When you’re gearing up for your next big trip, you’ll likely advance through the important stages of travel first. From securing your passport to booking your flight and hotel, you’ll feel like you’re ready to take on the world. Before you go to pack your suitcase, take some time to learn about the safest travel practices. When you’re visiting a new country, you face a new set of challenges. From learning how to navigate city streets to asking for the bathroom in a foreign language, there is plenty of room for error during your trip. To ensure you’re being as safe as possible, adopt a few strategic moves both before you leave and while you’re visiting your selected destination.

Know Before You Go

How to stay safe abroad: woman in glasses sitting on cafe and using laptop

Before you embark on your next great adventure, check for any travel advisories posted by either the American State Department or the British government’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Both agencies frequently update tourists on any potential threats looming in a specific area. If civil unrest is taking place in the country you’ve chosen to visit, a travel advisory is issued to detail what’s going on. The advisory includes information pertaining to the issue itself and a general statement declaring whether it’s still safe to travel there. This is important to check in advance, as you don’t want to find yourself in the middle of a tumultuous ordeal.

After you’ve checked for any travel advisories, grab your notebook and look up a some info to write down:

  • Determine if there are any laws of the country you’re visiting that might cause some legal trouble for you. Note any traffic laws, laws pertaining to alcohol consumption, and general practices the country is known for upholding that you wouldn’t normally think would be a problem. Knowing ahead of time what you and can’t do in a foreign place, and where you don’t know anyone.
  • Find out and save the relevant emergency numbers for where you’re visiting during your trip. Include local hospitals, police stations, and the American embassy or consult located in the country (if you’re a U.S. citizen, of course). While you may not need to contact the embassy for any reason, it’s best to have the number written down in case of emergencies.
  • Figure out a few key phrases in the native language of where you’re going that you’ll want to have handy. Some must-know words: bathroom, allergy, hospital, police, and help. Basic greetings are also useful, as is learning how to ask for someone who speaks English.

Be Aware of Your Surroundings

how to stay safe abroad: woman tourist walking on the street in Europe

Being aware of your surroundings is essential when visiting a new country. Simple gestures like using a map or your camera may seem like relatively harmless actions, but they can make you vulnerable to crime.

Locals who observe you following a map quickly understand you’re a tourist, which can leave you susceptible to robberies and other offenses. Avoid actively following directions on your phone or with a printed map. Read through the directions before you leave your hotel or stop into a shop along the way to your destination. If you need to check your phone to make sure you’re heading in the right direction, pretend you’re browsing your social media feed .

Never advertise the fact that you’re lost. If you’re unsure of where you are, ask a police officer for directions or find the nearest hotel and speak with the concierge.

You may be tempted to bring a new digital camera along with you wherever cheap round trip flights take you, but it’s best to leave flashy electronics and expensive items, such as shoes and clothing, at home. If you unpack a professional camera and start snapping photos everywhere you go, you signal to everyone around you that you’re a tourist harboring expensive items. Strategically picks spots to take your vacation photos and avoid wearing or carrying anything showing how much money you have.

In addition to practicing safety in terms of following directions and taking pictures, it’s equally important to refrain from divulging any personal information while you’re out exploring. Never tell anyone you don’t know or trust the name of the hotel where you’re staying, which room number you’re booked under, or where you’re going. Keeping that info private can keep you from becoming the victim of a crime.

Public Transportation Is Your New Best Friend

how to stay safe abroad: woman passenger with casual suit using smart mobile phone in the Skytrain rails or subway for travel in the big city

Using a ride sharing app might seem sensible, but it’s best to rely on public transportation when visiting a new country. It maximizes your safety, since you won’t run the risk of entering the wrong ride share or an unmarked cab.

Some public transit pointers for when you’re visiting a new country:

  • Study the available public transportation routes before you leave home.
  • It’s also a good idea, if you’re taking a bus alone, to sit close to the driver and avoid the top of a double-decker bus during nighttime hours.
  • Whenever possible, if you’re traveling by yourself, to sit among a crowd of people so you don’t appear alone or isolated. There’s always power in numbers.

If you have to take a taxi..

