There’s no greater disappointment while traveling than experiencing a problem that could have easily been avoided with just a little bit of advance planning. To that end, we have assembled a list of safety tips for international travelers to help you avoid the most obvious irritations you are likely to encounter while traveling abroad.
Organize Your Documents
Of all our travel preparation tips, this section is the most important. You will need your travel document, either your passport or national ID card, everywhere you go. Lost or stolen documents are a tremendous headache, and the administrative work to get new ones will certainly interfere with your project participation. Please treat your identification and travel documents like the treasures they are.
Apply Early for a Passport, or Renew your Old One: Your passport should be valid for at least six months after you return home, and needs to have two or more blank pages. Otherwise, some countries may not let you enter.
Make a Color Photocopy of your Passport: Carry it with you, in a separate bag from the one in which you keep your passport.
Make Electronic Copies of your Documents: You’ll be carrying important documentation with you when traveling abroad. Create an electronic backup of your passport, visas, travel itinerary, medical insurance card and travel insurance before you leave home, and know how to reach them while you are traveling. Email the file to yourself and keep it in your inbox so you can access the information from your smartphone should the paperwork be lost or damaged. Leave one copy with a trusted friend or relative at home.
Look Up the Currency Exchange Rates Before You Go: You don’t want to be caught with too little money, or too much, so check the current exchange rates before you leave and plan how much local currency you want get. Sometimes you can order foreign currencies through your local bank. Alternatively, you could bring an ATM card and withdraw money as you need it or bring cash and convert it at a currency exchange.
Secure your Credit Cards: Make a list of your credit card numbers and the telephone numbers needed to cancel them (but not the security number and/or expiration date) and carry it with you in a separate location from where you keep your cards. While some people advise making photocopies of the front & back of your card, if these get mislaid or stolen the thief can use the details to order online. You can keep a soft copy of your list on your portable computer or in the cloud, as long as you know how to access it should the need arise.
Notify your Bank: You should let your credit card company and bank know that you will be overseas – and ideally where you’ll be. Banks monitor suspected fraudulent use and will block a card if they suspect it. While it often takes just a phone call to reactivate your card, it’s more efficient, and less embarrassing, to let them know your travel plans in advance.
Use Banks or ATMs: Airport change bureaus tend to be huge rip-offs. You won’t get charged as many fees through an ATM or the bank, and the conversion rates tend to be better than at the airport. Change Bureaus on the city streets may or may not be trustworthy, so ask your Worker Bee Tours project leader for help before making a decision which one to use.
Cash or Credit: Always have enough local cash on your person to meet your immediate expenses. Not all establishments accept credit or debit cards. Even when they do, sometimes the computer systems encounter problems and your card may be declined. this happens more often than you might expect when using cards issued abroad.
Don’t Bring More than You can Carry: Heavy bags and multiple pieces of luggage create difficulties when you are on the move. The more often you have to stop and rest, put things down, or shift your load, the more likely you are to leave something behind.
Carry your Belongings in Closed Bags: Keep your belongings safe by carrying them inside a closed bag or purse. Open top bags and loose hanging items are a temptation for people around you. It is also easy to lose items that fall out of an open bag while moving around or when rummaging for that guidebook you just have to look at right away.
Look Back When Leaving: People leave personal items behind all the time when they’re ready to move on to their next destination. Look back at where you were sitting as you’re leaving just to make certain you didn’t forget your purse, shopping bags, or any other items you might have had out while sitting down.
Mind Your Luggage
Even if it’s not worth much, it’s all you’ve got on your trip, and what seems of little value to you may be exceptionally tempting and valuable to people in the countries you visit. Keeping your luggage safe means securing it in every way possible, to prevent and deter anyone from tampering with or stealing your belongings.
At the Airport, Watch for your Suitcase as it Appears on the Carousel: Step right up and claim your bag as quickly as you can. Don’t hang back and wait for the crowds to disperse, or you might find that someone else has already taken your bag and made off with it. Many bags look similar, or even identical, and taking the wrong bag is a common mistake for tired travelers at the end of a long flight.
Always Have a Lock for your Luggage: Unlocked luggage is easily rifled. TSA-approved padlocks help to deter property loss due to luggage tampering and ensure that airport security can inspect your bags without having to cut the locks off, which would leave your belongings unprotected.
Pack an Extra Set of Clothes in your Carry-on Bag: Most people don’t think to do this, because they want to assume that everything will go smoothly and all of their bags will arrive on time. Baggage delays are very common on international flights, and you could easily find yourself without access to your things for up to a day or two simply as a result of close connections.
To Check Bag or Not to Check Bag: Each airline has its own set of rules regarding how many bags can be checked or carried on for free. Make sure to look up your airline’s regulations to avoid any incremental fees or, even worse, a refusal to accept your luggage. Consider traveling light, which has the additional benefit of making it easy to keep track of your things!
Beware of Thieves
Don’t Let Them Distract You: Packs of young people making a commotion around you may look like they are just goofing around, but such groups are often organized gangs of thieves working hard to steal your belongings. Don’t let yourself be distracted. If you find yourself surrounded, move away to a clear area or clasp your bags tightly until the crowd has passed.
Don’t Carry Anything in your Back Pocket: Speaking of theft, pick pocketing is common in many areas around the world, and yes, pickpockets have been known to target tourists. Do not keep anything in your back pockets, including your wallet, passport, your hotel room keys… anything! Bulging back pockets make you an easy target for pickpockets who are so slick you’ll never know what happened.
Keep Personal Items to your Front: You might be tempted to Carry a bag over your shoulder or hang a purse on the back of your chair at a sidewalk cafe. Keep your bags in front of you whenever possible. When seated, keep your purse in your lap or at your feet under the table, with the straps wrapped around your leg to prevent fast moving passersby from lifting it right out from under your nose.
Leave the “Bling” at Home: It might be tempting to wear your favorite jewelry throughout your trip, but in the interest of safety please leave expensive jewelry home. Flashy accessories are like bright neon signs shouting “mug me,” so be boring and stay safe instead.
Avoid Strangers: By all means be friendly, but in a distant, impersonal way. Do not share personal information or details about your stay with strangers or people you have just met. Don’t talk to strangers who don’t look trustworthy, do not accept food or drink from them, and definitely do not go somewhere with them unless they are your licensed tour guide and you’re on your booked tour.
Bring a Charger Adapter: International electrical outlets use different shape plugs and voltages. Make sure you have the right adapters for all of the countries in your itinerary.
Check the Voltage of your Electronics: From my own experience I know that nothing is worse than having an adapter and still not being able to use a blow-dryer or a straightener because the voltage isn’t high enough for that country.
Activate your Phone’s Global Capabilities: There’s usually a charge for doing this, but it is much less than the roaming charges you’ll get if you don’t.
Have Questions About These Safety Tips for International Travelers?
If you have any questions about these safety tips for international travelers, please contact us before you leave so we can help you sort it out. It is always better to be safe than sorry, so do contact us with whatever questions you have. It is our pleasure to serve you.