The best way to enjoy worry-free travel is to be prepared and aware. So here is my list of Travel Safety Tips and Tools covering everything from planning, to emergency management, hotel safety, food and health as well as eSafety (which is often forgotten) and protecting your home while traveling. By just reading and being aware, you make your travels safer.
The world is not dangerous if you pay attention.
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Traveling is safe - Forget those False Myths
Home VS Aborad
Because of our highly mediatised world, it is easy to think that traveling abroad is dangerous.
You can hear the story over and over about this one traveler who got attacked in this country and you might think that the whole country is dangerous.
But, unless you go in country ravaged by war, traveling is not more dangerous than staying at home.
The only thing is that everything is familiar in your own country and you know how to react in case of a problem. Whereas abroad, you might not who to call, how to communicate etc.
This is why preparation and awareness are your best tools for safe travels, and why I am sharing those Travel Safety advice.
Travel Safety Myths
- Poor countries are more dangerous - FALSE - the only higher risk is that roads are not in as good condition and you might have to be careful with water. But otherwise, people in poor country are often the most welcoming and protective of you, especially if tourism is not yet developed. I had such a fantastic time in Kyrgyzstan for example!
- Better to trust other travelers - FALSE - actually in countries where there is low crime rate, it is often other travelers who do the stealing!!!
- Travel insurance never pays - FALSE - You can read a few horror stories online of people you have had bad experiences with travel insurance. But what you don't see are the huge numbers of claims that have go through smoothly because people don't write about it. If you have a problem, having insurance is a huge relief. Just be aware of what it covers exactly.
- Main dangers come from others - FALSE - Actually the main dangers come from ourselves and our behavior. We have a tendency to take more risk or drink more...
Main travel safety concerns and dangers
So I know it is scary when you see on the news 24/7 that someone has been killed in this country. But don't let the crazyness of the media prevent you from traveling.
I must admit I get influenced too, but I am trying to push it back.
The main things you could face (but that are probably the case also in your country) are:
- Pickpockets, as well as snatch and grab - so no bags on the shoulder and a good organization for every object - I once had a women opening my bag while I was walking in Beijing. I turned around an told her to stop, kept going and she tried again!!! Anyway, I had place nothing of value in the pocket, just tissus.
- Tourist Scams - Good stories to make you spend your money. If you read about them beforehand, you can spot them easily
- Theft with physical threat. These are a lot less frequent. I personally never had to face that case. If that happened to you, just comply, keep calm and give the money you have. This can happen in any country, even your own.
Traveler safety tips - General advice
How to be safe when traveling? Well, a lot has to do first with your own behavior.
1 - Look confident
When you project confidence, people are less likely to mess with you. But if you look afraid and hesitant, you will be seen as more of a target.
So even if you don't feel that sure, stand tall, look straight ahead and project confidence
2 - Be aware of your surroundings
Don't overlook the signs. Always have a look around to get a feel for a place.
For example, in Iceland there is a black beach that is quite dangerous as the waves can suddenly come a lot higher. But most people ignore the sign and accidents happen.
3 - Trust your instinct
It knows better. Don't go against it. I use to take the suburban train in Paris everyday. Always the same wagon. But one day, my gut made me move one wagon further towards the front. I climb in. And 30 second later a fight erupts in the wagon I normally sit in...
4 - Learn the basic of the language
People around you will appreciate if you make the effort to say hello, please and thank you in their language. They are more likely to help you.
5 - Dress appropriately
If you can't respect the culture and traditions you are traveling to, don't go there! Check beforehand the recommandations for clothing.
I once crossed path with 2 girls in Jordan going on a hike with their guide wearing only a small short and a bikini top!!! Well they must have hurt because the path was covered with plants scratching legs...
6 - Know the popular Scams
There are people running scams in every country. Type popular scam in COUNTRY and read before traveling. When you are aware, you sport them directly and just avoid them. Makes life easier.
