Travel Safety 101
Is a life without risk worth living at all?
Trick question - Living life without risk is impossible!
One of the most dangerous things we do is get behind the wheel of a car, but many of us do it every day. Sure, you could barricade yourself in your home and never leave. Even then, you could still experience a fall or a fire or giant meteor crashing through your roof.
Okay, that last one’s pretty unlikely, but you get my point.
Travel - like life - is not without an element of risk.
Traveler safety is a common topic that my clients want to talk about, and it is an important conversation to have. Don't let risk scare you, but do allow it to help you prepare so you do not become a target.
As we enter the busiest time of the year for international travel, here are 10 tips to limit your risk while vacationing abroad:
Leave Symbols of Wealth at Home
The definition of wealth is relative. Those tiny diamond earrings may not catch any eyes at home, but they can make you a target while traveling. Savvy travelers leave their fine jewelry, nice watches, and Swarovski-covered phone cases at home.
If you cannot bear the thought of leaving your wedding ring behind, consider a cheap alternative to wear while traveling. There are silicone wedding bands available that allow you to retain that symbol of commitment without catching the interest of criminals. Check out an example here.
Never Go Anywhere Alone
Common sense, right? Still, it has to be said. Even when you are in a fancy resort setting with extensive security, do not let your guard down just because you are on vacation. Walk with a partner or friend, especially after dark.
Consider Using the STEP Traveler Registration
The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, or STEP, is a free service provided by the US State department. You provide your information and trip details, and your enrollment will allow the US Embassy to contact you in the event of an emergency. You can read more about the STEP program here.
Make Copies of your Passport and Travel Documents
I always advise my clients to make a few copies of their passports, travel documents and vouchers.
The originals should be carried on your person. A paper copy should be printed off and stored in your luggage. A digital copy should be saved in the cloud where you can access it if necessary. Lastly, one more copy should be given to a trusted friend or family member at home. If your passport is lost or stolen, it is much easier to replace it if you can present a copy at the US Embassy.
Speaking of US Embassies…
Know How to Ask for Help
911 is not a universal truth. Research local emergency numbers in the area you are visiting in advance so that you can access them quickly if necessary. Find out the location of the US Embassy closest to your destination. In the event of a natural disaster or political uprising, or lost passport, the US Embassy is your friend.
Just like when you're at your hometown bar, keep an eye on your drink at all times.
Don't overdo it.
Nothing good comes from getting overly intoxicated in a foreign country. ‘Nuff said.
Trust with Caution
Understand that most people are honest, but still use caution. When hailing a cab, make sure it is a certified driver and negotiate the rate in advance. Many countries have ride-sharing options like Uber or Lift that allow you to verify the driver’s license plate and identity before getting in the vehicle. A great option is to have your travel advisor pre-arrange transportation from a viable transfer company in advance.
Blend in with the Locals
A big part of respecting the local culture of the area you are visiting is to assimilate to their customs when it comes to manners and dress. Learn a few phrases in the local language - even just “Hello”, “Goodbye”, “Thank you” and “Where is the bathroom?”
Do your research on appropriate clothing for the area. If the local culture embraces a modest clothing style, do not show up for a public tour in a tank top and shorts. Be respectful - you are a guest in another country.
Secure your Valuables
You know those super nerdy wallets that stash underneath your clothing? Yep, they serve a purpose. Just don’t dig them out from underneath your clothing to pay for stuff in public. When you are in a busy tourist area or an attraction that is well-known for pickpocketing, keep your cash and credit cards well-hidden and tucked away.
Some people go so far as to use a “dummy wallet” with a couple of dollars and an old credit card (with a non-active account number) to surrender if necessary. Keep your cell phone in your pocket when you are not using it. It only takes a moment for someone to swipe your phone off the table at that cafe when you’re not looking. That’s called a crime of opportunity. Don’t provide the opportunity.
Get Travel Insurance
Prior to becoming a travel advisor, I would occasionally gamble with my personal travel and choose not to buy travel insurance. After being in the industry for a while, I have seen too many people get burned by not having travel insurance. Opting out of insurance can be a very expensive mistake. Things happen, and they happen often. Luggage gets delayed and/or lost. Flights get cancelled. Weather interrupts your plans. Injuries and illnesses happen. Never travel uninsured.
Hopefully this article helped you discover some new tools to help you stay safe on your journeys! As we enter the busiest season of the year for international travel, there is one common theme that rings true no matter where you go - Don’t forget to pack your common sense when you head out to see the world.
Safe travels, friends!
Founder and Travel Advisor
Wander Beyond Travel