The amount of safety precautions could change for each adventure but safety on trips is something that should be considered every time
When I was 19, traveling on container ships around the world, I learned the importance of safety while on the ship and at the various ports. This experience, along with being a Girl Scout and always being prepared, has driven a list of safety questions that are considered before every trip. While all may not be applicable, you never know until you think about it.
How safe is the location I am visiting?
Doing research about the location(s) visiting is the most important thing that can be done to ensure preparedness for your safety.
Check the State Department for information on international travel
Specific information can be found for each country, as well as general before you go and emergency information
Common scams/robberies on tourists are usually documented so know what to prepare for
Carry the right bag to reduce risk of theft and standing out as a tourist
Weather issues, like monsoons, could pose a safety risk, so check the weather
Use locals for advice when in doubt. They will always have the latest information and usually want to help you out
Where are my identification documents?
Some places require the real thing, while others only need a paper copy or a photo. Having
all versions of important documents can make traveling much easier and also give you an option to keep real documents in a safe while carrying around a paper copy or photocopy.
Let family & friends know your itinerary and keep in contact
Look into using Apps that alert people in an emergency or non public social media Apps to let others know what you are doing
Multiple copies of identification documents
At least 1 paper copy of your passport to someone back home
At least 1 paper copy of your passport with you
Have a digital copy of identification documents on your phone and give to someone you trust
NOTE: If you do lose your passport, a passport photo and 2 forms of identification are needed as well as other items. Ensure copies of Driver's License or other forms can easily be provided as proof to who you are. Refer to State Department Travel Emergencies site for more details
Travel locks and safes are perfect devices to keep copies of identification and extra cash safe
Travel Insurance documents to refer to in an emergency
Copies to emergency contacts in case you are not able to respond
Could I get injured or sick?
Asking this question before traveling has saved me money and time while on vacation. Being prepared on an adventure also makes taking calculated risks much easier to do.
Travel Vaccinations may be required or optional
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) provide recommendations for vaccinations, malaria prevention and other travel health precautions for travel abroad
Travel with a paper copy of vaccinations as well as a photo on your phone
Travel Insurance to cover medical needs as well as covering other aspects of the trip
I personally endorse TravelSafe as a great company to consider when getting insurance but do your research and choose the best for you
Food and water issues that might make you sick
Eating street foods or water from the sink may not be safe. So do your research before making a mistake and spending time sick on vacation. There are also medicines like, Travelan, that can prevent/reduce symptoms. This worked well for me in South America
Water Bottle filters can be a great backup when safe water is not available
A basic First Aid Kit may never be used but is perfect when a cut, burn, blister or scrape occurs
Consider a small travel toilet paper roll (wet wipes) in some countries where toilet paper is not always available
Consider bringing COVID tests. Some organizations allow taking a test through video services as proof of negative result
Common medicines for headaches, allergies or stomach problems can be a game changer and won’t cost an arm and a leg when buying on vacation
Drink responsibly or have a safe Designated Driver/Caretaker when drinking in excess
Safety devices like door jams, locks, whistles, mace, defensive keychains can be a comfort to have but remember traveling on a plane may have restrictions
I personally use a defensive keychain or what I like to call…stabby kitty that is approved on all types of travel
Wear appropriate gear during activities to reduce risk of injury
How important is having cash on hand?
Some places don’t accept credit cards as readily as others. Know a bit about the money culture of where you're traveling to determine how much cash may be needed. Having too much is never going to be a problem, extra can always go back into your bank account after the trip.
Notify your bank or credit card company that you will be traveling overseas
Have cash and hide portions in safe places
Consider an amount that is specifically used in case of emergency, like a hospital visit or police encounter. Some countries will only accept cash in emergency situations
Foreign Currency can be ordered ahead of time or can be converted in foreign airports, exchange companies, banks or ATMs
Figure out what works best of you and consider fees and conversion rates
Have a hidden backup credit card or wallet in places where theft is high
Don't use your back pocket for a wallet
Use ATMs wisley just like you do back home. Be aware and keep an eye out for tampered ATMs. Using ones that are inside a bank or business are usually safer
Don’t flash your wealth and become a target for thieves
Where do I go in an emergency, who do I call?
Trying to figure out where to go or who to call in an emergency can be hard, especially if in a different country where English is not readily spoken. Having a list of emergency info could, in fact, save your life.
Know where the local Hospitals and Clinics are
COVID testing sites are important too
Have Embassy or Consulate location and contact information
Use the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to register international travel or living abroad
Know the country specific emergency numbers. The US has 911 for all emergencies whereas some countries have multiple different types of 3 digit emergency numbers
Basic language guide for local communication or use a translation App
Know where you are with GPS, or those antique maps, so that even if you get lost you know how to get where you need. Ask a local too!
Other safety things to consider
While the above questions cover most safety topics there may be other things to consider that research on the location(s) may bring up.
Don't draw attention to yourself as an obvious tourist. Dress similar to the culture and consider specific clothing needs to religious/historical sites
Don’t share too much personal information with strangers or online
Don’t share flight or hotel details and dates
Keep specific plans to yourself (only family/friends get itinerary)
Make meetups private
Be wary of public Wi-Fi, use a VPN
Wait to post vacation pictures
Secure your hotel room (door jam) and valuables (safe)
Be aware of surroundings and trust your instincts
Don’t do stupid things for an Instagram/TicTok picture or video
Know some basic self defense
Travel in numbers
Travel safety is something that can make or break a vacation. While extreme safety is not needed every trip, it is much better to be prepared than not. I hope these questions become a regular thought for planning adventures and keep you safe when an emergency arises.
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