International travel is exciting, but if it’s a new experience to you then it can also be scary to be so far out of your comfort zone. Here are some helpful tips to help you and your travel companions safe and secure in your adventures. You’ve seen National Lampoons European Vacation, right? Clark Griswold is a prime example of how not to act on a vacation in a foreign country . . . or any country for that matter.
1. Always be aware of your location and surroundings. Before you go research the best areas to stay, don’t just pick a hotel because it has a nice pool or the rate is good. Research the area of town, most towns have areas that are higher crime than others. It is also a good idea to find out what kind of security the hotel offers and make sure that you have access to a hotel safe as well. If you plan to use a service such as Airbnb do your due diligence just the same as you would if you were staying at a hotel. Make sure your travels to and from the location are planned out and safe as well. For example if your plane lands in the middle of the day you may be completely comfortable taking public transportation to the hotel, but in the middle of the night you may feel more secure to call a taxi company. Take the same precautions and considerations if you plan to walk to a restaurant, concert, or other tourist attraction.
2. Prepare for the language barrier. While it may be unrealistic to think that you can learn a foreign language in just a few months, you can at least try to brush up on some key phrases and words that you may need. There are various pocket translators and apps that can help you as well, but it’s still a good idea to try to learn some key phrases like, “Where is the bathroom?” and “Can we have another bottle please?”
3. Try to blend in. The worst thing you can do to attract thieves is to look like a rich American tourist. So remove the fanny pack and try to act like you belong there. It is also a very good idea to leave your expensive jewelry, camera, and clothing at home. Nothing says “I have money to steal!” like a pair of $1000 loafers. Make sure to carry your money in your front pocket rather than your back pocket and definitely don’t have it stashed in your backpack. Only carry the cash you really need to, try to pay for most things with a credit card. If you plan to take a lot of cash, leave the majority in the hotel safe and divide it between you and your traveling partner.
4. Know where you came from and where you’re going. Keep all the addresses you need on your phone and maybe even keep a hard copy in your pocket. It’s important to know exactly where you’re staying in case the cabbie isn’t familiar with your hotel or Airbnb apartment. Write down physical addresses of not only where you’re staying but any other locations that you know you will be visiting. Have record of confirmation numbers for other reservations, ticket confirmations if you have bought anything online, and even addresses of nearby drug stores or groceries. It’s also a good idea to have the address and phone number for the closest U.S. embassy they can help you in serious situations like national security, if you become very ill and need a reputable hospital, or if you lose your passport.
5. Take precautions. Make sure someone at home or back at your hotel knows your itinerary and has copies of your passports in case something where to happen to you. Leave all those numbers and addresses that you prepared for yourself with a friend. Tell them where you all are going, when you’ll be back, and when you will check in with them again. For example, if you are planning to go hiking in territory that is unfamiliar to you it is vital that someone know if you don’t return when you had originally planned.
Finally, just use common sense and trust your instincts.