How do you travel safely abroad? This is a question I hear constantly from friends and family and with recent events (4 tourists being kidnapped in West Africa) I know it puts even more people on edge. Here are some pointers that will assist:
Make sure family and/or friends know your itinerary and check in with someone on a regular basis (email, text, call, and/or video chat.) There are free apps like Whatsapp and Google Hangouts plus many others. Set these up before you go.
- Make copies of your travel docs and have easy access to them just in case (in an email that you can access or a friend or family that can send it to you). Include serial numbers of any electronics.
- Know the location of the closest embassy. If you lose your passport or if there is an emergency, you will need this information.
- If you are an American Citizen, sign up for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) (https://step.state.gov/) to receive security messages, Expedite Passport Recovery, assist in a time of crisis and make it easier for the American embassy to locate you in an emergency situation. I don’t know if other countries have this but check and see.
Some other quick pointers:
- Get travel insurance
- Don’t be flashy (with $$$ or jewelry)
- Don’t be loud (It just screams American tourist)
- Research the customs of the country. You could be offending them and not even know it (Example: In Greece, showing five spread fingers with the palm facing out is offensive.)
- Make sure you have a credit card with a chip. I always carry a spare in case there is an issue with the first one (and I have needed it in the past!).
- If your credit card has a transaction fee, make sure you understand the costs ahead of time. Or better yet, get another one that provides you that option.
- Make sure you show up with the currency of the country you are going to so you are not paying high fees at the airport or train station to convert it. You can go to your local bank prior to leaving and find out how long it takes for them to obtain this and then order as it gets closer. Then while you are traveling, you can obtain additional money at a cash machine with a debit card.
- A debit card is a great way to access cash but don’t use it as a form of payment.
- If it is a long trip or a place you are not familiar with, consider arranging transportation to your hotel especially if it is late. After an international flight, this is the last thing I want to have to deal with and for me, this is one of the few things I have decided over the years it is worth splurging on during my trip. Most decent hotels can and will reach out to you prior to your arrival, to see if you would like to do this.
- Know the lay of the land: i.e. where are the major landmarks. You don’t have to know where everything is in town but at least be able to navigate around town by these big markers. GPS doesn’t always work in large cities due to the tall buildings so you can ask someone for the direction of the river, garden, etc and it will get you back on track until your GPS works again.
- Be up on the current con game of where you are going. Rick Steves and his discussion boards have a lot of this information. If it looks or sounds too good to be true, it probably is a good idea to turn away! Free roses at Trevi fountain are not free! Watch the guys working the crowd. Any time you are in a crowd, make sure your bags are zipped up and close to you. And the metro to the Vatican is the best place to be pick pocketed especially by men in suits. Just be aware of surroundings.
Yes, traveling is fun and it can open up your world to new experiences and people but you have to be smart about it.
What do you do to ensure your travels are safe? Please feel free to leave your comments below and sign up so I can notify you when the next post is available.
I hope you enjoyed the short View Thru My Lenz.
© 2019 Nina Zee