The world is 99 percent safe to travel, though it is always prudent to take precautions to ensure your trip abroad is fun, memorable, and safe. Basic safety guidelines include not attracting unnecessary attention in public and respecting local laws and customs.
Here are some other tips I keep in mind to make sure my international travels are smooth sailing.
Check www.state.gov for alerts to regions where U.S. officials deem extra precaution is necessary or the area should be avoided altogether. Before your trip, register with the consulate of the country(ies) you plan to visit, so you can be found in case of an emergency. Make copies of your passport, driver’s license, itinerary, and medical insurance card and leave them at home with a trusted adult. Inform your credit card company and bank of your travel plans so their fraud department will know those charges are yours. Also, use “credit” instead of “debit” for purchase so you have recourse in case you feel a business or vendor has cheated you.
Only use ATMs in secure areas like banks with a locked door behind you. If you have to use an ATM on the street, have a travel companion act as a “spotter” to watch your back. Cover the keypad with your other hand when entering a PIN number. Mobile banking has really come of age with apps, where all banking services are available on the go. It’s easy to have convenient access to accounts back home for transferring money, paying bills, and finding nearby ATMs.
Naturally with an out-of-country smartphone, you will be using a lot of public Wi-Fi. Protect yourself by never conducting any financial or personally sensitive business on a public Wi-Fi connection. Use a VPN if you can. If you’re going to be in a foreign country for an extended period, consider purchasing a local SIM card with pre-paid Internet usage or even buying a local carrier phone with data, text, and phone minutes included.
You never know who’s reading about you, be cautious with your social media postings. You can turn off the geo-tagging feature so others cannot determine your exact location. Clear your smartphone, or other device, of personal data that’s not essential for your trip.
Make sure to use only licensed taxis from the airport to your hotel. An unsuspecting, jetlagged traveler is easy prey for illegitimate taxi companies. More and more international cities are introducing Uber and Lyft, which are great because the fare is usually predetermined by time and distance, and no currency changes hands. You also can log in your destination without having to worry about making yourself understood in a foreign language. When using mass transportation, stay in subway or train cars and buses with other people and watch for suspicious behavior around you.
You’ll sleep better if you feel safe. A little sleuthing on the Internet will help you make sure your hotel is in a safe spot. You also may want to make sure your room has a safe for valuables. Choose location over price. That “deal” on the room you found may end up costing you more in taxi fares and lost time due to its off the beaten track locale.
Restaurants & Sightseeing
While personal recommendations from friends and family are the best source for finding what to eat and how to spend your time, that isn’t always possible. Many apps, such as TripAdvisor, give so much weighted information, it’s simple and fun to make your own educated choices.
I think travel is one the most exciting and pleasurable experiences one can have. It’s easy to let your guard down when surrounded by breathtaking scenery or thrilled by exotic customs, so be careful. Mindfulness and common sense are the two most important things to pack. Don’t leave home without them. Bon voyage and safe travels!