Everyone has an image in their mind about an upcoming travel adventure, which doesn’t include getting sick, injured, pick-pocketed, or worse.
You can have a great time traveling anywhere, and a little thought and preparation is all it requires to improve your chances of staying safe while traveling.
It doesn’t have to be a lot of work or really all that difficult to do. Whether you travel solo or with others, it’s a good idea to plan ahead for your upcoming trip.
Here’s a helpful guide for how to stay safe while traveling with useful tips that can benefit anyone.
NOTE: if you are looking for specific information to stay safe while traveling during the current pandemic, please visit the World Health Organization’s website and check what your government recommends about the places you plan to visit.
Staying Safe While Traveling
1. Research Before You Go
It’s essential to do your homework before going on a trip as finding ways to stay safe while traveling happens well before your boots hit the ground.
Read a guide book about your destination or take advantage of so much information available online. If you do a quick search on travel in the area you want to go, you’ll find lots of travel guides and blog posts with personal accounts that can be really useful.
Also, check out travel forums. Lonely Planet, Fodors, and Tripadvisor are all great ones, and there are others.
Search for the area you are traveling to and read a few trip accounts. Of course, make sure they are fairly current, and if not, you may want to ask if anything shared is still a concern for people who have traveled more recently.
Check if there are any safety topics listed in the forum and, if not, post something asking if there are any safety recommendations and places that you should not go to.
And keep in mind—there is crime everywhere. It may be more of the pick-pocketing variety than violent muggings, but if you know what to be prepared for before you go, you can keep yourself safe better.
Don’t stop your research once you get there though. When you’re on your trip, get advice from the locals. Sometimes you’ll get some great tips that you won’t read anywhere in a book or online. Ask at your hotel or apartment, or if you meet someone fun in your travels, get the scoop from them. It’s important to share experiences to keep everyone safe.
2. Bring Copies of Your Documents
Before you head out on your trip, it’s a good idea to make photocopies of your important documents, including your passport and driver’s license or identification card. Also, make copies of things like your insurance card, credit cards, bank cards, and any other important things you may have.
Take copies of the front and the back of your cards. This way, you have the account numbers and the numbers you need to call to notify the companies that your cards were lost or stolen.
Copies of your passport can help serve as proof of identification if your passport is misplaced or stolen.
It’s a good idea to have at least two sets of copies of your important documents and items. Carry one on your person in a different area than the originals. So, if you carry your cards and identification in a messenger bag, consider keeping the copies in a pocket of your clothes or in a money belt. Then, have a second copy saved at your accommodation, ideally in a safe. If there isn’t one, you could ask if the front desk can hold them, or stash them in your room somewhere, not readily apparent.
3. Get Recommended Vaccinations
No one wants to get unnecessary vaccinations. However, you can get exposed to a lot of different diseases when you travel. For example, many poorer countries don’t have the water quality or sanitation measures of other countries. You can get exposed to Typhoid, Hepatitis A, and others.
Vaccinations are optional in most countries you will visit, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get them. And for a select number of countries certain vaccinations are mandatory, which can also depend on where you are traveling from, so you should check this out before you travel.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is the source of this information in the United States. They do a great job providing recommended vaccinations as well as travel precautions. Other countries will have similar organizations that provide the same information.
4. Find Out if You Can Drink the Water
This is one of the biggest mistakes people make when traveling, and it can cost you time out of your trip and a miserable few days.
Before you travel, determine if you can safely drink the water. Now, the water is a little different anywhere you go as it has different microbes in it, so you have the potential to have some stomach upset regardless. So, even if you can drink the water, go easy on local water at the start of your trip.
There are places where it is highly advised to not drink the water. You can purchase bottled water, or be eco-friendly and purchase a filtration bottle or a water sterilizer like a Steripen. Both options work great and can keep you safely enjoying your trip.
5. Get Travel Insurance
Of course, we don’t want to think about anything bad happening when we travel, but sadly, sometimes it does.
If you do get sick or injured while traveling, you’ll want to be sure you have protection through travel insurance. Sure, it’s not required, but it’s a great idea.
