A few months ago, I wrote about three personal safety tips for international travelers. That article, which can be found here, garnered such a positive response that I decided to add three more tips. Feel free to use the comments section to add your own tips for safe international travel.
Tip #4-Have a Communications Plan
Communications are extremely important in international travel. You need to be able to get help if you need it in an emergency and you also need to be able to reach loved ones and colleagues back home. One of the most valuable personal safety and security tools available is the mobile phone. Be aware that many, if not most, US mobile phones do not work abroad. For a complete explanation of issues surrounding mobile phone usage outside of the US, see this excellent article by Mike Summers. Check with your service provider to make sure your phone will work in the country you will be traveling to. If it won’t, you can rent a phone from a variety of providers. I’ve had very good luck with Global Phoneworks.
In addition to securing a phone that will work in your destination country, also make sure you familiarize yourself with how to dial both local numbers and how to dial other countries from your destination. HowtoCallAbroad.com is a website that allows you to input where you’re calling to and where you’re calling from and will tell you the exact digits you need to dial. It’s also an excellent idea to store the local emergency number (it’s not 911 in most parts of the world) and the number of the nearest US Embassy or Consulate. Be aware that some non-English speaking countries have special emergency numbers for foreigners to call to get help in English.
Tip #5-Protect Your Valuables
According to the U.S. Department of State, most crimes that are committed against foreigners outside of the US are essentially property crimes. One of the best ways you can reduce your chances of being a victim of any type of crime is by not projecting an image of wealth. In second and third-world countries, most people consider all foreigners to be fabulously wealthy anyway; you certainly don’t want to reinforce that by wearing a Rolex watch or carrying a Louis Vuitton handbag. Leave your Rolex at home and get a cheap Timex to take with you and pick up a handbag at Walmart instead of bringing along your designer bag.
It is also important to protect valuables in your hotel room from theft. Even generally honest hotel housekeepers will be tempted by a $1,500 laptop if their salary is $10 per day or less which is common in many countries around the world. If the hotel offers a safe, put all valuables including any electronics in the safe and lock it any time you leave the room. If there are no safes in the room, check with the front desk to see if they have safe deposit boxes. Be aware that designer clothes and accessories can also be a target for theft so lock them up as well.
Finally, don’t forget that your passport is also a very valuable item. According topassportsonline.net, a stolen US passport may be worth up to $3,400 on the black market. In fact, your passport may be the most valuable possession that you travel with. In some countries, like Russia, you are required to have your actual passport with you at all times. In other countries, it’s perfectly acceptable to carry a copy of your passport along with another form of ID, such as a driver’s license. If it’s legal, it’s a good idea to carry a copy of your passport and leave your actual passport locked up at the hotel.
Tip #6-Take Care of Your Health
Most health insurance plans don’t provide coverage overseas so it’s definitely a good idea to consider international health insurance coverage for your trip in case you become ill or are injured while abroad. If you don’t have valid insurance, you may be required to pay huge amounts of money prior to being treated. There are many vendors of this type of coverage, but International SOS is one of the largest and most respected. They provide broad coverage which not only includes excellent health insurance, but also covers medical evacuations if necessary. If you are a frequent traveler, you might consider year around coverage, but coverage for specific short-term trips is also available. I checked with International SOS about coverage for an upcoming four-day trip I’m planning to Costa Rica. The cost of the coverage, depending on options, ranges from $84 to $112 per traveler. That’s a relatively small amount to pay for the piece of mind and would undoubtedly be priceless if something should happen.
You should check with the Centers for Disease Control to see if your destination has any recommended or required vaccinations. These vaccinations sometimes take weeks or even months to be effective so you definitely want to plan ahead. The CDC website offers a wealth of destination-specific information including potential health risks and information on vaccinations. Finally, you should ensure that you have a plentiful supply of any necessary prescriptions. You may not be able to get your prescriptions in your destination country. Be sure to plan for unexpected travel delays as well.
Follow these tips and you’ll be well on your way to a safe and enjoyable trip abroad.