There are few things more exciting than jetting off to an international destination and it’s easy to get caught up in the thrill of a new adventure. While the odds are good that you’ll come home unscathed and with pleasant memories, it’s important to heed certain safety precautions no matter where you plan to go.
Be Familiar with the Layout of Your Destination
Before you head out to explore, take time to get to know your destination, reviewing a map of the area to help you get your bearings. Search for a local forum online to get information from those who know the city well to find out if there are any neighborhoods that should be avoided.
Forums on TripAdvisor and Reddit are great for asking questions of those who’ve been there before. Reddit also has subreddits specific to countries where you can ask a question and it will likely be answered by those with expert local insight. You can also search for groups on Facebook that are specifically focused on travel to a particular city or country. You can also download safety apps, like OZZI, to receive safety alerts for the area you're traveling too, and to keep up-to-date on potential emergencies or problems while you're visiting.
Be Prepared for Pickpockets and Scams
In just about any city where crowds gather, pickpockets and scams are a possibility, and in some places, they’re extremely common. In Rome, a would-be thief might try and distract you by placing a bird on your shoulder and offering to take your photo. Instead, they make off with your wallet or purse.
Never put your wallet, phone, or hotel room key in your back pocket when you’re walking city streets, on public transport, or in an area with a lot of people. Clothes with hidden pockets, money belts, or a cross-body handbag are all good alternatives. Any time you’re exploring a new place stay alert and aware of your surroundings. It can be easy to get caught up in the moment, making you an easy target.
Don’t Share Too Much
One of the best parts of traveling is the opportunity to meet people you probably wouldn’t have a chance to meet at home. But be cautious about sharing too much when striking up a conversation with a stranger. For example, never tell someone you just met where you’re staying in town. The sad reality is that are some who will see your willingness to share as a signal that you’re easy to take advantage of.
Bring Several Different Forms of Money
Not having access to money can put anyone in a bind so be sure to bring more than one form. Certain debit or credit cards may not work in the destination you’re visiting so you’ll want to bring a backup or two. Keep an emergency card somewhere other than your wallet and carry some local cash as well. Try to exchange currency at your bank before you travel, as it’s often much less expensive than using an exchange kiosk at the airport. Store bundles of cash in multiple places, including your carry-on, a checked bag, and somewhere on your person. That way, if you’re separated from your luggage, you won’t lose all your budgeted money.
Learn Helpful Phrases and Carry a Translator
If you’re traveling to a country where you don't speak the language, you should learn basic phrases like “hello,” “please” and “thank you,” as it shows that you’re interested in the culture, and you might make a friend or two in the process. But you’ll also want to know certain phrases to use in an emergency situation like “Call the police” or “Where is the hospital?”
As your newfound knowledge is unlikely to cover everything, having a translator app on your phone or simply knowing how to use Google Translate can be a lifesaver.
Keep Family and Friends Updated on Your Whereabouts
Before you leave, send a copy of your itinerary to a few people you trust so that they know where to reach you if there is an emergency back home. At the same time, you’ll want to keep in touch with them on a regular basis, whether by phone call, text, or email, so they’ll know you’ve made it to each destination you plan to visit. Be sure to include the addresses and phone numbers of your accommodations as well as flight numbers and other transportation details.
Research Transportation Options
If you don’t plan to rent a car, be sure to research the transportation options to find out which taxi companies are reputable. Taxi scams are common in many cities around the world – know what they are and how to avoid them.
If ride-sharing apps like Uber are commonly used in the area and you plan to get around that way, double check the vehicle information and verify the driver’s name before getting into the car.
And if public transportation like buses or a metro is the most convenient way to get around, be sure to get a copy of the route maps ahead of time. Buy your tickets or city pass early if you can, and plan out your route before you get to the station so you know exactly where you’re going.
If you drink alcohol, one of the most important safety tips to heed is to limit how much you consume. While it can be fun to explore the local nightlife, it’s even more critical to drink responsibly when traveling abroad as you’re more likely to get lost, lose your purse, wallet, or phone, and be an easier target for robbery, scams or worse.
Another rule to follow is to always keep an eye on your drink and never accept a drink from a stranger. Keep an eye on your traveling companions and make a solid plan for returning to your dwelling at the end of the evening.
Feature image credit: FTiare/ iStock