Travel, either domestic or international, poses risks for anyone. Travelers may not be familiar with the language, culture, or security threats of a particular destination, leaving them vulnerable to potential harm. It is possible to become a victim of a crime, experienced a medical emergency or become impacted by a natural disaster; especially for those traveling alone, these risks are heightened – making it important to be aware and prepared.

While you can’t be prepared for everything knowing and planning for potential hazards can help you feel confident. This travel guide contains tips to minimize risks and help us make our journeys safe and enjoyable.

1. Plan Ahead and Be Prepared

Research your travel destination(s) to familiarize yourself with local laws and customs, security and health issues, transportation and accommodations, and getting around in order to be prepared. Planning ahead can help present yourself as a less desirable target for criminals and conmen. Not knowing or disrespecting local customs might cause you to be the recipient of aggressive behavior from locals.

Know the security risk level of your destination and be vigilant about your safety at all times even if the destination’s risk level is low.
  • Know how to say a few key words such as “police” and “help” in the language of the country you are visiting. Also, learn hostile phrases such as derogatory terms for “women” or “foreigners” and remove yourself from the situation if you feel threatened.
In some countries, customs based on religious and moral beliefs strongly influence the way women dress and it is important to research your destination, pack accordingly to comply with local dress codes and weather.
  • Some countries’ religious customs require women to cover their head with a scarf.
  • Some countries’ customs consider it inappropriate to wear revealing swimwear, such as bikinis. If you plan on visiting beaches pack appropriate swimwear.
Understand local customs and consider your actions.
  • Know what is the acceptable personal space with women as well as men.
  • Shaking hands with members of the opposite sex is not a universal custom.
  • Avoid discussing issues that include religion, politics, salary, sexual preferences, health or other sensitive topics. Certain cultures consider discussions about these topics to be insulting
Prior to leaving for your trip check to see if your medical insurance covers where you are going and make sure you have been cleared by your doctor to travel.
  • Carry at least a two-week supply of any medication you are taking in their original bottles with the prescription and any special medical ID bracelet or tags. Also, confirm if you need any vaccinations or treatments.
  • If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant consult with your healthcare provider before traveling and consider postponing travel to any area where the Zika virus transmission is ongoing. Zika can be spread from a pregnant woman to her unborn baby and has been linked to birth defects, such as microcephaly – smaller-than normal head size and incomplete brain development.
Pack wisely and only bring the absolute essentials so you can move quickly. Whenever possible, try to avoid checking in a bag and only bring a carry-on that meets the airline’s requirements.
  • Wear modest clothing and avoid wearing expensive jewelry, watches, purses, luggage or other accessories. Generally, you don’t want to seem like you have valuables that someone could steal.
  • Wear shoes designed for comfort and mobility.
  • Consider a decoy wallet —if someone riffles through your bag, that’s the one they will take.
  • Don’t forget to carry chargers for your digital devices and a travel plug adapter if you are traveling internationally.
Prepare a list of your emergency contacts including family, friends and coworkers, as well as contact information for insurance and emergency travel assistance, local hospitals, police and your local embassy; bank or credit card; and office, hotel and transportation.
  • Carry a hard copy and e-mail the list to yourself and save the contacts on your cell phone.
  • Activate travel notices with your bank and credit cards; familiarize yourself with local currency and the closest banks and ATMs.
  • Map out travel routes near the hotel or location you are staying and if available, view 360-degree images on Google Maps with Street View.
  • If you have access to the Travel Assistance Website and App make sure to review the country reports and subscribe to travel alerts.

In next post, we’ll continue with our Traveling Safety Tips, part 2: Transportation. Always find out transportation risks you may encounter in the destination you are visiting first whether you use taxi, car, shuttle services, public transportation, car rental or ridesharing services.

Have a great season’s greetings with safe travels!