5 Simple Safety Tips to Know While Traveling (I’m Not Neurotic, I’m Cautious!)

Travel, Safety, Planning, Adventure | Packs Light

Ah, safety when traveling. The most riveting and exciting of topics.

The world isn’t sunshine and rainbows all the time, and you can’t travel without knowing that there are good and bad people in the world. And it’s better to be over prepared than to get hurt because you were naive of the hazards of being a traveler!

1.) Document your trip with an official site.

You can check the United States’ State Department website for Travel Alerts and Warnings for countries around the world. These warnings date and give full descriptions of any dangers in an area, expressly describing past events and warnings and naming specific dangers and areas to avoid.

For example, if your destination is on a high alert because of recent political unrest, the State Department website will tell you exactly which parts of the country are most volatile and to avoid. The entire Department of State website is a good travel tool: it has passport information, travel tips, and emergency information.

You can also register your trip with the State Department with their Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) tool; this allows the State Department to know your dates of travel, location, contact information, nature of visit, and other travel details.

It may seem extreme, but if you go missing in the Sahara Desert, the STEP program may be your only chance of the U.S. government rescuing you! It’s also a good idea to always give your travel itinerary and contact information to someone you know, most likely your parents, in case something should happen.

2.) Take an Anti-Terrorism Awareness Course.

Stop. I know what you’re thinking.

… Does this look like ‘Taken’ to you? And do I look like Liam Neeson to you? No, and no.

Hear me out. Terrorism is not a word anyone throws around lightly, but these training courses aren’t about snipering down some loon with a bomb strapped to their chest.

The courses go over basic safety measures such as: know where all of the exits in your hotel are, know emergency information such as the address and phone number of the closest  embassy of your country, and what to do in various situations such as if a dangerous situation should arise.

Again, it sounds extreme, but it really is better to be safe than sorry as no one ever plans for bad things to happen, they just happen.

For example, one of my stops on my Australia trip in December of 2013 was the capital of Sydney. We stayed for five days, and in that time we frequented a local cafe every morning to use their Wi-Fi and have some coffee.

This December 2014 in Sydney, almost exactly a year later, there was a hostage situation in which hostages were held for 16 hours, and 2 innocent civilians ended up dying. It was in the same cafe. 

 

Obviously this was an unavoidable and tragic event, but sometimes these things do happen. And having some semblance of previous experience and an idea of what to do in situations could potentially save a life! Maybe even yours.

3.) Have copies of all important travel information.
Regardless of your trip destination, when traveling always be sure to carrying a photocopy of your passport, ID, and itinerary when touring. You can lock up your real identification in a safe at your hotel or in your suitcase/backpack. You can also protect your belongings by buying suitcase-locks and never leaving anything of value out to be stolen.

But beware pickpockets! When touring it’s better to carry a bag that you can hold close to you under your arm or in front of you and not backpacks or bigger bags.

With backpacks and bigger bags it’s easy for thieves to cut the bottom of the bag and steal the contents, and it’s less likely that you’ll even notice because it’s behind you.

Fanny packs are fashionable and functional, people! And so, so fashionable (crosses fingers).  Trust me 🙂

4.) Try not to stick out like a sore thumb.
Also, if you’ve ever lived in a place with high tourism (cough cough Washington D.C.) then you know there is nothing more annoying than an obvious tourist who is disrupting the daily flow of things by standing in the middle of the street or talking inappropriately loud.

We, as Americans, are often known to be the most guilty of this! So it’s important to always be aware of any odd laws or customs in your host country.

For example, in most Middle Eastern countries it is respectful to wear clothes that cover your shoulders, chest, and knees. Also, in mosques it’s customary to wear a headscarf and remove your shoes before entering. Being aware of cultural customs can keep you from inadvertently insulting anyone (always unwise, but especially so in a foreign country) and drawing unwanted attention.

In a nut shell: try not to be the stereotypical “ignorant” tourist; instead be a humble participant in the culture that you are a guest in.

5.) Don’t let your guard down too quickly.
Okay, disclaimer: I didn’t say, “Never trust anyone, the world is inherently evil and someone is always waiting for an opportunity to bring you down”, so you can lower your humanitarian sword now.

But it is an unjust fact of this world that women are more likely to be harassed—or worse—when by themselves. We’re gorgeous and perfect and unfortunately some people just can’t handle that (snap). Therefore, while only you can personally determine how safe you feel, I recommend traveling in groups at night when possible.

