5 Ways to Stay Safe While Traveling Abroad
Staying safe while traveling abroad is a main concern of most people when they book a trip. While traveling is becoming more popular than ever, it is also becoming more dangerous. With a little organization and preparation, however, I want to help make sure the fear of what could happen abroad doesn’t stop you from experiencing the beauty of the world! Making wise choices and planning ahead will help you to travel safely, and these five tips and services will help alleviate all your stresses, so you can focus on the awesome vacation you’re about to have!
1. Get travel insurance
If your insurance doesn’t already cover you overseas, make sure you are covered when you go abroad. My pick for travel insurance is World Nomads. I’ve heard of way too many people who get injured overseas and have to head home or pay absurdly high medical costs up front. Don’t wait until something bad happens to worry about travel insurance!
2. Travel smart
This may seem like an obvious one, but there are little things we can all be doing to travel smarter every time we go abroad. There’s no need to go out for a walk in the city with all of your credit cards, your passport, and a bunch of cash. Take only what you need for the day with you, and keep the rest locked up in your accommodation (always use your hotel’s safe!). You should also always carry a form of identification though such as your original driver’s license or a photocopy of your passport at all times. Police officers may request to see identification and can detain you at a police station until your identity is confirmed – make sure the person asking is an actual officer before handing over you ID. U.S. citizens should register all international travel using the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) through the U.S. Department of State.
3. Stay alert at all times and watch out for thieves
Always beware of pickpockets and thieves – especially in big cities. In Rome, I’ve experienced gypsies that will distract you with babies in their arms while they shove themselves on a crowded train, bumping into you and pickpocketing you as they do, before stealthly exiting the train. In Barcelona, a common thief move is a woman offering you flowers or a rosemary. Many of these women will demand payment if you accept the “gift”, and many are expert pickpockets. I’ve heard that in big cities you should also avoid engaging with young adults who carry clipboards and ask for signatures in support of seemingly good cause. Many work in groups and while one is distracting you by explaining their cause, the other may be stealing your money and/or valuables. If you need to withdraw money in a foreign country, always use an ATM machine inside a bank and not one on a busy sidewalk – this is to prevent thieves from rushing to you in a group and grabbing the money as it comes out of the machine. Thieves can also masquerade as undercover police and approach people asking for their wallet and documentation, under the ruse that they’re looking for counterfeit money. Always trust your intuition – if something seems off, it probably is.
4. Research travel advisories, warnings and alerts
While the allure of travelling internationally is greater than ever, it is not as safe as it once was. Unfortunately, terrorism attacks and the risk of terrorism need to be a consideration when planning your next trip abroad, and while fear should never keep you from traveling abroad, it’s important to mitigate risk and make safety a priority for your trip! The U.S. Department of State has issued a Worldwide Caution to all U.S. citizens traveling to help increase awareness and vigilance in going abroad. You can always stay up to date for worldwide travel and search specific countries by checking out the US Department of State’s Travel Advisories website.
5. Protect yourself before you travel by joining the Salus network
If you’ve ever wondered what would happen if you were to have any legal, police, or US embassy issues while abroad, this travel security firm is a life-saver. Salus was founded by three senior security specialists with over 80 years experience in law enforcement with the FBI and US Embassies, and they act as your on-the-ground point-person for assisting American travellers overseas. They can also prepare you before you travel by providing safety tips as well as specific facts relating to crime trends and patterns in cities you might visit. They operate in Spain and Italy currently and are expanding quickly to other countries. Salus makes sure you (or your family members) feel safe when traveling, or studying abroad, helping you to navigate any of the number of unforeseen incidents that can arise while traveling – so you can stop worrying about the “what if’s” and focus on seeing the world instead.
Stay safe, and see the world!