When I started traveling, I did fall for a scam in China where students started talking to me in a park and took me to drink tea. I ended up purchasing tea probably way too expansive. I actually had a great time with them but spent way too much money.
7 - Don't be cheap with your safety
Pick hotels in safe area, take the taxi back at night...
8 - Limit your alcohol intake
It is tempting to let loose during vacations, but if you don't have a trusted sober friend with you, better to be reasonable.
9 - Be reasonable with selfies
There are more and more accidents because of people focusing on their selfie rather than looking around.
Graph with person in the middle
Plan for safe Travels
13. Get Travel Insurance
I wish you a very smooth trip, but my policy is: better be prepared. They will cover all major health or accident issues.
I personally use World Nomads. Get a quote online here.
14 - Check weather conditions for the time you want to travel
Sometimes we look at idyllic beaches and dream of going. But the reality is that, depending on the season, the conditions vary greatly. So check 'traveling to country in month' in order to know if there is any risk of Hurricane / Mansoon / Heat / Snow conditions / Mosquitoes...
I am not saying you can't travel when it is the case, but it is something to be aware of and ready for.
15 - Check for conflicts
All countries have websites with recommandations for travel. They will list conflicts and potential health issues.
You can have a look but don't be too alarmed!
Sometimes, if I was following them I would not travel anywhere. They tend to sound very alarmist.
16 - Choose your destination based on your level of comfort
It is always great to push your zone of comfort. But don't try to go too far at once. You will be able to push a bit further on another trip.
So look inside. See what you feel comfortable with and pick the right destination for that trip and the right mode of travel.
For example, for a first solo trip to Africa, backpacking might be a huge step. You could book a small group tour instead.
17 - Inform someone of your itinerary and plans
Always keep someone inform of your itinerary and plans. The hotels you are supposed to stay in, or if wild camping, the areas you are suppose to hit for specific days.
18 - Check out vaccine requirements 3 months before going
And don't forget to check vaccine requirements early enough to get your shots!
And at the end of the article, I also give recommandation to protect your home while away.
Emergency Readiness - Top Traveler safety tips
Once again better be prepared. I hope you won't have any emergency but if you have all the info at hand, you can save yourself a lot of troubles.
19 - Know the country's emergency number
Always search and memorise the emergency phone number for the country you are traveling to.
USA = 911 - European Union member countries = 112 - South Africa = 10111 - Australia = 000...
20 - Fill in the emergency information of your smartphone
If you have a smartphone, most of them have an emergency section that people can access even when they don't have the code of your phone.
This include your emergency contacts, medical essential informations (allergies etc)
21 - Save the Embassy or consulate number in your phone
Check out the Embassy or consulate from your country in the country where you are traveling so that you can call them if you have an issue such as loosing your passport.
22 - Save your Bank emergency phone number
Find and save the number you are supposed to call to block your credit card in case of loss or theft. This is always the thing you can't find where your are all scared after loosing your credit card. If you have it ready, you can feel better quickly.
Protect your Money, Papers & Belongings
23 - Keep cash in 2 different places
It seems kind of obvious, but I have seen people keep large amount of cash at the same place in their bags. So here is the tip: don't do it!
24 - Separate small and large bills
This is one of the best traveler safety tips - separate your small and large bills so that you don't flash the large ones if not needed, and not tempt people
25 - Travel with 2 credit cards if possible
For fee reasons, it might not make sense but I feel way more confortable traveling with 2 credit cards. I once had an issue with one of my cards and was stuck without cash for a little while. So now, I always travel with 2 of them.
26 - Notify your bank of your travels
Don't forget to notify your bank before you travel - if they see activities from a new countries, they might assume your account has been compromised and freeze everything. Not a fun situation to waste your traveling time contacting your bank, proving that you are you and telling them all is ok.