Also if you decide to go out partying at night take similar precautions as you would at home: always watch when a bartender pours you a drink, never accept drinks from strangers, never get too incoherent, always have your night planned out before you go out, etc. Of course there are nights when you can break some of these rules and be perfectly fine, but it’s better to be cautious.

Personal safety should come before having fun, and protecting your friends its just as important as making sure you get home safe yourself!

Practicing some simple common sense and a little forethought can keep you safe and happy on any adventures you go on. And unfortunately it’s often when we think we’re safest that we’re most at risk, so even if your friends think your crazy (or if you think you’re crazy), utilizing even some of these safety practices might just save a life! Maybe even yours!


Have any more safety tips you suggest? Let me know in the comments!

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18 Discussion to this post

  1. Victoria | Girl Tries Life says:

    Not sure I’d go as far as an anti-terrorism course, but I’ve definitely taken a first-aid course in case of injuries on the road, and a self-defence course. Great tips, though.

    • gogabby says:

      Great advice as well! The Anti-Terrorism course sounds extreme but it basically trains you to always have the number of the closest embassy on hand, to know where your exists are, and when you should be aware of your surroundings 🙂 Its an online course! But self defense and first aid training are very smart!

  2. Claire says:

    Wow, I just realized that I’ve never done any of these! Well, I always try to respect local customs, but I supposed I’m kind of naive in the way that I assume outright that most people are nice and don’t want to hurt me. Well I like to think of myself as optimistic rather than naive.

    • gogabby says:

      It’s not a first thought to most people to think “Hmmm I should register my trip with the federal government”, lol! But their great Just In Case habits to have! I also believe the world is an inherently nice place but also believe in Just In Case 🙂

  3. Tarah says:

    Great tips! I always try to keep copies of important travel documents in my email or in a safe spot on my phone, just in case! Registering your trip with the state is a great idea-havent thought of that!

  4. Jessica Beare says:

    Interesting read! And I think very poignant in this day and age. I think it’s a really useful post for first time travellers who are maybe a bit anxious about travelling solo. I think a good addition would be to take a first aid course, even if it’s just one for the public, or a course on udemy so you know how to look after yourself and those around you that will help keep down your panic 🙂

    • gogabby says:

      That’s a fantastic point too! It’s great for new travelers to have a little feel of a safety blanket when first starting to adventure 🙂

  5. Mimi says:

    I do most of these, although I’ve never documented my trips on official sites. I’d also add that you should keep your bags locked up when you’re out and about. Great post!

  6. Eva Bosh says:

    I’m always trying to be as cautious as possible and some people would maybe say that I’m overreacting, but I believe firmly that it’s better to be safe than sorry! Thanks for the tips 😀

  7. Inma says:

    You’re so right! Loved these tips. Better safe than sorry 🙂

  8. Cynthia says:

    Thanks for the great tips! This was a great article! 🙂

  9. Jen Morrow (@jentheredone) says:

    #4 is so important! Also, I have a designated check-in person and specified times during my travels.

  10. travelling chingrita says:

    Great tips! I always have a safety plan in place before I head off. I’m super paranoid, so I copy everything. Good to have hard copy for yourself, another left at home for a friend and I have a secured PDF of it all stored on my google drive.

    Also, I always advise my credit card company then re-check my insurance policy before I take off. Can’t be too cautious!

    • gogabby says:

      Oh yes I always notify my banks as well! And having a hard copy and digital copy is always important, as I learned the hard way when I needed my visa for Turkey which was online on my phone, and I couldn’t get wifi at the Istanbul airport… Yikes!

  11. jelisa says:

    great ideas gabby! i’ve traveled nonstop for 4 years and I’ve never done any of these. lol.
    thanks for bringing them to my attention

    • gogabby says:

      To me these tips are like wearing a seat belt when you drive! I’m sure tons of people go their whole lives and don’t wear seat belts and are fine. But those who get in accidents REALLY wish they had. As with these tips, they’re just in case tips 🙂

  12. Wow, wonderful blog layout! How long have you been blogging for? you made blogging look easy. The overall look of your web site is wonderful, let alone the content!

  13. Mell says:

    Hey, just an edit you should do. The man at the centre of the Lindt hostage situatuion wasn’t a member of Isis. He was actually just a dude with issues and a known history of causing trouble. Please can you fix this in your article as I would hate for people to think that extremist groups are that active in Australia.

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