11 Safety Tips and other Tidbits for International Travelers

1.     Use the same safety precautions you would at home!  I live in NYC and there are everyday precautions I use when I travel and at home – Avoid walking alone on deserted streets after dark, keep your money in a secured location, carry a cell phone when possible.  Most mobile carriers have international plans or you can buy a prepaid cell phone at many airports to be used for local or emergency calls.

2.     Learn about the local culture – pick up a travel book before you depart home.  Read about the place you are going to visit.  Some great travel guides will tell you where the best local pubs and eateries are.  Don’t just visit the designated tourist site’s, go to a coffee shop and chat with a local to learn more about the city you are visiting.  One of my best travel days many years ago was when I found a group of tourists from Sao Paolo on the same tour as myself in Curitiba.  They were local to the country but we were on the same adventure.  We quickly became friends as they taught me how to order brigadeiros with my coffee con leche and what stops were worth seeing with my hop on hop off bus pass.

3.     Know the local currency and understand the exchange rate.  The quickest way to loose money is not to understand it.

4.     Transportation – Before you even depart check out the public transportation routes and schedules.  Find out if you need any special license or an IDP to drive.  Want to travel by taxi? Find a Taxi Stand – You can usually find a taxi stand on the street in any country in a large city — even if you can’t read the words, you’ll notice taxis congregating near the sign. Generally, only taxi’s authorized to carry passengers are allowed to stop at these taxi stands, meaning the taxi is as safe as that country mandates, and the cab driver licensed. Look for these cab stands at foreign airports, too.

5.     Have copies of everything – It’s a simple rule, but a wise one.  I always find it useful to copy my passport, travel itinerary and tickets, driver’s license, and other pertinent paperwork.  I keep a copy on me and leave a copy with someone I trust back home.  If you have your belongings stolen or lost your trusted friend or family member can fax or email you copies to assist in retrieving lost bags, visiting your embassy for emergency passport replacement, etc. – this can save hours of headaches.

6.    Do you know how to pack smart?  Take advantage of those “hidden” spaces – For example, place small items inside your shoes or the pockets of shirts or jackets you pack.  Pack extra bags in your bag – Packing a duffle bag in your luggage gives you extra space to bring things home with you. It’s also a good idea to bring plastic sandwich or grocery bags for laundry or other items.   Don’t pack what you can get at your destination – many hotels have a hair dryer in every room, along with many toiletry items, so you don’t need to pack them.

7.     Learn the laws and customs of the land you’re visiting – you are responsible for your behavior and knowing local rules and regulations.

8.     Crime can be found anywhere – “It’s about body language, awareness and intuition,” says Robert Siciliano, a personal security expert and the author of “The Safety Minute.” If you look like you know what you’re doing and where you are going — even if you look like a tourist — you’re a lot less likely to be targeted.

9.     Travel with less cash.  Most countries these days have access to ATM machines; pack your debit card.  It is worth the piece of mind of not carrying loads of cash and less hassle then travelers cheques in many locations.  Naturally when you hit the streets in NY, Rio or Rome you will want to carry cash for a little shopping, or street food just be thoughtful about your plans for each day and plan accordingly. Some ATM machines even offer better exchange rates than the airport or your hotel. Just be cautious of ATM fees as they can add up, and avoid using a credit card.

10.     Want to take an extended trip on a budget?  Try a Work and Holiday Adventure. With many countries to choose from this is an opportunity to make some pocket money while living abroad.

11.  Travel is about having an adventure of a lifetime – having new experiences, visiting new places and creating new memories.  I wish everyone a safe journey as you head to your next destination.