  • Be sure to check that it’s is clearly marked on the outside with distinguishing signs or features.
  • Don’t be bothered to ask the driver for identification before entering the vehicle.
  • Avoid sitting in the front seat next to the driver.
  • Exit the vehicle as soon as you have paid for your trip.
  • Always ask the taxi driver to drop you off in a safe, well-lit area.

Have any of your own tips or advice to stay stay abroad? Leave them as comments below!

5 Responses

  1. Tom

    Do not take more than what you really need.
    Use hotel safes to store extra money,passport,or any other important papers.
    Learn some of the language ,the locals will appreciate the effort.
    Obey their laws,you are in their country ,not your own.

    Reply
  2. Edwin G. Trompeta

    Watch out for restaurant personnel who will try to confuse you with the listed menu. Try to verify or check exactly what you ordered, how much it will cost you and which one in the menu did the waiter wrote down. My family paid almost 500€ for a food order scam in Rome.

    Reply
  3. Longrifle

    Keep money, passport, ID, etc., in pouch under clothing. Nothing valuable in pockets. All pickpocket got on Milan subway was dirty tissue !

    Reply
  4. BETTY GORDON

    1. take ALL MEDS in your carry-on suitcase.

    2. delta had converters in the business section for us; i should have used this vs. trying to use my just bought ones that did NOT work.

    3. if you required WHEELCHAIR ASSISTANCE all the way, make SURE they provide it for you!
    *************************************

    delta DIDN’T when i arrived in minneapolis, minnesota! flight personnel gathered around the desk when i departed using my walker.

    across hallway was an INFORMATION desk, so i asked where SKYMILES was located since i paid for 1st class…food/drinks included at that location.

    i registered there; they took my info down when my flight would depart & which gate. they would have ELECTRIC CART take me there.

    buzzer rang; i departed promptly. thousands of folks were there and would NOT move out of middle of huge airport. driver would NOT beep or ask folks to move.

    took over 30 minutes to get there. people in line at gate. I MISSED MY FLIGHT 2-4 MINUTES! i had to wait 27 hours to fly overseas in 1st class.

    4. because of missing my flight, my luggage was held in minneapolis. IT DIDN’T GO WHEN I DID.

    luggage was lost for 4 days to get to me!! my meds were in there unfortunately! i learned the hard way.

    had to find a dr. to issue prescription drugs to replace LOST ones. huge imposition.

    5. i got my banks TRAVEL rewards credit card; that worked everywhere!

    when the credit card bill came, it was in AMERICAN charges; vs. the country i was in.

    so write down ALL YOUR CHARGES keeping the receipts to make sense of credit card bill.

    6. my friend lent me her PASSPORT NECK CARRIER since you have to show it so much and her purse which held a bottle of water on side! worked great 😉

    7. wear COMPRESSION HOSE when flying overseas and if you are driving all day, etc. so your feet/legs don’t swell up.

    8. in your carry-on bag, make sure all meds, 2 days of CLOTHES, toilet paper/wipes, snack food, etc. are in there.

    9. have a typed list of everything you are packing plus what your suitcase looks like in case it’s LOST like mine was for 4 full days! it helped once it arrived at the proper airport!

    10. make copies of your passport, credit cards…front/back, itinerary of flight, names/address/phone no. of all you are going to see AT HOME ON TABLE plus in each suitcase.

    11. BUY TRIP CANCELLATION INSURANCE which covers LOST LUGGAGE too.

    12. keep everything…all luggage tags, tickets, etc. so you can make copies of them to send in for MISSED FLIGHTS/LOST LUGGAGE, ETC.

    13. take detailed notes who you call, date/time, and what was said by who in what state.

    KEEP RUNNING notes of on-going conversations to keep BUGGING them for reimbursement costs!!

    That’s what comes to me offhand from my 2 wk. vacation to europe in august since i lost 1 day since i missed my flight.

    betty gordon, iowa

    Reply
  5. Steve

    Don’t hail taxis on the street. Instead, ask your hotel, restaurant, or a nearby business to call a taxi for you.

    Reply

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About The Author

Sam is a writer and editor based in New England. She enjoy learning new languages, drinking lattes, and spending time with loved ones. Sam is an avid reader who practices yoga daily and tries to laugh as often as possible.