk. Know your surroundings and stay in control of every situation. We’ve put together 25 essential tips to help make your trip a positive one!
1. Make sure you have a valid passport with all emergency information filled out. If required, be sure to have a valid visa. Carry important papers with you; NEVER check anything that you simply cannot afford to lose. Photocopy your passport, driver’s license and credit cards.
2. Follow recommended preparations including leaving contact information and itineraries with individuals who can be contacted if there are any problems.
3. Check out rates on travel insurance. Having such a safety net could become crucial in case of a last minute emergency or any mishaps that occur while away from home.
4. Have all immunizations up to date and make sure to check in with your health care provider before going on a volunteer trip. It would be wise to have a physical before and after a volunteer trip.
5. Make sure that your prescription medicines are filled properly and labeled accurately. In some countries certain prescription medicines are forbidden.
6. Bring a small flashlight. You never know when you’ll suddenly be “in the dark” and find yourself in unfamiliar surroundings. At night, keep your flashlight by your bed.
7. Never wear anything that projects affluence. No gold chains, expensive watches and rings, luggage, or other paraphernalia should be in easy view. If possible, leave your jewelry at home.
8. Women, particularly, should never accept a drink from a stranger. Keep an eye on your drink at all times.
9. If detained for whatever reason by an official, ask for identification. If in doubt, tell them that you want to see his superior. Keep your emotions in check.
10. If traveling with children, bring along an updated photograph of each child in the event that you become separated from them.
11. Try to arrive at your travel destination in daylight — it will be easier to become more familiar with your surroundings.
12. Use only licensed driving services for transportation to and from the airport. Try to keep this in mind when traveling around at your destination as well.
13. When staying in a hotel, keep a “do not disturb” sign on your door to give the impression that the room will be occupied, even if you are not in it.
14. Don’t look like a tourist. Look as though you fit in and learn the customs of the area. Learn a few phrases so that you can get your way around the area. There are a lot of hard feelings towards Americans in other countries so it is wise to not divulge such information so quickly.
15. Do not discuss travel itineraries or any other personal issues with strangers.
16. Follow your instincts. If you sense that something is not right, leave the area and get help. Walking around in remote areas alone at night is not a smart idea.
17. Watch for scams on the street. Children working with adults are notorious as pickpockets.
18. Avoid the temptation to assist beggars when traveling — keep in mind that crime rates are high, so you may not want to be involved in those types of situations.
19. Learn about evacuation routes, if any, in case of any disasters.
20. Always use sealed, bottled water for drinking, cooking and brushing teeth as there may not be standards of cleanliness in the water supply.
21. Only eat hot foods and fruits or vegetables that have a peel to avoid raw or spoiled food.
22. Avoid drugs. You may come across someone selling narcotic on your travels. Many cultures have extremely strict laws on possessing drugs, let alone taking them into other countries (think jail sentences) so it’s best to play safe.
23. Never forget you are a guest in someone else’s country, so dress and behave accordingly. Neat and conservative attire is more likely to prompt a respectful and friendly response from locals.
24. Abide by a country’s code – many cultures have unspoken dress codes, particularly for women. Travel guides will give you an idea of what’s acceptable, but if you’re unsure, covered legs and arms are your best bets. Be aware of religious dress codes such as covering your head, removing your shoes, or walking in a certain direction round a temple.
25. Stay up to date on travel alerts. If you’re heading to any areas of potential unrest, check the U.S. State Department website.
When armed with information, you can be proactive instead of reactive when a situation arises. Most of all, use common sense – be aware and keep watch. Be assured – if you have taken all the necessary precautions – and just play by the rules, explore, and enjoy your travel adventures!
Contributions to post by Nicole Rutledge
photo by celebdu