International Travel Safety

Travelling to a different land is often exciting, especially when everything goes smoothly and without incident. For someone who has never been outside their own country, international travel can be puzzling. The following tips can contribute to a safe and worthwhile trip.

What To Do Before Leaving

  1. Be certain you have a valid passport, with enough time for your return trip before expiration. Check that it is signed and that your emergency information is filled out. If the country you will be traveling to requires a visa, make sure you have an updated one.

    Make photocopies of your passport information page to take with you - this will facilitate replacement in case it is lost. Bring passport photos as well. 

  2. Do some research on the country you will be visiting

    A little background on manners and customs can aid in relating with the locals. Take note of religious or dietary restrictions, appropriate attire and so on. 

    Be fairly acquainted with local laws and issues - this is important for international safety. As you will be under the rule of the country you will be visiting, you will want to avoid any entanglements. Update yourself on political conditions and possible security risks. 

  3. Learn a few useful phrases. You can easily research online.

  4. Be acquainted with the conversion rate. If you are not quick with numbers, prepare a small cheat-sheet for carrying in your pocket.

  5. Get information on the embassy or consulate of your homeland. Know where it is located in the country you will be visiting, how it can be contacted, and so on. When abroad, your embassy will be your link to home and can assist you in the case of emergencies.

  6. Inquire about the scope of your personal property insurance and health insurance. Find out whether you will be covered overseas.

  7. Finalize your itinerary before you go and leave a copy with relatives or friends. Provide the contact information for the place/s you will be staying at, so you can be reached in case of emergencies.

  8. Leave copies of your passport information page with relatives or friends, together with photocopies of your airline tickets and IDs. Include copies of credit cards and traveler’s checks you will be bringing. 

Packing for Safety

  1. Pack light enough to keep one hand free. This will facilitate mobility and looking after your belongings. 

  2. Do not bring expensive-looking jewelry, attire or gadgets. Leave clothes that will make you stand out.

  3. Leave things you won't need, such as extra credit cards, Social Security cards and other things normally found in your wallet or purse. Do not bring irreplaceable items, such as family valuables.

  4. Always label all luggage, including carry-ons and laptops. Be sure to put your complete name, address and phone numbers inside and outside each bag. Use tags that have opaque covers, to avoid displaying your identity.

  5. Acquire locks for all of your luggage.

  6. Pack medicine in your carry-on. To avoid complications with customs, keep all medication in their original packaging. If you will be carrying prescription drugs or narcotics, be sure to secure a letter from your doctor acknowledging your medication. Bring the letter in your carry-on bag, along with copies of your prescriptions and a list of generic names for your medication.

    If you are unsure about your medication's legality in other countries, contact the embassy of that country to inquire. 

  7. Bring extra eyeglasses, contact lenses or hearing aids. Pack these in your carry-on as well.

Safety During Your Stay

  1. Avoid being a victim of crime: do not wear jewelry or clothes that stand out. Avoid flaunting your gadgets. 

  2. Do not carry a lot of money on your person; take only the amount you need for each day. Never keep all your cash in a single place, but distribute it to different pockets or compartments. When using a money belt (a belt with hidden compartments), conceal it under your jacket. 

    It will be much safer to bring traveler’s checks and credit cards instead of cash.

  3. When using credit cards, be mindful of your credit limit - you will not want to be arrested in a foreign country for exceeding your limit. Report lost cards immediately; ask your credit card company beforehand how to report a loss from overseas. 

  4. Utilize the hotel safe. Keep valuables, cash and passports safely locked away. 

  5. While staying in a hotel, keep your doors locked and take note of emergency exits.

  6. Never meet anyone in a secluded area, such as an alleyway or hotel rooms. Opt to meet in the lobby or a public place. As much as possible, avoid traveling at night. Avoid dimly-lit areas and unmarked cabs. 

  7. Sellers and scammers can easily take advantage of foreigners. Be wary of bargains and overpricing.

  8. Beware of thieves and pickpockets. Fanny packs and handbags are easy targets. Use a lightweight shoulder bag with a secure strap; always keep it in front and close to your body. Never leave your belongings unattended.

  9. Never accept anything from strangers or entrust them with anything.

  10. Stay away from public demonstrations and questionable activity. Keep a low profile and avoid getting into trouble.

    When it comes to international travel safety, the underlying principle is to use your common sense - be attentive, alert and cautious. A good measure of preparedness is better than a whole trip wasted on anxiety.