Staying Safe When You Travel Abroad
Sometimes, no matter where you are, you might face risks. For example, if you’re driving on the roadways, even very close to your home, you could be at risk of being in an accident, especially if you’re engaging in dangerous behaviors like speeding.
When you travel abroad, you might feel like you’re facing more potential risks and hazards. Some of that may be true, but a lot of it is because when we’re in a situation outside of our comfort zone, we might feel more vulnerable or out of control.
Regardless of what the real versus the imagined risk level is, if you’re traveling abroad, the following are general safety tips and considerations you should keep in mind.
Know the Risks
While some risks of traveling abroad might be imagined or overstated in your mind, you should learn what the real risks are in your destination.
Some of the potential hazards of traveling abroad in particular include:
Illnesses: Getting sick is probably one of the most significant universal risks of traveling abroad, regardless of where you’re going, and it’s a massive issue in the COVID era. You should get all necessary vaccines before you travel, be careful with food and water, and give yourself time to rest. You have to think about things like ice and how you brush your teeth to avoid illnesses when you’re gone, and not just water specifically for drinking. Even swallowing water when you shower can be dangerous, depending on where you are.
Roadway accidents: We did mention the general risk of being in roadway accidents above, but sometimes, if you’re driving abroad, your risk might be even higher. You’re not familiar with the roads, nor are you with local driving customs, and the road conditions might be poor.
Pickpockets: Many countries have lower violence rates than the U.S., but petty crimes like theft and pickpocketing may be more rampant.
Violent crimes: While again, the risk may be statistically lower than even when you’re at home, sometimes violent criminals will target travelers.
Use the STEP Program
One good way to give yourself peace of mind and improve your overall safety when traveling abroad is to take advantage of the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program or STEP. This free service lets U.S. citizens and those people who are citizens living abroad receive the most updated security alerts from the nearest consulate or U.S. embassy.
When you enroll in the program, you also provide the embassy or consulate with information to contact you in an emergency. You’ll get current information about your destination when you enroll, and if you need help in an emergency overseas, already being part of this program will help that.
When you’re abroad, or anywhere for that matter, there are some basic safety rules you should always try to keep in mind. These include:
Don’t outwardly show signs of wealth, especially in big cities. For example, don’t wear your most expensive watch when you’re out and about.
Be sure that you’re always taking only licensed, official cab drivers.
If you’re traveling alone, don’t walk at night in big cities, especially avoid small, dark side streets.
If you feel uncomfortable with something, avoid it.
Try to look confident and in control.
Don’t cross public parks at night.
Ask for recommendations from the hotel where you’re staying or your host if you’re renting a place.
Other General Safety Tips for Traveling Abroad
Along with what’s above, the following is a rundown of some general safety tips for international trips in particular:
Get travel insurance. COVID has made this even more critical than ever before. You never know what might come up when you’re traveling, especially if you need medical care in a foreign country. Travel insurance is a necessary investment.
Learn some of the basics of the local language at a minimum. Even if you know a few words, it might throw off someone who could have less-than-good intentions. You won’t be seen as such a newbie to the country or traveling in general.
Be cautious about what you bring on public transit. You want to keep track of your belongings, which can be challenging if the train or bus is crowded.
If you drink or go out at night, try to stay in control of yourself. One of the biggest risks you can face when traveling is drinking too much and not knowing what you’re doing.
Finally, have a copy of your passport and try to keep money in more than one location. Use a credit card when you can versus cash because there are theft protections.