Travel Tips: Top 5 Tips for Traveling Safely

Travel Makers breaks down the top 5 tips for traveling safely abroad.

We all want to travel, and we all definitely want to return home without running into any trouble along the way. The fact is, traveling abroad (or even within your own country) makes you a target for individuals that see you as an easy mark. You may think you’re blending in, but even the way you hold your knife and fork at the dinner table may give you away. So, without further ado, here are the top five tips for traveling safely, brought to you from Travel Makers!

Research Where You’re Going Ahead of Time

Safety begins before you even book your airfare. While your Travel Makers travel specialist will alert you if there’s anything going on at your chosen destination, safety is all about research and making the right decisions. Those decisions start before you’ve even booked your trip! The best place to start is the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs. Here you can find a handy-dandy color-coded map or search for your destination to see if there’s anything to be worried about at your destination of choice. The Bureau uses a color system to rate how safe a destination is:

Blue: Exercise Normal Precautions

Tan: Exercise Increased Caution

Yellow: Reconsider Travel

Red: Do Not Travel

Pretty simple right? You can even sign up for updates for your country of choice and view the passport requirements right from their page. You can visit the Bureau of Consular Affairs through this link!

Keep Your Eyes Open

You may not be paying attention to entrances, exits and the people around you when you go to your local grocery store, but you definitely have to when you’re abroad. With the increase in terrorism around the world, knowing your options for a quick exit are essential skills for any traveler to have. Now, we’re not saying that you need to have spy-like levels of attention; feel free to enjoy your brunch. What we are saying, however, is that every traveler has to pay a little more attention to their surroundings when they’re in an unfamiliar place! It never hurts.

Keep Your Valuables With You

If your hotel has a safe, by all means, use it. That said, the safest place your valuables can live is on your person. A backpack is okay, but (since it’s on your back) it can be easy for thieves to pickpocket. The best idea for carrying your valuables, like cash and other items, is in a specially designed passport holder that sits around your neck like a necklace or the dreaded touristy fanny pack. Keep in mind that these things mark you as a tourist and may bring you unwanted attention from locals. While a safe is the safest place for your belongings, the second safest place is on your person.

Register With and Know Where the Nearest Consulate Is

Back on the Bureau of Consular Affairs website, the map also shows the locations of all U.S. Consulates across the world. Knowing where these are is invaluable to the traveler. If you lose your passport, go to the consulate. If you lose your travel partner, go to the consulate. If violence breaks out around you, go to the consulate. That’s what they are there for – to help Americas abroad. There are a wide range of reasons for a traveler to visit the consulate, but let’s talk about the most important.

Registering with the U.S. Consulate in your country of travel allows them to keep track of you, and start looking for you if for some reason something happens. Whatever that “something” is could be anything, but, in all reality, if something is going to happen, it’s going to be weather-related. If a hurricane or tsunami hits your area of travel, it’s the Consulate’s job to find you. That alone is a great reason to know where your Consulate is and register with it. It’s a quick process that involves signing up for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, otherwise known as STEP. You can visit their website here.

Be Smart

It’s easy to say this is the most important tip. Simply being an American abroad can make you a target for scams or even worse, so it’s on your shoulders to keep watch and make sure you’re safe. There are tricks and scams abound, not just around the world, but in the U.S. too. This is the golden rule: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Get a great deal on a scooter rental? The rental agency may charge you thousands when you return because you “scratched it.” See some shady characters hanging out in an alley and beckoning you closer? Maybe stick to the streets. It’s the responsibility of every traveler to have their wits about them at all times. Sure, you’re on vacation. That said, that fact is no reason to let your guard down.

Image VIA: US Government