6 Important Travel Safety Tips for Any Destination

Traveling is one of the most rewarding and enlightening experiences anyone can take part in, but some people are afraid to embark on a journey because of personal safety issues. Don’t let that stop you—in most cases, you can make your trip more enjoyable, less stressful and less risky by following simple common sense and heeding these safety tips.

1. Trip Planning

Be sure to do plenty of research in advance of your departure to get an idea of what to expect. Read guidebooks to find out about local customs and potential security risks, and spend time searching the Internet and speaking to others about their experiences in the destination you plan to visit to get the gist of what it will be like to stay there.

If your home country offers a website that includes travel alerts and warnings for specific travel destinations, such as the United States’ travel.state.gov or New Zealand’s safetravel.govt.nz, it can be one of your best places to start.

Learn basic customs and greetings in the language of the country you’re visiting, such as hello, goodbye, please, thank you, how much, etc.

2. Choosing Your Accommodations

In addition to researching the country or region of the world you’ll be heading to, do lots of investigating before booking your accommodations. It’s important to choose a hotel or other lodging in a neighborhood that isn’t known for having a high crime rate.

These days it’s easy to find out what others say by checking the many travel review sites on the web like TripAdvisor, Yelp, Expedia (link below) and others. Chatting on a travel forum site will usually provide outstanding insight into any type of lodging you might be considering. Also be sure to do a Google search for the name of the hotel you plan to stay at before booking accommodations.

If you want to safely book plane tickets, accommodations, activities or even insurance, check out Expedia. As the world’s largest online travel company, they’ll help you locate reliable lodgings anywhere you plan to visit:

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3. Appropriate Packing

Try to avoid bringing anything highly valuable on your trip, such as expensive jewelry. Not only do you chance losing it if your luggage is lost, but you’ll increase your odds of becoming a victim of theft or mugging. Travelers should not wear anything that projects affluence, especially in poorer countries.

Never pack your important documents into your luggage. Instead, carry your driver’s license, passport and credit cards with you and keep photocopies of them in your luggage in case any are lost or stolen.

Travel light and pack essential items in a carry-on bag. If you take any prescription medicines, be sure that they are filled properly and labeled accurately; keep in mind that some countries may not allow certain prescription medications. Narcotics may require a letter written and signed by your physician.

You can make your own personal first-aid kit by filling a zippered plastic bag with items like bandages, disinfectant wipes, antibiotics, aspirin, tweezers, eye drops, antiseptic ointment, etc. Be sure to take items you might need for specific conditions, like an inhaler for asthma or EpiPen for severe allergies.

Before you leave, be sure to give a copy of your itinerary to a trusted friend or family member.

4. Transportation

If you plan to rent a car, do your due diligence in researching to be sure the rental company is reputable. When driving, be aware at all times—keep in mind that car accidents are sometimes staged to catch travelers off guard.

Only park in well-lit and well-traveled areas. Back into parking spaces in order to facilitate a quick exit.

When hailing a taxi, never get into an unmarked cab. Sit behind the driver so that you can see him but he can’t see you. Pay the driver upon arrival, but while you are still in the vehicle. If you plan on using public transportation, familiarize yourself with train and/or bus schedules before traveling and look at maps of the system to learn how it works.

5. Checking into Your Hotel

Once checked into your hotel or other accommodations, take time to locate the nearest fire exits as well as the fire alarm and extinguisher. If possible, stay in a room located near a stairwell. Never take the elevator if smoke or a fire is detected.

Don’t give out your hotel or room number to anyone you’ve just met—or too much personal information to any stranger.

6. Exploring and Sightseeing

Dress simply while you’re out and about, and be sure that your clothing does not offend your host country, especially when visiting religious or sacred sites. Spraying with bug repellent and avoiding heavy perfume are imperatives in humid locations where there may be a lot of insects.

When carrying a backpack, wear it in reverse so that the zippered compartments are against your back. Only keep what you really need inside—items that can be easily replaced.

When dining, never eat any food where sanitation is questionable, such as road stands without refrigeration.

Never accept a drink from a stranger. If you’re drinking, be sure to keep an eye on your glass at all times—that goes for women in particular.

Keep your passport, airline tickets and other important documents in a money belt around your waist or in a hotel safe. Use common sense—be friendly and smile when appropriate, but do not make eye contact with gang members. Don’t go into an alley or a stairwell if there aren’t at least two other people in sight.

Carry a cellphone so that you’ll have a way to reach someone in case of an emergency. Most importantly, always be aware of your surroundings. Follow your instincts; if you sense danger, either do not enter the establishment or leave the area you’re in and head to safety.