Discover 8 travel precautions to take BEFORE you depart. These safety tips for traveling abroad will help ensure you have a smooth trip and avoid mishaps!
Travel is eye opening, fun, exciting, and can completely change your perspective on life. Like most good things, exploring the world doesn't come without its risks. In today's age between identity theft and terrorism, taking precautions before and during your travels is essential.
This posts details 8 safety tips for traveling abroad. Things I do before every single international trip. These precautions will ensure you have the best trip possible while also preparing for any negative situation you might encounter while abroad.
1. View travel advisories
Visit travel.state.gov to view current travel advisories for the countries you will be visiting. I check this website before I book my plane tickets. There are four advisory levels:
- Exercise normal caution
- Exercise increased caution
- Reconsider travel
- Do not travel
I rarely travel to a destination above a level 2. The website lets you browse by country and explains the reasoning behind each country’s categorization.
You'll find in-depth information on safety risks and recent events including specific regions to avoid, areas to be careful of, and color coded maps.
If I go to a region that is a level 3, I am extra cautious. This means that instead of renting a car and driving around, I will either join reputable tours, hire a private car, or book a shared shuttle. I will also do extra research (and am ok paying extra) to make sure our hotel is in a good area.
This is one of the first travel safety tips you should follow when planning an international trip.
2. Enroll in STEP (Smart Traveler Enrollment Program)
Once you know your travel plans, the next safety tip for traveling abroad is to enroll in STEP.
STEP allows U.S. citizens to document their trip with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. It’s extremely easy and straight forward to enroll and log your upcoming travels. Not only will the U.S. know where you are in an emergency situation, but you will also receive emails on updates, events, strikes, etc., for the countries you will be visiting.
Even if I'm visiting a country I'm 100% comfortable in, like Spain or the UK, I'll still enroll in STEP. Their notifications for things like public transportation strikes have come in useful more than once while I was traveling.
If you, like me, are the travel planner of the group, be sure to enroll your family members or send them instructions so every person on the trip is accounted for in the system.
This travel safety tip really is a must in case some unforeseen event happens and is worth the 5 minutes it will take to enroll.
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3. Copies of passports and credit cards
Take pictures of your passports, IDs, credit cards, and health insurance cards. Save these where you can easily access them like your email or an online cloud like Dropbox or OneDrive.
As an extra precaution, send these to a family member or close friend.
Make copies of these same documents and take them with you on your trip and store them in a different place than the originals. I typically make two copies and will put one set in the safe and one set hidden in my bags.
Some of these safety tips for traveling abroad end up coming in handy unexpectedly. Like when I need to show my passport (via a copy saved in my Google Photos) for VAT refund papers while shopping.
4. Email itineraries and travel documents to a relative or friend
While you're sending copies of your documents to a family member or close friend, include a copy of your itinerary. If you're one to travel with minimal plans, at least send them your hotel confirmations so they know where you are on what dates.
Out of all the safety tips for traveling abroad, this one takes the least amount of time...so no excuses!
5. Clear out your wallet
Don’t take your entire wallet with all your credit cards. Theft is rampant in many tourist cities and identity theft is most common from stolen wallets.
Take only what you need to not only downsize your wallet, but to also ease the headache of having to cancel every single credit card you own in case you're a victim of theft.
I usually take two debit cards for ATM transactions and two credit cards (so I have a backup in case one decides to give me issues). Don’t forget to inform your credit card companies of your travels before you leave!
6. Abstain from oversharing on social media
This travel safety tip is extremely hard in today’s age of social media, Instagram, and Facebook (especially for bloggers like me).
I know you want to let the whole world know you just booked a trip to Germany over Christmas on Instagram or publish live videos of the awesome hotel you just checked-in to.
Try to look at this from the eyes of a potential wrong doer. Telling the world when you will be gone and for how long opens the window to having your home broken into while away. Publishing where you are staying makes you easy to find in a city you don’t know.
Wait to publish these things once you have moved on to the next destination or city.
This is one of the most important travel safety tips for my fellow solo travelers.
7. Research how to fit in
To avoid sticking out as a tourist and a potential victim of theft or worse, research how to fit in. Many guidebooks will include how to dress or what to avoid.
Stay away from eye catching clothing...bright colors, big logos, etc. Stick with neutrals and low profile apparel. If you're wearing a Rolex watch, carrying a name brand handbag, dripping in expensive jewelry...well...you just screamed to everyone on the street that you have money and are the perfect target for theft.
Same goes for carrying that expensive camera around or flying a drone. I always put my camera away in my backpack when I'm not using it. Jake and I usually only fly our drone when we are relatively alone (in the early morning). We wouldn't fly it in the middle of a city where a crowd of people can see us.
Your attire isn’t the only way to stick out (or hopefully blend in). One sure way to scream “I’m an American tourist” is to talk loudly, especially in public places.
Europeans will often say they can spot an American tourist the moment they open their mouth; and it’s not the language they're talking about. Try to match the volume around you. American's are known for being loud. If you're talking loudly, not only will the volume give you away, but now everyone can hear your American accent.
This is one of the safety tips for traveling abroad that will also give you better experience since you won't immediately be labeled as "another annoying American tourist" and treated accordingly.
8. Know areas and places to avoid
If you read your guidebook front to back, chances are it will mention areas to avoid in general or to stay away from after dark. If not, do a quick Google search on “areas to avoid in X city” or “unsafe areas in X city”.
No city is 100% safe and it’s good to know in advance what neighborhoods or streets to be careful of. If you forget to do this travel safety tip before you leave or don't trust your research, just ask the front desk or concierge at your hotel.
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