Traveling can be an amazing, fulfilling, and eye-opening experience. It can be an experience that leads to great personal growth and valuable life experience. A vast majority of the time, we can completely safe when we travel. However, there are times when traveling can be unsafe and even dangerous as well.
With the right information, the right preparation, and the right mindset, you can make sure that your travel adventures are as safe as they can possibly be. We have compiled a list of suggestions that we have read elsewhere, heard from others, or have learned from our own experiences. We hope that this list will be of value to you as you plan your next adventure.
Before You Leave
Your efforts to make sure you are safe when you travel should begin even before you leave for your trip. There are a number of things that you can do to make sure you are more prepared should something come up when you travel. We have outlined these tips for you below.
Register With Safe Traveler Program
The most important thing you can do before you travel is to register for the US State Department’s Safe Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) before you leave. Registering for STEP will notify the US State Department of your plans to travel overseas so that they can inform the US embassy in that location of your visit. Should anything happen within the country, such as a natural disaster or act of terror, the US embassy will be able to contact you and assist. We strongly recommend that you register for STEP before you take any trip outside of the country.
Let People at Home Know Your Itinerary
Another important thing that you can do before you travel is let your family and friends know where you will be traveling, where you will be staying, and what you will be doing. This will be important because they will be the people you depend on the most in the case of an emergency. If your family knows your itinerary they can relay that information to the US embassy overseas or the emergency services should something happen.
We cannot stress enough how very important this is for you to do. We would recommend that you send more than one family member an electronic copy of your itinerary, and then print off a copy and leave it somewhere that is easy to find in your home. That way you can be assured that someone who can help you will always have access to this information should the need arise.
Make Copies of your Passports
Along with making copies of your itinerary, we would also strongly recommend that you make copies of your passports. Should you lose your passport while traveling, this could be critically important. We would recommend that you keep one copy with you and then leave one copy with your printed itinerary at your house. Having this copy probably won’t get you into another country, but it will likely help you get back into your own. We usually take a picture of our passports and then store an electronic copy one our phones.
In Your Hotel or Hostel
When you travel, a large portion of your time will be spent in the hotel and hostel accommodations that you make. Those places are where you will sleep and they will be the home bases for all of your explorations. For that reason, it is especially important that you take the appropriate steps to ensure that you and your possessions are safe where you stay.
Request Room on Higher Floor
We have heard from travel security sources that the safest place to stay in a multi-level hotel is somewhere above the fifth floor. According to these sources, you want to stay away from the lower level rooms because those rooms are too easy to target for break-ins. You also want to avoid rooms that are near fire escapes and exits and they provide an easy getaway for thieve.
If you have to leave your room, make sure you always use the Do Not Disturb sign and leave the TV or radio on loud enough to hear from outside the door. This will deter someone from trying to break into your room.
When you are in the room, make sure you keep the dead bolt locked. If someone knocks on your door unannounced, make sure you call down to the front desk to verify that the visitor is expected by the hotel or hostel. Below is a list of general hotel or hostel guidelines from CrimeDoctor.com that are a great resource to follow:
- Always request a room on an upper floor, if possible
- A solid door with a good deadbolt lock is best
- Electronic card access locks help limit access
- Make sure your door has a peephole and night latch and use it
- Turn on the TV or radio just loud enough to hear through the door
- Turn on a single light in the room if you plan to return after dark
- Inspect the room hiding places upon entering and check all locks
- Ask the bellman for an escort and use valet parking if alone
Use a Door Alarm
A cheap an easy, but very effective, way that you can add another layer of security to your hotel or hostel room is to use a portable door alarm. These sensors are typically either motion activated or use magnets to detect when an intruder attempts to open your door. Should someone attempt to enter your room, these door alarms may scare the intruders off. At the very least, these door alarms will give you some extra time to react to the situation. They are a very handy tool and very convenient to travel with because of their small size.
Check with Front Desk Before Letting Anyone in Room
One way that intruders could attempt to enter your room at a hotel or hostel is to pose as a hotel worker that needs to service the room. Most of the time it really is a hotel employee, perhaps from house cleaning, who really is just looking to service your room. However, there have been instances where criminals have used this deception to get into rooms. For this reason, do not ever let someone into your room until you confirm with the front desk that the person requesting access really is a hotel employee. It only takes a quick phone call and every hotel should be happy to assist.
Lock Up Your Valuables
In addition to protecting your own well being, you are also going to want to make sure that you protect any valuables that you have with you. The best way to make sure your valuables are protected is to keep them in your hotel room safe. Should your hotel or hostel not have safes in the room, we would recommend investing in a portable travel safe. Both affordable and easy to use, these devices can keep you valuables out of the wrong hands.
