Let’s be honest. How many times have you read a safety tip for travelers and thought “Yep, that makes sense” but then totally ignored it the next time you took a trip? We’ve all done it. Here are some safety tips I think make good sense, are good advice and will help keep you safe while traveling.
Register with the State Department
No one expects to experience a natural disaster, terrorist attack, or other emergency while they’re traveling abroad but if it should happen, it’s smart to be prepared. Enroll in the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) before you leave. It’s free. You can google and find it on the internet and fill it out right there. If something should happen, the nearest U.S. Embassy will easily be able to find you and help you.
Leave an Itinerary
It’s a really good idea to leave an itinerary with a trusted friend or family member back home. That way, they will always know where you are and if you can be reached on any particular day. This can also be helpful if you have a friend or family member that worries when you travel. If they hear of something happening in the general region that you’re traveling, they can double-check to see where exactly you are that day.
Make a Copy of Your Passport
It seems like a hassle to make a color photocopy of your passport, but if yours gets stolen or lost while abroad, you’ll be really glad that you took the extra time to do it. If you don’t want to carry paper around, you can also scan your passport and e-mail it to yourself or take a picture on the phone you’ll be carrying with you so that you can have access to it from anywhere.
Don’t Have Your Phone Out
I know I’m guilty of this—whenever I have a few minutes, I’m checking emails and text messages. But, unfortunately, having your phone out makes you a target for petty thieves, especially in a crowd. It’s easy for criminals to snatch your phone out of your hand and run away in the crowd, never to be seen again.
Buckle Up and Choose Your Transportation Wisely
When in a foreign destination, you might be tempted to be a little more lax than at home when it comes to wearing your seatbelt. In fact, I’m heard that the most common cause of death for Americans abroad is traffic accidents. So be careful, wear your seatbelts in every vehicle you are in - even a taxi. And don’t drive in a foreign country if you’re not comfortable with it (especially if you’re driving on the opposite side than what you do at home). And always wear a helmet if you decide to jump on a scooter, moped, motorcycle or bike.
Learn the Local 911 Equivalent
We’ve been conditioned to dial 911 in case of an emergency but if you dial those three numbers while abroad, it may not get you any help. Learn the local emergency numbers for police, fire and EMS (in some countries, these are all different numbers) and if you’re using your phone while abroad - save them to your phone. In an emergency, every second counts.
Keep Your Seatbelt on While Flying
It can be tempting to unbuckle when the seatbelt sign is off (or even when it’s on) just to get a little more comfortable in those tiny airplane seats. But if major turbulence strikes, you could be injured when you’re not securely strapped in.
Always Check the State Department Warnings or Advisories
The U.S. State Department’s cautions, warnings, and advisories can seem a little alarmist sometimes and I’m certainly not saying you should cancel or postpone your trip based on a warning, alert or advisory for a destination, but it is important to at least read them so you know what to look out for. If the U.S. State Department thinks you should not be traveling to a particular destination, they will not post a caution, warning or advisory, they will outright tell you not to go. It is you, the traveler’s, responsibility to know all and to be aware in order to be safe.
The safety risks are higher when you are traveling on your own. I specialize in guided tours, small ship cruising and luxury resorts and I book these trips for my clients with vendors that are reputable, reliable and able to assist you in an emergency but it’s still very wise to be prepared! Happy travels.