Either this is your first time traveling abroad or your 200th time, safety is always a concern. Here are 24 items you need to pay attention to when planning a trip abroad:
1. Get familiarized with the customs and laws of the country – there might be customs and practices that are frowned upon or illegal in your destination. Know which ones that can get you in trouble. (Example: smoking in public places, chewing gum, covering your head if you are a woman, purchasing prescription drug at large amount, etc.)
2. Get necessary vaccinations – do your research ahead of time because some vaccinations require multiple shots over a period of time, so don’t wait too long in researching this. (See Center for Disease Control or similar for your country)
3. Register with your local Embassy, if that service is available. (For US citizens, you can register here)
4. Check any travel alerts and warnings online for the country you are visiting. (For US citizens, click here)
5. Research if any of the medicine that you are taking is illegal in the country that you are visiting. It might be necessary to carry a doctor certificate with you.
6. Make sure all your legal documents are accessible to your family, such as will, insurance, power of attorney, etc.
7. Leave a copy of your itinerary with a trusted family or friend, so someone know where you are (which city or hotel) on a particular day. If you do not have your travel planned in detail like that, at least give a list of places you plan to visit and an estimate timeframe.
8. Make copies of your passport, airline ticket, driver license or any identification and put them somewhere other than your carry on. This is in case your handbag or backpack is stolen, you have an extra copy of your identification with you, which you can show to your Embassy or police. Personally, I also save a copy of my identification documents in secured drive online.
9. Check your credit card limit – avoid overcharging. Arrests are possible for innocently exceeding your credit limit. Don’t forget to take into account that some credit cards have foreign transaction fees, which can add up and take you to your credit line sooner.
10. Check if you need any personal travel medical insurance coverage. Some regular insurance companies may not provide payment for medical care outside your country.
11. Would you need any personal property insurance to cover loss or theft abroad (ex. high end cameras, etc.)?
12. Never accept any packages from anybody you do not know or you did not pack yourself.
13. Do not dress in a way that mark you as an affluent tourist.
14. Dress appropriately – tank tops or clothes showing belly button or shoulders might be offensive at your destination. Do your research.
15. Know any body language or hand signals that could be interpreted as rude in the country you are visiting. (Example: peace sign, thumbs up or using your left hand to eat, or looking in the eye of the opposite sex, which could be perceived as flirting.)
16. Do not discuss travel plans or other personal matters with strangers.
17. If renting a car, prefer a car without a sign, sticker or logo of the rental company as that signals to criminals that you are not from there and that you may be carrying valuable luggage in your car.
18. Know traffic laws of the country – can you turn right on red? What is the minimum and maximum age to drive? Can you use your mobile phone while driving? What happens if you have alcohol on your breath? Many countries have no tolerance policies.
19. Look both ways, especially if you are visiting a country where they drive in the opposite direction. It will be an adjustment. In some countries, pedestrians do not always necessarily have the right of way.
20. Stay on higher floors of a hotel. High enough that is out of reach from criminals, but low enough for fire department to come rescue you, if needed. I have personally experienced this when my friends and I were on vacation. Some men entered their room from the 2nd floor balcony and robbed them. However, for those of us on the 3rd floor (more out of reach) were spared.
21. Know where the nearest fire exit is in the hotel – count the rooms in case of fire and have to crawl through smoke.
22. If possible, wear bags that can be strapped across your chest. There are also some thin packs/pouches you can wear inside your shirt and is barely visible. Some people use it to store cash or passport.
23. Get a strap for your camera which can be wrapped around your wrist. It deters criminals from grabbing the camera from you when taking pictures. Here is a sample and where you can purchase:
24. When drinking with friends or people you meet during your travels, always be mindful of your drink. I personally do this, as I have traveled by myself many times: I usually hold my drink with my hand on top of it. It covers the drink and deters someone from slipping anything in it, so even if I look away from my drink, my hand is still there. Not 100% proof, but anything that I can do to deter bad people from making you a target.
The above list is not meant to scare anyone of from traveling. Quite the opposite! It is there, so you can make necessary preparations and precautions and have a great experience while traveling. The goal is for you to be able to travel over and over again! An ounce of preparation goes a long way. Have a safe trip!