27 - Check your bank account regularly using VPN
Verify your bank account online regularly to make sure there is no irregular activities on it. At least every 2 days to be able to react. But do it using VPN not to open the door for online thieves instead of face to face thieves. NordVPN is one of the best rated VPN service (see section or eData Safety)
28 - Choose hidden pouches or Anti-theft travel bags
Avoid shoulder bags, they are easy to grab - better to have a backpack or a bag across your torso. Bags with extra clips makes its more difficult for thieves to open it in your backs. Here are 3 examples:
29 - Be especially careful in crowded places such as markets of train stations
The more people there are around you, the more likely it is that there are pickpockets in the area.
30 - Carry a copy fo the first page of your passport
In some countries, it is even better to show the copy first as it can be enough for a street control (of course, not at borders)
31 - Keep a scan of your passport in your emails or Drive
Make sure you keep a scan of the main page of your passport online where you can access it from anywhere with a computer. That should help smooth things if you loose the real one.
32 - How to tag your luggage
For every types of transportation, you should tag your luggage. But don't share too much on them!
Choose a luggage tag that conceals the information at first glance - a tag that you must open to see the info. Otherwise anyone walking near you can get all your details.
Write your name, mobile phone number and if possible list another address than your home address to avoid burglars, while you are away (e.g. work address, PO box)
eSafety Tips - Protect your electronic Data when traveling
When traveling we often think about our physical safety, but not about our eSafety. Yet, many theft are now virtual. So here are a few Travelling safety tips:
33 - Do not use free wifi networks without VPN
In hotels, airport and public areas, do not use the free wifi without using a VPN to protect your computer from attacks. Especially if you are looking at sensitive information such as your bank account.
This is applicable on both phone and computer.
NordVPN is one of the best rated VPN service
34 - Log Off
When using public computers, don't forget to log off all the sites you have visited and clear the history
35 - Update and Save phone before leaving
Create a back-up of your phone content before leaving and make sure you are updated to the latest version of the operating software (because they constantly fix safety bugs)
36 - Turn off wifi and bluetooth when not in use
First of all because bluetooth uses a lot of battery. And also because the wifi keep pinging to find connection, and sometimes you connect to an old network you forgot you once connected to.
37 - Make sure booking websites are secure
Before entering your credit card details to book something online, make sure the website has the little green lock at the top (on Google chrome). it show that it is using certificates to protect data.
38 - If you are worried, Protect your credit card with RFID technology
Nowadays, credit cards and passport get chips to transfer data. This means that people are suceptible to get your data without any contact.
There is no evidence that such crimes are really happening as it would be more time consuming than other ways of getting that types of information, but if ou are worried there are plenty of RFID protecting sleeves to protect credit cards and passports.
Transportation - Plane, Train & Car Travel Safety Tips
39 - Stay hydrated
On a plane or in the car, we have a tendency not to drink enough because it is not as readily available. However hydration is essential to your health and state of awareness.
40 - Lock your bags
For any kind of travel, don't forget to lock your bags (with TSA approved locks or straps)
41 - Keep seatbelt while flying
I know many people find it uncomfortable. But remember you are in the air. There can be sudden movement of the plane, and if you are not attached you could bump your head.
42 - But walk regularly on the plane
I have done many very long haul flights since I am French and I used to live in Australia. And I can tell you that walking regularly in the plane is essential for your heath. It helps with blood flow and with avoiding dangerous conditions.
43 - Choose official taxi companies
Don't accept ride from people offering you taxi service in airport lobbies or just outside attractions; Always go to the taxi stand for official taxis.
44 - Get a business card of your hotel
Grab the card of the hotel with the address in the local language to show taxi drivers if needed - I do that all the time in Asia - I go for a walk without a map, getting on an adventure to see what I can find. And then get a taxi back when I am tired.
