Travel Safety Tips – Staying Safe While You’re Abroad

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Parents often worry when they hear their son or daughter wants to go traveling to a strange, foreign country. They need not worry, however, as long as the trip is properly planned out and they’re educated on the dangers facing them.

When traveling, most bad situations can be prevented before they ever get a chance to happen, and common sense is your best friend when traveling abroad. Most crime is opportunistic (rather than planned), so by understanding what these opportunities are you can then avoid them.

By following the following travel safety tips you’ll go a long way to ensuring you have a safe and happy trip.

Basic Travel Safety Tips

  • Let your family/friends at home know where you’re planning to go and make them a travel itinerary so they’ll know where you are at each point through your trip.
  • Before going to any new country, take the time to read a little bit about that club’s culture and traditions. This will help you to understand the local people better, and will help you to avoid unwillingly offending them.
  • Read about any local (and unusual) laws that might affect you. For example, in Thailand, it is illegal to make fun of or to joke about their royal family, and you’ll be arrested if you do.
  • Make sure you educate yourself as to any dress codes there might be in certain countries/areas. If you’re unsure what to do, look at the locals and follow their lead. This is especially important for women.
  • Remember that when you’re in another country, you’re living by THEIR LAWS, and not by the laws of your own country – no matter how silly they might be.
  • Avoid wearing military/combat clothing, as many countries don’t have this kind of fashion and you’ll be viewed with suspicion.
  • Stay away from public demonstrations and protests. You don’t want to be in the middle of a vengeful crowd when things turn nasty.
  • You might have you heart set on going to a particular location, but if the locals warn you about going there; make sure to take their advice. Certain areas can become dangerous overnight (thanks to terrorist groups that want to get their point across). The best way to keep yourself in the know is to talk to a local hostel owner.
  • When getting into a taxi make sure it’s an officially registered one. This is especially important when at night or on your own.
  • Don’t count your money in public and don’t pull out large wads of cash when paying for things.
  • If possible, avoid arriving in a new city late at night (especially when traveling solo). If you’re flying in, book a flight that arrives in the morning or the early afternoon. Some exchange bureaus (for changing money) in airports close at night time, so the last thing you want is to be stranded in a foreign city with no money for a taxi or accommodation. If you are flying in at night time, make sure you get some local currency changed over in advance.
  • Local officials (at border posts, at airports or the police) might be pushy and rude, but always be polite and patient with them, as they’ll happily throw you in jail or refuse entry if you’re not.
  • Avoid getting your camera out at border points and other potentially sensitive areas (such as temples and religions places, army barracks and airfields).
  • Why not take a self defense class before you leave for your trip? At the very least, it’ll help you feel more confident in foreign areas.
  • Any time you decide to change your travel plans, be sure to let those at home know about it.
  • When going trekking into the wilderness, make sure to get a weather forecast first. Also, make sure to tell someone that you’re going, and tell them what time you should be back at (even if you’re going out in a group).

Dealing with Muggings and Robberies

  • If you are approached by a mugger and told to hand over your possessions, do so without fuss or bravery. You shouldn’t be carrying more than a week’s worth of cash on you anyway and most other items can be easily (and cheaply replaced) so never take the risk of being a hero. So long as you’ve got travel insurance (as you should), you’ll be able to claim back what you lost.
  • If you are mugged, report it as soon as you can to the local authorities, as a police report is often required for insurance claims.
  • If you suddenly find yourself in a dangerous part of town where you feel like you might be mugged and you have your digital camera on you, take the memory card out of it and hide it in your sock or in a back pocket. This means that if you are mugged, you’ll lose your camera but not your memory card (with your pictures on it). This might seem odd, but when you get to the end of your trip and you’ve got a memory card full of amazing pictures, you’ll be more upset about losing them than losing your camera.

When Driving

driving travel safety tips

  • Don’t venture off into the outback without plenty of food, water and other supplies. If you’re driving into deserted areas, always carry a spare can of fuel (gas/diesel/petrol).
  • If you have a car, don’t keep your valuables on the seat and in plain sight when you park it. Valuables should be kept in the trunk.
  • When driving in a foreign country (where the language is not English), learn the local words for ‘puncture’, ‘petrol’, ‘oil’ and ‘broken down’.

