As borders open back up, international travel is possible once more. After being stuck at home for so long, many people are eager to venture out. But before you book your next trip, make sure you’ve set yourself up for a fun-filled, safe journey. You want the memories that will last a lifetime to be good ones, not scary ones. If you follow these six safety tips for traveling abroad, you can enjoy your time abroad and keep yourself and your valuables safe.
1. Research Your Destination
Before traveling to another country, do your research. Look up reviews for your proposed vacation spot online. Check out travel blogs. Visit the State Department website. The government issues travel alerts, and you can sign up to receive them while you’re on the go.
Some countries are simply safer than others. Is there civil unrest or an infectious disease outbreak in the region you’re considering? If you stay informed on current events, you’ll have a better idea of when — or whether — you should make the trip.
Other countries might require specific vaccinations to keep you healthy when you travel there. Some might recommend bringing particular medication, such as malaria pills. Before you buy a plane ticket, make an appointment at an international travel clinic. They can check your health records and make recommendations accordingly.
One more thing to look up: Check whether your destination city has potable tap water. This information can save you from a terrible stomachache or worse. Some tropical resorts are located in countries where you shouldn’t drink the tap water. If that’s the case, make sure you get bottled water to drink and to brush your teeth.
Remember that local water isn’t just dangerous in its liquid form. The ice used may come from tap water, so a frozen margarita might give you more than a hangover. When in doubt, ask your server where the ice comes from.
2. Safeguard Your Money
Access to a diverse set of funds can provide a good safety net for travelers. Make sure you have a credit card with a chip, a debit card you can manage with an app, and some cash. A mixture of payment methods means that you’ll have funds available if one card doesn’t work. It also gives you backup options if some of your money gets lost or stolen.
Prior to leaving home, make sure to contact your bank and credit card companies. They will want to know where you’re going and how long you’ll be there. If you don’t call them first, they might mistake your card swipe in Italy for fraud. Then you could lose access to the card.
One great feature of some credit cards is that you can turn them off if they’re lost or stolen. Acting quickly means that if someone uses your card fraudulently, you can get your money back. Be sure to write down your card company’s customer service numbers to take with you just in case.
When you leave your hotel room, take only small amounts of cash with you. Leave the rest locked in the safe in your room. Then if you happen to get pickpocketed, you won’t lose everything.
To lower your odds of being pickpocketed, carry your wallet and cash in your front pocket. It’s harder for thieves to lift your belongings from the front than the back. Also, be sure to switch out the wallet you use everyday for something smaller.
3. Travel Light and Keep Your Bags Close
Pack light so that you can easily carry your luggage. Fumbling with heavy bags and excess luggage can draw attention to you. It makes it obvious that you’re traveling and that you may have valuables with you.
If you carry a bag or purse, don’t carry it on your back. It’s easy for people to grab it or cut out the bottom without you feeling it. Smaller crossbody satchels keep your possessions close and in your line of sight.
A money belt with an RFID blocker can also keep your credit cards safe. These wireless systems are made to protect you from RFID skimming. A money belt is worn under your clothing so that others can’t see it. You can safely store your passport there as well.
Don’t forget to put luggage locks on your packing list. These will keep your suitcases more secure when you leave them in your hotel — or if you fall asleep on the train.
4. Pay Attention to Your Surroundings
Stay present. Many people have a tendency to bury their head in their phone or map, but try to break this habit. Be aware of what’s going on around you. If you’re alone, walk in well-lit and well-traveled areas. And remember that it’s always safer to walk in groups than by yourself, especially at night.
If you’re unsure how safe an area is for walking, ask the concierge or front desk clerk at your hotel. They know the area and can give you directions to transit if walking isn’t a good option.
Traveling is, and should be, fun. But be careful about how much you drink. Keep in control of your faculties. You’ll be less likely to get targeted if you’re clear-eyed and aware of your surroundings. Also, you’re never too old for the buddy system!
5. Keep Your Phone Safe
Your phone can be a lifeline when traveling. Maps, contacts, and the internet can all help you stay connected and get you out of sticky situations.
Make sure your phone is equipped before your trip. Enable international calling and text for the duration. Find out what type of power outlets your destination uses. You might need to pack an international adapter.
Since your phone is valuable, it may be a target for theft. Criminals might want to pawn it or hack it. Either way, you should keep the phone on your person or locked away. And make sure to password-protect your phone.
As tempting as it may be, don’t use the free Wi-Fi at a local shop. This could make it easy for someone to hack your phone. Be aware that even password-protected hotel Wi-Fi carries risks.
6. Make Copies of Your Travel Documents
When you’re out and about, always keep a copy of your passport with you — but leave your actual passport in the hotel safe. Keeping copies of your credit card and debit card with their international customer service numbers is helpful, too.
Your passport copy could be your ticket home if the original gets lost or stolen. If you lose your passport, head to the nearest U.S. Embassy for help.
Print off your flight information and accommodation reservations, too. Having the addresses and phone numbers on hand will make your life, and the lives of your taxi drivers, easier. Imagine how difficult it would otherwise be to get around if your cell phone dies.
Once your plans are made, tell a trusted family member or friend about them. Give them a copy of your travel itinerary and passport. If something should happen, they’ll be able to help, even from a continent away.
Ultimately, these tips can help you avoid a travel horror story. After all the prep work is done, you can sit back, relax, and enjoy your flight.