45 - Keep an eye on the driver
Check out your bus or taxi drivers and talk to them if they are sleepy - It happened to me 3 times. Twice on a group tour and once in a taxi. With a tour guide, I even had to force him to stop and walk a little. If you are not at the front, tell the person who is. And talk to the drive to keep him/her awake.
46 - If Renting a car, learn the driving rules of the country
First of all, don't worry: driving on the other side of the road it actually not that complicated. You just have to pay attention when getting out of a parking space, because you are automatically getting on the wrong side.
But the most important is to search for the rules online and familiarize yourselves with.
Sometimes it quite intriguing - in some areas of Iceland you are at fault if hitting a lamb and in others you are not (depending on the fence rule)
But in general, I have found that road signs and driving rules are one fo the thing that is the most similar worldwide, compared for example to all the plugs differences.
47 - Don't be too cheap on your rental car
I know this can be a big budget. But I think it is better to choose a company with a good network and processes in case you break down. And also a company that have more recent cars.
48 - Sleep on your valuable in trains
If sleeping in trains, place your money belt under you and your bag of valuables as a pillow.
49 - Bus travel
Check with locals if your bus route is safe. In Latin America for example, some specific routes are known to be targeted by robbers, especially at night.
50 - Border Crossing Safety Tips
Be ready for border crossing - Don't purchase anything that looks like a certain brand and is at a very low price. And bring your prescription to justify your pills.
Hotel Safety Tips
51 - Inspect the room
Before you unpack, inspect the room to make sure all windows and doors have locks that are functionning. Don't hesitate to ask for another room.
52 - Check out evacuation route
When arriving in your room, identify the fire escape route. Check the location of the nearest stairwell and emergency exit (elevators to be avoided during a fire).
53 - Keep the door locked when in the room
Including deadbolts and security chains
55 - Be ready, just in case
Leave a pair of shoes near the door and have your wallet easy to get, in case you need to leave the room quickly
56 - Get a receipt for anything you leave with the front desk
Luggage, valuable in safe... always ask for a ticket. And never leave your passport.
57 - Use the "do not disturb" sign
I always do that. I don't really need my room done. So when I am out during the day, I leave the 'Do not disturb' sign on the door to look as if I am still inside.
Health Tips & Food Safety Tips
58 - Check status of tap water
Before traveling and once at the hotel, check the status of tap water.
And don't forget that if you can't drink it, you should not use it either to wash your teeth. Use bottled water!
And don't forget as well that it includes ice cubes!
59 - Chose Street food carefully
Whose a stand that looks clean, well kept and is quite busy. Local customers indicate good quality and if there are more customers, the food is more likely to be freshly cooked.
60 - Avoid eating raw in developing countries
Don't eat raw salads and uncooked vegetables.
And in countries where tap water is not to be drunk, avoid anything that is washed and not cooked.
61 - Manage your allergies
If you have allergies or food intolerances, carry a phrasebook to help you understand menus or communicate with he waiter..
- If celiac, you can use Jodi's cards to help navigate restaurant menus
62 - Use suncream
I am so bad with that. I don't want to carry the bottle in my luggage and then don't use any for the first days. Burn. and then I have to find a place to buy sun protection. This is really not good for the skin!
63 - Wear condoms
Have fun during your trip but don't forget protection!
Home Protection while traveling
And finally for a worry-free trip, make sure all is set up to protect your home while you are away.
63 - Turn off the water
You don't want to be called in the middle of your trip and have to come home because there is flooding at your place...
64 - Check that all windows and doors are closed
Do one last final check that everything is closed.
65 - Make it look inhabited
If you can, make your house look like it is inhabited. Options include:
- Set lights on timers to turn on and off
- Ask a neighbor to open and close the curtains morning and evening
- Actually have it inhabited by Getting a housesitter
66 - Alert your alarm company
67 - Stop Deliveries
If you are away for quite some time and don't have anyone coming to your place, stop newspaper and mail so that it does not fill in your mailbox and alert people that you are not here/
Don't worry, traveling is safe!
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