Are you like me, always scouring the internet for super discounts and great deals on international air travel?
With outbound international travel from the USA increasing more and more every year, travelling to Europe or Asia for even a long weekend doesn't seem that much out of the ordinary anymore. Wherever you may be planning to travel abroad next, it's a good idea to make sure you have some simple and standard best practices in place to optimize your safety and give you peace of mind to enjoy your trip.
The first thing I recommend you always do before an international trip is register with The Department of State's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (Step) It takes just a few minutes and it's free! By doing this you'll receive the latest safety and security information for your destination country, it'll help U.S. Embassy contact you in case of emergency (natural disaster, civil unrest, family emergency), and it helps family and friends get in touch with you abroad in an emergency.
Make sure to send a copy of your itinerary, including the hotels you're staying at and/or the Airbnbs to a friend or family member who is not travelling with you. It's also a good idea to have some kind of phone number they can call abroad to get a hold of you, whether it's a tour operator/local guide, somebody that you are visiting, or as mentioned at least the hotel's phone number where you'll be staying.
Get up to date on your travel vaccines before your trip. Common vaccines that are a good idea for any traveler are Hepatitis A and B, Typhoid, Tetanus and Rabies. But you can check the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
website or your specific country and what they recommend getting and being up to date on.
Another best practice is to keep your passport locked in your hotel safe or at least locked in your luggage if there's not a safe in your room while you're out in your destination country. Take a picture of it with your phone or photocopy it ahead of time to carry on you. That way, if it is stolen or lost, getting a replacement will be much easier.
An old trick to employ for extra security while traveling is to use a dummy wallet which contains some canceled credit cards and just a little bit of cash. It’s enough to make a would-be thief think he or she is getting something worthwhile, while keeping your real valuables well hidden, like under the insole of your shoe or a secret pocket you have sewn inside of your pants or shirt.
Also, find out what the local emergency hotlines are in each country (911 is not universal) you visit and save them to your phone or write them down and keep on you at all times. And always know where the nearest U.S. embassy is or consulate.
Try to dress down a bit when travelling abroad, and lose the fancy watches and jewelry. For obvious reasons, you don't want to scream "hey I'm an American tourist with a good amount of cash and valuables on me" as you're exploring other countries and cultures. Try to blend in as much as possible. I don't even wear shirts or hats that advertise American sports teams, movies, bands or cities on them when I travel abroad. That might be taking it a bit too far, but again my goal is to blend in as much as possible and not cause attention to myself. And it's nice to shed a little bit of our American heritage when in other countries, if not for just a week or two.
Finally, interactive travel forum sites like TripAdvisor can be a good resource to review other travelers' recent experiences in your up-coming destination country/city and avoid any specific tours or areas where problems, crime, or unrest have been reported. Just click on the travel board forum for your destination city or country and get current advise and travel tips in almost real-time.
I encourage you to travel as much as you can this year and beyond, immerse in other cultures, learn about the history of your destination country, open your mind to new possibilities and ways of thinking, taste new foods and drinks and expand your horizons!
Did you know?
- According to the World Health Organization (WHO), motor vehicle crashes are the No. 1 cause of death for U.S. citizens abroad.
- Dying abroad while travelling via a homicide or act of terrorism is extremely unlikely. You're actually more likely to run into crime or violence here in the U.S. than in most other counties. Between 2009 and 2013, 1,151 Americans - out of a population of 316 million - were killed abroad. For comparison, 15,809 homicidesoccurred in the U.S. in 2014 alone. (Source: data.world )