Travel Safety Tips for the International Traveler

Destinations Travel Magazine | May 6, 2015

Summer travel is almost in full swing, and that means millions of Americans will be traveling overseas. There’s nothing like the excitement of traveling to a foreign land. Experiencing new cultures, languages and climates provides you the opportunity to view life in a completely different way and create memories that last a lifetime. We all know a lot of planning takes place prior to a big trip – booking accommodations and activities, purchasing the needed attire, packing – however many travelers tend to forget to prepare for their personal safety in advance of and during the big trip.

Personal safety should always be a chief area of focus, and travelers should dedicate ample time to properly plan and prepare for safety issues before and during an international vacation. Here are a few tips every international traveler should know and practice during every trip. Following these tips will greatly increase your confidence level while overseas, so that you can enjoy your trip to the fullest.

Planning and Preparation
The first thing to understand is that your travel safety begins at home, before you even start packing. Having a clear understanding of your destination’s environment and potential threats are key to traveling with confidence.

Below are a few things you can do before leaving for the airport:

  • Research – each traveler should begin by visiting the United States Department of State website. This site provides free information about locations throughout the world, including travel alerts and warnings, vaccination information, local laws and customs, and more. While visiting this website, you will have the opportunity to enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), which is a free service that allows U.S. citizens to enroll their trip with the nearest Embassy or Consulate. This is a great idea, because it will alert the State Department of your travel and cut down on some of the bureaucracy in the event that you need assistance.
  • Make Copies of Key Documents – ensure that you make two copies of your key travel documents, including your passport, travel visa, driver’s license, credit cards, etc. You should leave one of these copies with a trusted family member or friend to keep for the duration of your trip, and the other you should take with you in the event that your documents get lost or stolen. Having photo copies will make it easier to receive replacement documents from the Embassy or Consulate, and will allow you to cancel stolen credit cards (since the information to cancel a card is located on the card itself).
  • Know the Area – make sure to research the general geographic layout of your destination. Know where your accommodations are located in relation to the local Embassy, hospitals, airport and major tourist attractions. Having a general idea of where things are located will help you travel confidently and avoid getting lost in unsavory areas of town.

During the Trip
Once you arrive, the most important thing to do is to pay attention to your surroundings. Tourists in an unfamiliar environment are easy targets for petty criminals, who patrol major transportation hubs and tourist attractions. Acting like you know where you are going will make you a more difficult target and decrease the chances of falling victim to crime.

With this in mind, here are a few other things to think about on your trip:

  • Taxis – never take an unmarked taxi. These are common at airports, and while you may think you’re going to save a couple bucks, the risk of traveling in an unregulated form of transportation is not worth the money. The State Department website often times lists recommended taxi services (as well as hotels) on its website. Additionally, always pay attention to where your taxi driver is taking you. This is not the time to catch up on phone calls or emails.
  • Sudden Crowds – if a large crowd suddenly appears in a square or in your general vicinity, it is best to leave the area immediately. This could be the start of a demonstration, which can turn violent.
  • Different Laws – remember that even though you are not a citizen of the country you are visiting, you are still subject to its laws. If you happen to get in trouble with law enforcement, your first call should be to the local Embassy or Consulate. The U.S. State Department website lists local laws and customs that you should be aware of, and each Embassy and Consulate location has its own website with contact information which you should keep in your phone.
  • Avoid Open Displays of Wealth – open displays of wealth such as jewelry, smartphones and fancy cameras will make you a target for petty theft. Keep in mind that items as common as a smartphone or a cheap digital watch in the U.S. could be regarded as a luxury item in your destination country. The best thing to do is avoid wearing jewelry and conceal any other luxury items you need to carry.

Have a Fun and Safe Journey
The world is full of interesting and unique people and cultures. It is not something to be feared, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take precautions. By keeping these tips in mind and avoiding potentially dangerous situations, you will be able to travel with confidence and enjoy your trip to the fullest. Now get out there and explore!

By Robert Falise, TATE Global

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