How to Stay Safe While Traveling Abroad

By Tim Chesonis •  Updated: 03/14/23 •  13 min read
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To stay safe while traveling abroad, always research your destination, be prepared for emergencies, and take measures to protect your health and belongings. Stay informed about local news, and follow local customs and laws to avoid attracting unwanted attention. Use technology wisely and stay connected to your loved ones back home to maintain a safety net during your trip.

Research Your Destination

Before traveling, it’s essential to understand local customs and laws to avoid any misunderstandings or offenses. Research things like appropriate clothing, tipping practices, and cultural norms to fit in better and show respect to the locals. Familiarize yourself with local laws, especially those that may differ from your home country, such as alcohol consumption, drug use, and traffic rules.

Check government websites for travel advisories or warnings for your destination, including potential risks like political unrest, natural disasters, or health crises. Register with your country’s embassy or consulate in case of emergencies, and follow their advice for staying safe in the area.

Crime rates and common types of crime can vary greatly by destination. Look up local news or expat forums to get a sense of the safety situation in your destination.

Keep your eyes open for pickpockeers, scams, or muggings, and take precautions like not flaunting valuables or traveling alone at night in unfamiliar areas. Remember, the locals can see you coming a mile away.

Vaccinations and Health Precautions

Before traveling, consult with a healthcare professional or a travel clinic about the required or recommended vaccinations for your destination. Some countries may require proof of vaccination against specific diseases like yellow fever, while others may recommend vaccinations for hepatitis, typhoid, or rabies, depending on your travel activities and locations.

To protect yourself from foodborne and waterborne illnesses, follow the “boil it, cook it, peel it, or forget it” rule.

Consume only well-cooked, hot meals and avoid raw or undercooked meat, seafood, or eggs. Be cautious with street food, and choose vendors with good hygiene practices. Drink only bottled or treated water, and avoid ice, as it may be made from contaminated water sources.

Some common health issues travelers face include traveler’s diarrhea, jet lag, altitude sickness, and insect-borne diseases. To prevent traveler’s diarrhea, maintain good hand hygiene and be cautious with food and water. For jet lag, gradually adjust your sleep schedule before departure and stay well-hydrated during the trip. If you’re traveling to high-altitude destinations, ascend slowly and take medications to alleviate symptoms if needed. To avoid insect-borne diseases, use insect repellent, wear protective clothing, and sleep under mosquito nets when necessary.

Travel Insurance

When considering travel insurance, think about coverage for medical emergencies, trip cancellations or interruptions, baggage loss or damage, and evacuation. Medical insurance is crucial, as it covers expenses for unexpected injuries or illnesses. Trip cancellation insurance can reimburse you for non-refundable expenses if you need to cancel or change your plans due to unforeseen circumstances. Baggage insurance covers the cost of replacing lost, damaged, or stolen items during your trip.

Purchasing a travel insurance policy offers numerous benefits that provide peace of mind and financial protection while traveling. One significant benefit is coverage for medical emergencies, which can be costly in foreign countries, especially if you require hospitalization or evacuation. Travel insurance ensures you receive proper medical care without worrying about the expenses.

Another advantage is the protection from unforeseen trip cancellations or interruptions. Whether due to illness, family emergencies, or other unexpected events, travel insurance can help you recover non-refundable expenses like flights, accommodations, and pre-booked tours.

Travel insurance can protect you financially by providing coverage for unexpected expenses, such as medical bills, lost luggage, or emergency evacuations. Travel insurance policies often include coverage for personal belongings, allowing you to replace essential items and continue your trip with minimal disruption. Lost, stolen, or damaged luggage can be an inconvenience and an unexpected cost. Without insurance, these costs could be substantial, and you might have to pay out-of-pocket.

Additionally, travel insurance offers a support network in case of emergencies. Many policies provide 24/7 assistance, helping you navigate unfamiliar situations, locate medical facilities, or coordinate emergency services.

Overall, investing in travel insurance can save you from significant financial losses, provide essential support during emergencies, and give you the confidence to explore new destinations knowing that you’re protected.

When choosing a travel insurance policy, consider the following factors:

  1. Coverage
    Make sure the policy includes the necessary coverage types for your specific trip, such as medical emergencies, trip cancellations, and baggage loss.
  2. Coverage Limits
    Check the policy’s coverage limits to ensure they’re adequate for your needs. For instance, if you have pre-existing medical conditions, ensure the policy covers them.
  3. Exclusions
    Understand what the policy excludes, such as high-risk activities or specific destinations.
  4. Deductibles and Co-pays
    Be aware of any deductibles or co-pays that may apply to your claims.
  5. Claim Process
    Choose a policy with a straightforward claim process and responsive customer support.
  6. Read Reviews
    Look for feedback from other travelers about the insurance company and their experiences with claims and customer service.