Stash Emergency Money
There may come a time when traveling when you will lose your wallet or purse. Whether it gets stolen, or is just lost an misplaced, you could be left without any money in a foreign country. This is a horrible situation to be in.
This is why it is important to always keep a stash of emergency cash separate from the rest of your money. It could be a stash of cash, or perhaps a second credit card. Whatever you decide, make sure that you can use it in a pinch and that it is enough to at least get you home in an emergency. If a time comes that you really do need it, you will be happy you took this precaution.
While Out and About
So far you have learned about the preparation that you can do before you travel to keep you safe, as well as ways in which you can make your stay at a hotel or hostel more safe. The last zone of safety I would like to discuss with you is when you are out-and-about during your travels.
Make Smart Transportation Decisions
According to the Centers of Disease Control (CDC), one of the leading causes of death for people traveling are motor vehicle accidents. That is why one of the most important things that you can do to keep yourself safe when traveling is to make good decisions on the transportation you use.
Make sure that any vehicle you get into is in safe condition. Avoid getting into any vehicles that may look like they haven’t been well maintained, and never get into a vehicle that doesn’t have seat belts. Most importantly, if you don’t feel safe in a vehicle for any reason, ask to get out.
When we travel, we typically do a little research before we leave on which forms of transportation are the safest and most reliable. It may take a little more time, but this information can be extremely valuable when you are in-country.
Never Look Lost
Even though you may find yourself in a situation where you don’t know where you are or where you are going from time-to-time, it is important to not act as though you are completely lost. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask for directions, but you shouldn’t portray yourself as being completely out of your element.
It is no secret that criminals tend to target tourists, and if you panic or act like you are completely lost you will be paining a large target on your back. Instead, remain calm and start to look for places where you can stop to get directions.
If you are driving, you may want to find an excuse to pull over to do something else (like getting gas) and re-access your situation or ask for directions. If you are traveling by foot, you might consider hailing a taxi or stopping into a restaurant or other establishment to get some directions.
Know the Emergency Numbers
Hopefully you will never need them, but it is always a good idea to have the emergency numbers you may need handy if you do. If you are traveling outside the United States, those emergency numbers may be different than when you are used to. When you arrive, make sure to ask about the emergency numbers in the area. Your hotel or hostel is a good resource. Also, make sure you write the numbers down. In the case of an emergency you may not have the presence of mind to remember the numbers.
Learn About Common Scams in the Area
It’s unfortunate, but petty theft and scams are something you have to be aware of wherever you travel. If you aren’t aware of some of the typical scams and areas with high petty theft, you might become a victim.
To protect yourself, do your due diligence before you travel. Research areas at your destination that may be known for high petty crime. Public transportation is typically one of the hot beds for petty theft. Also, make sure you do some research on what scams people have been known to run in the areas you are traveling. The more you know, the more you will be able to look out for these scams.
Never Venture Out Alone
When venturing outside of your hotel or hostel when traveling, it is always safest to be out-and-about with others. Criminals tend to target individuals who are on their own because they are typically softer targets. If you are going to be out-and-about for the day, we would recommend you try and got out with other people.
If you are solo traveling, you could look into doing a tour or seeing if someone else from your hotel or hostel would like to go with you. It is especially important to not venture out alone at night. If you find yourself out late, try and use a taxi, Uber, or Lyft to get a ride home as opposed to walking. There are also social media apps that can help keep alert the authorities should you run into an emergency situation.
Don’t Get Too Drunk
One of the worst things you can do when traveling is get really drunk. Drinking can impair your judgement and lead to bad decisions. Bad decisions can really jeopardize your safety. If you are going to be drinking when you travel, make sure to keep it in moderation. This is especially important if you are going to drinking outside of your hotel or hostel. If you are traveling with others, then make sure you look out for each other. If someone in your group appears to be drinking too much, make sure you let them know.
Don’t Flash Valuables
If you are planning on traveling with valuables, make sure you don’t flash them around too much when you travel. We would suggest leaving your expensive watch, bracelet, or designer purse at home when you travel. It will be less that you have to worry about when you are shuffling between airport, hotels, and tours.
If you must travel with expensive items, then we would suggest that you lock them up in your hotel safe when you don’t need them. If you have to take them outside the hotel, then make sure that you keep an eye on them at all times. Don’t leave these items in a bag at your feet when you’re at a restaurant or waiting in line. You will be surprised at how ingenious criminals can be.
If you carry a wallet, make sure you keep it in your front pocket. It is much more difficult for a thief to steal something from your front pockets. We would advise that you refrain from keeping anything of value in your back pockets. If you are carrying a bag, make sure you carry the bag in front of you. If you have a camera backpack and need to carry it on your back, you might want to invest in small padlocks to prevent the pockets from being unzipped.