Not only does travel insurance offer some financial protection should you need medical care, but it often provides coverage for things like trip cancellation, baggage loss, and other similar situations.
Make sure you review the policy to ensure it covers what you may need.
6. Remain Aware at All Times
While you’re traveling and having a great time, it’s essential that you also keep an eye out around you.
Notice if you’re entering an area that is dimly-lit or if someone is paying a little too much attention to you. This is similar to the scanning you do when you’re driving a car. You do it so often that you don’t even notice it, but you’re continually looking back and forth in your field of vision to see if there’s anything you need to be careful of, and the same guidance is good for traveling as well.
Keep an eye out at all times, even when you’re with other people. We often think that we are safer in groups, but that’s when we often pay less attention to what is going on around us. Look out for the people you are with as well as yourself and if you see something of concern, speak up!
Trust your gut. If it feels like something is wrong, it very likely is and you’ll want to get out of the situation.
And while you’re at it, it’s good to have an idea of where you’re going before you head out. Nothing screams “tourist” like someone standing on a corner, holding a map and scratching their head. Of course, you can use a map or your phone for navigation, but take a look at your route before you head out so you don’t have to consult with your map quite so much.
7. Dress Like the Locals
It’s a good idea to try to blend in as much as possible to decrease your chance of being a target.
Before you go, research what the locals wear. This is especially important for women in countries where women dress more modestly. In some places, tank tops and shorts are not appropriate attire. Not only will it draw unwanted attention, but you may be banned from visiting places like temples and palaces as well.
Another example is white sneakers. They may be popular to wear in the United States, however, they will quickly brand you a tourist in much of the rest of the world. Consider your attire carefully as it may help you stay safe while traveling and have a better time.
While we’re on the topic of attire, you’ll want to consider safety with what you’re wearing as well. Consider using a money belt if you’re carrying a lot of cash on you. There are some creative versions in scarfs or even a bra clip.
Backpacks should be worn on the front and purses should be worn across the chest. You don’t want anything exposed where someone could easily do a snatch and run or you are exposing yourself to a pickpocket.
Also, be very cautious when you pull out your phone. People tend to keep their phone in their hands without really noticing which is an easy opportunity for someone to grab it and run. For that matter, it’s also a good idea to not zone out on your phone. Be aware of your surroundings when you use it, then put it away.
8. Leave Your Valuables at Home
Consistent with wanting to blend in where you travel, it’s also advisable to not bring demonstrations of wealth like big and flashy jewelry.
You can certainly bring jewelry with you if you choose to but may want to leave your most valuable or sentimental pieces at home. A great rule of thumb is this: if you’d be heartbroken to lose it, leave it at home.
And keep in mind that wearing expensive jewelry or showing your expensive iPhone or camera can make you a target for pickpocketing.
9. Let Others Know Where You Will Be
Share your trip information with loved ones before you go. This should include things like your hotel or accommodation name, address, contact numbers as well as the dates you are staying there.
Let them know when you will check in and make sure you do as promised. Not only will you not give them cause to worry, but if you don’t check in and aren’t reachable, it lets them know you may need help.
Now that internet and phone connectivity are so prevalent, staying in touch is so much easier. However, your phone may not always work so make sure you have a system in place so your loved ones can be sure you’re ok.
10. Be Careful When You’re Drinking
It’s great to go out and have a good time and often especially so when we travel.
You may be tempted to drink a bit more than you usually might and that’s ok. Just be cautious about it.
Make sure you always have an eye on your drink to be sure no one is slipping anything in it, and be careful if you’re traveling solo or if you’re alone for a bit when you’ve been drinking.
Final Thoughts on How to Stay Safe While Traveling
Though this post may have you feeling a tad fearful about what could go wrong on your trip, it puts you in the driver’s seat. You can better be prepared to make sure you’ll have a great time by making some preparations before you go and by being aware while you’re on your trip.
It’ll all become second nature with practice and you won’t give it a second thought. You also won’t have a cautionary tale to tell your friends.
So, safe travels, everyone!
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