Safety in Accommodations

Ensuring your accommodations are safe and secure starts with researching and selecting a reputable establishment. Read reviews from other travelers on websites or forums to get insights about the safety and security of the property. Choose accommodations in a safe neighborhood with good lighting and easy access to transportation.

This is what a “Hostel” looks like

When looking for a hostel or rental property, pay attention to features like 24-hour reception or security, well-maintained locks on doors and windows, and electronic key card access. Inquire about the availability of in-room safes or lockers to store your valuables securely. Opt for accommodations with surveillance cameras in common areas to deter potential thieves.

Shared accommodations, like hostels, offer unique challenges for safety. To minimize risks, choose a hostel with individual lockers where you can store your belongings. Bring your own padlock to secure your valuables. Be cautious when sharing personal information with fellow travelers, as not everyone might have good intentions. Opt for single-sex dormitories if you feel more comfortable and secure. Additionally, ensure the hotel has a strict guest policy to prevent unauthorized people from entering the premises.

Personal Safety Tips

Maintaining personal safety while exploring your destination involves being aware of your surroundings, trusting your instincts, and taking precautions. Stick to well-traveled areas, avoid walking alone in unfamiliar places at night, and always let someone know your plans. Familiarize yourself with the local emergency numbers and the location of the nearest embassy or consulate.

Carrying a few items for self-defense or emergencies can provide extra security. A whistle or personal alarm can be used to draw attention in case of danger. Pepper spray is another option, but make sure it’s legal in your destination. Bring a small first-aid kit with essential supplies like band-aids, pain relievers, and any necessary prescription medications.

A portable power bank can keep your phone charged in case of emergencies.

To avoid attracting unwanted attention or becoming a target for thieves, try to blend in with the local population. Dress modestly and avoid wearing flashy jewelry or displaying expensive gadgets. Carry a money belt or hidden pouch to store your passport, cash, and other valuables. Be cautious when using ATMs, and choose machines in well-lit, busy areas. Stay vigilant in crowded places like tourist attractions and public transportation, as pickpockets often target these locations.

Transportation Safety

Researching the safest modes of transportation in your destination country can help you make informed decisions when getting around. In some countries, trains or buses might be the safest option, while in others, rideshares or taxis may be preferable. Consult travel guides, local news, or expat forums for recommendations on the best transportation options for your destination.

Be aware of any specific transportation-related safety concerns, such as poorly maintained roads, hazardous driving conditions, or a high rate of accidents involving certain types of vehicles. For instance, in some countries, motorcycle taxis might be a popular option, but they could also pose a higher risk for accidents.

To ensure your safety while using taxis, rideshares, or public transportation, follow these tips:
  1. Choose reputable taxi or rideshare companies with positive reviews, and verify the driver’s identity before getting in.
  2. Share your ride details, including driver information and estimated arrival time, with a trusted contact.
  3. Use your phone’s map to track your route and make sure the driver is taking you to the correct destination.
  4. Sit in the backseat of taxis or rideshares to maintain personal space and have a clear exit route in case of emergencies.
  5. When using public transportation, try to travel during non-peak hours to avoid overcrowding and minimize the risk of pickpocketing. Choose well-lit, busy stations or stops, and remain vigilant of your surroundings.

Digital Security

Protecting your personal information while traveling is essential to avoid identity theft and other digital threats. Keep your electronic devices, such as smartphones, tablets, and laptops, updated with the latest security patches and use strong, unique passwords for all your accounts. Enable two-factor authentication whenever possible, and lock your devices with a password or biometric authentication.

When using public Wi-Fi networks, be cautious about the information you transmit. Avoid accessing sensitive accounts, like online banking or email, on unsecured networks. Consider using a virtual private network (VPN) to encrypt your data and protect your privacy. Always verify the network name and password before connecting to a public Wi-Fi hotspot to avoid connecting to malicious networks set up by hackers.

Several apps and tools can enhance your digital security while abroad.

A VPN app, as mentioned earlier, can secure your connection on public Wi-Fi networks. Password managers can help you create and store strong, unique passwords for all your accounts. Install a reputable antivirus and anti-malware app on your devices to protect against potential threats. Finally, consider using encrypted messaging apps like Signal or WhatsApp for secure communication with friends and family while traveling.

