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