Travel is supposed to be fun. It’s not supposed to be dangerous or terrifying. And yet, every year thousands of people are injured in accidents while traveling abroad even those who follow all of the standard precautions. So what can travelers do to make their trips safer? Here are 7 essential travel safety tips that will help you enjoy your trip without worrying about getting hurt.
Know Your Rights
If something goes wrong during your travels, knowing your rights is one of the first things you should do. Many countries have laws that protect tourists from unfair treatment. These laws are known as “Treaty Protection” because they were established through international treaties between nations.
In the United States, there are four treaty protection organizations you can contact if you’re ever treated unfairly. They include the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), the US Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, the National Organization on Disability (NOD), and the Protection Assistance Center (PAC).
If you’re traveling internationally, check out the World Tourism Organization and its Code of Conduct for Tour Operators. This code outlines rules for hotels, restaurants, transportation, and other businesses.
Don’t Pay for Taxi Service with Cash
One major problem when traveling overseas is being taken advantage of by local cab drivers. You may think that paying cash is the safest way to pay for services like taxis, but it’s actually the worst way.
One trick used by many cabbies is to demand payment up front before collecting fares. Another scam involves picking up passengers at train stations, then demanding money after dropping them off. The best thing to do is use credit cards whenever possible.
Keep Passports Safe & Sound
It’s easy to assume that keeping your passport secure is a matter of putting it into a little plastic case somewhere, just waiting around until you need it. But that’s not always enough. There are several ways that thieves can steal, copy or destroy your passport, so it pays to take extra steps to ensure your documents’ security.
The first step is to carry your passport in a pocket instead of in your handbag. A thief who steals your purse won’t also get access to your wallet, which contains your passport. Be sure to bring any additional forms of ID along with your passport (e.g., national identification card, health insurance card, driver’s license, etc.)
Another good idea is to put a photo of yourself inside your passport cover page, rather than leaving it blank. For those looking to steal your identity, having your picture makes it easier to create a fake passport using your information. Finally, don’t leave your passport unattended. Thieves can easily copy your details with a photocopier, and once your passport has been stolen, you might never see it again.
Use a Credit Card When Booking Hotels
Hotel bookings made online often require you to provide personal details such as name, address, and phone number. While these details aren’t necessarily secret, they are easily accessible through public records databases.
By providing thieves with this data, you could end up giving them free rein over your hotel room. Instead, use a credit card to reserve hotel rooms online. Using a credit card gives you greater control over your personal details since they cannot be accessed through public records.
Learn Some Basic Foreign Language Skills
When traveling overseas, it helps to know a little bit more than what you’d learn in high school. Learning basic foreign language skills will open doors to new opportunities, improve your overall experience and increase your confidence levels. With that said, here are a few popular languages taught in schools today:
Spanish – Spanish speakers can visit nearly every country in Latin America and the Caribbean. Most Americans are fluent in Spanish, making it perfect for communicating with locals. English is still preferred in many parts of Central and South America, however.
French – French is spoken throughout much of Africa and Asia, as well as in Belgium, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Madagascar, and Morocco. It’s useful for communicating with natives, ordering food, and finding directions.
German – German speakers can visit dozens of European countries. Most Germans speak English, but others prefer to communicate in German.
Italian – Italian speakers can visit Italy, France, Switzerland, Austria, Liechtenstein, and Slovenia. It’s useful for speaking with locals, ordering food, and finding directions.
Asian dialects – Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese are relatively rare outside of Asia, so learning their native tongues will help you communicate better.
Get an International Driving License
Driving licenses issued in the U.S. are only valid in the U.S. and sometimes Canada. However, you can legally drive in most countries if you have an International Driving Permit (IDP). An IDP includes a translated version of your state-issued driver’s license and is accepted wherever you plan to drive.
Once you’ve obtained an IDP, you can use it anywhere in the world where you intend to drive. Just remember to carry your original driver’s license with you at all times. With an IDP in tow, you’ll be able to explore the roads with ease. Plus, you’ll save money on car rental fees by avoiding toll booths and gas station attendants.
Avoid Scams on Public Transportation
Public transportation is a common form of travel worldwide, but it isn’t devoid of scams. Whether you’re taking a bus, subway or train, you’re likely to encounter pickpockets and con artists of various kinds. Before boarding, find out where the exits are located and familiarize yourself with the routes. Also, keep a close eye on your belongings, especially larger ones that are hard to hide.
On buses and subways, look out for pickpockets who board in front of you and grab your bags or sell you counterfeit tickets. On trains, watch out for salesmen trying to convince you to buy expensive rail passes.
While riding in taxis, ask about rates ahead of time and insist on the written confirmation. Avoid accepting rides from strangers, particularly if they seem intoxicated. Make sure the price is clearly listed on the receipt and note anything suspicious or unusual. Never accept an envelope containing money from anyone other than the driver.
To guard against theft or damage, pack light and wear loose clothing. Also, try to stay away from crowded areas and dark alleys. Stick to busy streets and main thoroughfares.
Finally, never share your personal belongings. When traveling alone, keep your possessions separate from those belonging to others. That way, if someone does steal your luggage, they won’t also have items that belong to others.