Safety is the responsibility of the traveler. Be informed, prepared, and vigilant to improve your safety while traveling.
Know Before You Go! It is important to research and gain as much information about your travel destinations as possible.
- Obtain specific pre-travel country risk information for the country/countries you plan to visit from the U.S. Department of State and other government agencies. There may be specific concerns you should know, and prepare to address, to make your travel potentially safer and easier.
- Familiarize yourself with local laws and customs in the destination country and any intermediary locations during your travel. When visiting foreign countries, you must obey local laws. National laws will vary based on political, cultural, or religious considerations. Key difference might include restrictions on political statements, photography and/or telecommunications, curfews, age of consent, manner of dress, etc.
- Understand how culture may impact your travel and experiences abroad. Research expectations related to modesty and dress, gender, food and drink, and other daily activities that you may take for granted.
- Learn a few key phrases in the local language. Understand if English is prevalent in your specific location.
Take Advantage of Technology
Information technology and other advancements make travel safer today than any time in the past, but it needs to be properly incorporated into travel planning. At the same time, travelers should not rely solely on technology, which may not always function properly while abroad. Keep paper copies of key travel documents.
- Register with the U.S. Department of State Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) for each destination country. This informs the American embassy of your presence in the country in the event of a major crisis and allows the embassy to push alert and security messages to you via multiple means (phone and/or email).
- Create a communications plan with your friends and family. Consider selecting one central contact in the event of emergency that can maintain contact with others. Share or establish multiple methods of communication, to include phone, email, skype, and social media.
- Create a communications plan with your host nation contacts for every destination, to include name, phone number, and address. Share this plan with your friends and family as well for contact in the event of an emergency.
- Share a copy of your itinerary with friends and family (at least your central contact), to include accommodations, planned travel days, travel routes, and travel methods.
- Ensure your cell phone and plan will work throughout your trip. Program key phone numbers before travel, such as the hotel, host nation contact, local embassy, the university’s 24/7 Emergency Contact and local emergency number (similar to 911).
- Verify if ATMs and your credit cards can be used in the countries you are visiting; inform your bank regarding the travel and ask them to allow your cards to be used in those countries.
- Research and upload useful apps. Some apps of interest include first aid, dialing 911 numbers abroad, automating and sharing itinerary information, monitoring your health and well-being, and even emergency assistance response. Visit our Resource Library page for useful app information.
- Email all your important information (reference numbers, itinerary, phone numbers, addresses of consulates, airline offices, etc.) to your own web-based email or upload it on the Cloud. Make sure your passwords are strong!
- For ideas to keep your IT safe during travel, visit the IT Abroad page.
As IT has become more prevalent, it has also created a new threat—identify theft. To protect oneself, it is important to remember the sources of identity theft and steps to prevent becoming a victim.
- Dumpster diving. Going through trash to obtain copies of checks, credit card/bank statements or other records. Pay attention to the receipts and other information that you discard (or leave laying around in your accommodations).
- Internet. Obtaining information shared over the internet. Be careful of information that you share while abroad, particularly if using shared devices or networks. Verify network security.
- Shoulder surfing. Watching people enter PINs or other numbers for credit cards, ATMs, computers, or other secured devices. Pay attention to your surroundings while entering PINs or passwords. Shield your entries from observation or refrain from entering if there is no privacy.
- Skimming. Stealing credit and debit card numbers as the card is being scanned/processed to pay for a purchase, using a device known as a “skimmer”. Examine the ATM or device before inserting your card; if the ATM looks suspicious, refrain from using it. Consider using ATMs located inside banks, as the likelihood of tampering is less. While not impervious to theft, using a chip reader for credit cards are more secure than scanning credit cards.
- Spoofing & phishing. Creating and disseminating imitation websites of legitimate businesses to trick individuals into entering their personal information. Be sure of the link that you are visiting, particularly if received via email. Search or type in website yourself.
- Theft. Obtaining personal information from the theft of your purse or wallet. Be careful of pick pockets and generally make yourself less of a target as discussed in Safety Abroad. If cards are lost or stolen, immediately inform your financial company.