Looking After Your Belongings

    • Avoid wearing expensive (and unnecessary) jewelry (such as rings and necklaces), as these will naturally attract thieves.
    • Don’t take your expensive watch with you – before you leave, buy a cheap one that you won’t mind losing and take that instead.

travel safety tips

  • When on a day out, always keep a close eye on your day bag and never let it out of your sight (even when going to the toilet).
  • Don’t leave valuables unattended at the beach (especially when going swimming in the sea).
  • If you’ve got a camera (particularly an expensive looking one), keep it in your day bag (or in your pocket if it fits) instead of around your neck.
  • When traveling on a long train or a bus journey, use a bicycle lock to attach your bag to the seat in front or to a rack. If you don’t have a lock, put your foot through the straps of your bag so that they attached to your leg.
  • Trains are hotspots for thieves so be extra vigilant. On overnight journeys (where you’re staying in a carriage), secure your door shut with a padlock or by tying it closed with a strong piece of cord.

Staying in Accommodation

  • Unfortunately, locals are not the only ones who will steal from you. While most travelers are good people, you always get the odd one who won’t think twice about stealing, given the opportunity. The simplest way to deal with this is not to give them the opportunity in the first place.
  • Some cheaper hotels/hostels may have weak or faulty door locks on the rooms. Check the strength of a lock when moving in, and if you suspect that it might not be the best, shove a door wedge underneath it at night to keep it shut.
  • Bring a padlock when staying in dorm rooms as most hostels have lockers that you can use to store your valuables.
  • Avoid staying in hotel rooms that are on the ground floor (this is especially important for women).
  • Don’t leave possessions within reach or in view of the room’s window.

Drugs – Just Say No

Drugs are illegal almost everywhere you go, and the punishment for possession is usually even more serious outside of the Western world. For instance, in Singapore you can be given the death penalty or at the very least life imprisonment for carrying drugs!

The best advice is to steer clear of them completely. When traveling through airports, never agree to carry anyone else’s bags for them, and never accept anything anyone might have given you to hold in your bag.

In some travel hotspots (such as Ko Pha Ngan) drugs are readily available, but this doesn’t mean the punishment for using them is any less severe, so don’t fool yourself..

Staying Safe Around Water

Water can be a very dangerous thing, and just because you’re on holiday in another country doesn’t make it any less dangerous. Here are some water safety tips:

  • Never go swimming or take part in water activities when you’ve had a lot to drink. The two do not mix well!
  • Never swim in the sea when there’s a red flag flying.
  • Before diving into any kind of water, be sure to first check how deep it is. Diving into water that’s too shallow causes lots of unnecessary injuries every year.
  • If you’re in a foreign country and you want to go swimming (either in the sea, a river or a lake), make sure that it’s safe to do so first by asking one of the locals (or at least someone that’s been there longer than you). This is especially important if there is no-one else swimming in there. Once I was staying in Penang, Malaysia and my friend and I decided to go swimming in the sea. We were the only ones in there, but thought nothing of it. After about 20 minutes, one of the locals came running down the beach and told us to get out of the water as it was filled with poisonous jellyfish! Needless to say, I now check whether or not it’s safe to go swimming before I jump in.
  • Never swim alone at nighttime. You never know what might happen, so always have a buddy close by.
  • When using a lilo, pay attention to how far you’re drifting out and make sure you don’t fall asleep while lying on it.

In Summary

By now you should have a strong idea of how to stay safe when traveling. If you’re ever debating whether you should take something or not, the basic rule to remember when packing is this: If you can’t bear the thought of losing it, don’t take it with you. By following the above tips you should be able to ensure that the most troublesome situations don’t ever occur and will leave you better prepared if they do.

Related posts:

  1. Cash, Credit Cards or Traveler’s Checks – A Guide to Handling Money Abroad

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