Emergency Preparedness

Before departing for your trip, familiarize yourself with the local emergency numbers in your destination country. In many countries, 112 or 911 are standard emergency numbers, but they can vary. Research the numbers for police, medical assistance, and the fire department, and save them in your phone or carry a written copy.

Creating a basic emergency plan involves identifying potential risks, planning your response, and establishing communication channels.

Consider the following steps:
  1. Research potential emergencies specific to your destination, such as natural disasters, political unrest, or health crises.
  2. Establish meeting points or safe locations in case you become separated from your travel companions during an emergency.
  3. Share your itinerary with a trusted contact back home and check in with them regularly.
  4. Carry a list of emergency contacts, including family members, friends, and your country’s embassy or consulate.
  5. Familiarize yourself with the location of the nearest hospital, police station, and your country’s embassy or consulate.

In 2018, a British traveler named Oliver McAfee went missing while cycling in Israel’s Negev Desert. Oliver, an experienced cyclist, was last seen on November 21, 2017. When he didn’t return home as scheduled in December, his friends and family became increasingly concerned. They reached out to the authorities, who initiated a search and rescue operation. The emergency number, 112, played a crucial role in coordinating search efforts between different organizations and countries. The search for Oliver involved the collaboration of Israeli authorities, the British Embassy, and search and rescue volunteers. The 112 emergency number provided a crucial communication link, enabling the search to be coordinated effectively. Although Oliver has not been found, the search and rescue efforts demonstrate the importance of the 112 emergency number in assisting travelers abroad.

You can read more about this real-life incident from the following news source:

A travel emergency kit should include items that can help you manage various emergencies.

Consider packing the following:
  1. A small first-aid kit with essential supplies like band-aids, pain relievers, and any necessary prescription medications.
  2. A whistle or personal alarm to draw attention in case of danger.
  3. A photocopy of your passport and other important documents, stored separately from the originals.
  4. A list of emergency contacts, including family, friends, and your country’s embassy or consulate.
  5. A portable power bank to keep your phone charged during emergencies.
  6. A small flashlight or headlamp in case of power outages or navigating dark areas.
  7. Basic hygiene items like hand sanitizer and tissues.
  8. Non-perishable snacks and water purification tablets in case of unexpected delays or lack of access to clean water.

Staying Connected and Informed

Maintaining communication with friends and family back home is essential for both your peace of mind and theirs. Utilize messaging apps like WhatsApp, Signal, or Facebook Messenger, which often use less data and work well on slower connections. Schedule regular check-ins to update your loved ones about your whereabouts and well-being. Consider using video calls with apps like Skype, Zoom, or FaceTime for a more personal touch. To save on international roaming charges, purchase a local SIM card or use Wi-Fi calling when possible.

Staying informed about local news and events can help you make better decisions and avoid potential risks. Reliable sources include local newspapers, radio stations, and news websites. For country-specific travel advice, check your government’s travel advisory website. Additionally, follow local government and law enforcement social media accounts or subscribe to their alert systems, if available.

Using social media responsibly while traveling involves being mindful of your privacy and security, as well as respecting local customs and people. Refrain from sharing too much personal information, such as your current location, accommodation details, or travel plans, as this could make you a target for thieves. Be culturally sensitive when posting photos or videos, and avoid sharing images that could offend local customs or values.

Be sure to ask for permission before taking photos of local people, and be respectful of their privacy. You will be surprised at just how far honoring other people will take you.

Closing Thoughts

Traveling abroad is an enriching and life-changing experience, opening our eyes to new cultures, landscapes, and perspectives. However, ensuring our safety during these adventures is crucial to making lasting, positive memories. By proactively researching your destination, taking necessary precautions, and staying informed, you can confidently explore the world while minimizing risks.

Remember that staying safe while traveling abroad is a continuous process, requiring adaptability and situational awareness. Trust your instincts, embrace local customs, and always prioritize your well-being. Armed with the knowledge and practical tips provided in this article, you’re now better equipped to navigate the challenges of international travel.

So, embark on your journey with an open mind, a vigilant eye, and a sense of curiosity. The world is waiting for you to discover its wonders, and with the right preparations, you can do so safely and securely. Happy travels!

Tim Chesonis

Tim loves writing and helping people succeed. He brings a wealth of wisdom and insight from an entrepreneur's perspective, loves Linux, his iPhone and his iPad. When he's not writing another article, he's probably binge-watching “The Middle” or “Breaking Bad”, (again). To learn more about Tim, click here.