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Despite what the media may tell you, the world isn’t actually dangerous or unsafe. Forget what you saw in the movies, and tell your mother to stop referencing Taken, the truth is that you’re generally safe when traveling overseas.

I’ve long been an advocate that common sense is the biggest secret to staying safe abroad. Traveling with street smarts, being aware of your surroundings, and trusting your gut instinct.

BUT there are many common sense safety tips which most travelers take for granted; basic measures for travel safety which are often overlooked.

And in fact, the most serious obstacle to personal safety abroad is an attitude of complacency or fatalism. “It can’t happen to me” and “if it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen” – this is dangerous thinking.

So the following are some straightforward, basic tips for travel safety, which are frequently brushed off. Often, the most simple advice is the advice we need the most.

Safety Tips Most Travelers Take For Granted – Do You?

Don’t Get Excessively Drunk

Having a social drink is the norm in most parts of the world, although getting drunk abroad has the potential to be a recipe for disaster.

You’re in a foreign country and potentially unfamiliar with its language, customs and laws. You may be with people you may have met briefly, and you likely have no idea where you’re staying. Getting intoxicated puts you in an extremely vulnerable position.

Know your limits and drink within reason. If you’re heading out, travel with a business card of your hotel and hand it to the taxi driver at the end of the night.

If drinking in a new country, travel with a business card of your hotel for the taxi driver at the end of the night.Click To Tweet

Drinks alcohol RF

Let Someone Know Where You’re Going

We totally get that you’re a big boy / girl. But no matter what your age, never underestimate the importance of letting someone at home know where you’re going.

I’m 30 years old and I still email my parents with a copy of my itinerary before I take a trip, usually including the contact details for the hotels we will be staying at. Firstly, it allows them to contact you if they truly need to. We were in the middle of an Outback trek in 2012 when Mike’s father passed away. No-one knew how to reach us.

Secondly, it means they know when they should worry if there’s a natural disaster, or act of terrorism, and act accordingly. There are fabulous mobile apps nowadays too, like Kitestring which checks up on you when you’re out and alerts your friends if you don’t respond.

So let someone, anyone, know where you’re going. Even if you only plan to play Ninja Casino in your hotel room. It doesn’t make you any less independent, or any less “cool” – in the event that things go south you’ll have someone who can act immediately to aid and assist, or even attempt to locate you.

No matter what your age, never underestimate the importance of letting someone at home know where you’re going.Click To Tweet

Traveling in China isn’t always easy, especially given the language barrier. This is where having local friends was a huge benefit to us!

Register Your Travel Plans With Your Government

You should also register your travel with your government and maintain contact with your consulate or embassy in the event of a state of emergency or a terrorist attack. Many countries have a smart traveler program where you can lodge your travel plans and this is especially important if you’re heading to an area where you’re worried about terrorism or unrest.

Many governments will send out warning notices about any type of potential protest/risk zones that you may want to avoid while traveling, and doing this means the government knows which of its citizens are at risk in an emergency event.

The emergency contact details you register are generally the only way your country can contact you. You should always travel with the phone number and address of your local embassy as a matter of routine.

Tip: register your travel plans with your government, and #travel with the phone # and address of your local embassy.Click To Tweet

Chinatown

Don’t Leave Anything Unattended in Public

How many times have you heard this at the airport? Funnily enough there’s a reason they play this warning on loop. People leave their stuff unattended all the time!!

When, for instance, do you ever think twice about leaving your bag on the beach? Or at your feet during a lunch with views of the Eiffel Tower?

There are the basic and generic tips of keeping your arm and hand on your handbag at all times and never losing sight of your belongings. Always have at least one body part connected to your belongings by looping a bag strap around an arm or leg, or fasten your bag to something around you.

If an object is loose, it’s a target for theft. Even a minor inconvenience can effectively deter thieves. You don’t have to make your bag impenetrable, just less appealing than the next person’s.

Loose objects are a target for theft. Your bag doesn't have to be impenetrable, just less appealing than the next.Click To Tweet

Blend In

Don’t wear flashy jewellery or clothes than may attract extra attention. In most places where security is a concern you are also likely to stick out regardless, but it is better if you don’t appear like a millionaire.

Be extra careful in crowds and, if possible, avoid finding yourself in the middle of a demonstration or a large group of people where it is impossible to watch all of your belongings.

And you should make your best efforts to dress conservatively … especially if you’re a woman.

#Travel tip: Blend in! In some places you'll stick out regardless, but it's better to not look like a millionaire.Click To Tweet

Hagia Sophia Istanbul

Don’t Give to Beggars

In general, it’s a very bad idea when traveling to give money to people on the street.

Leaving aside the fact that you have to pull out your wallet in public, this is encouraging begging, and once you give to one, you’ll be followed and harassed by others the entire way home.

If you want to do good while traveling you should look into volunteer work in the destination or donate some money to a local charity.

Learn Some Basics of the Local Language

Today we have access to a huge range of language translation apps, and I feel as though most Western travelers take it for granted that when they arrive in a new destination, someone will be able to communicate with them in English.

But most translation apps will only work with a connection, and it’s not always the case that locals will speak to you in your language (do you speak Italian when Italians visit your country?).

So learn some basics of the local language. This will help you to communicate with the locals and also know how to ask for help in case if you come across any bad situations.

Learn some basics of the local language. This will help you communicate with locals and know how to ask for help.Click To Tweet

For Gods Sake, Wear Sunscreen!

The sun is something I am incredibly conscious about while traveling. Having been viciously burnt in the past on numerous occasions abroad, I now apply suntan lotion each morning out of routine, and carry it with me everywhere we go.

I was burnt so badly in 2009 while traveling through Europe that it ruined the pigmentation in my nose which is now permanently red. I’ve burnt my feet beyond recognition in the Galapagos Islands, and even come home from Antarctica ridiculously red.

So please, do yourself a favor and remember that you’re not escaping the sun just because you’re in a different country! The intensity of UV Rays differ around the world, so you need to keep that in mind. And remember too that you can easily get sunburned in the snow.

Remember that you’re not escaping the sun just because you’re in a different country! Stay #sunsmart. Click To Tweet

More Common Sense Tips

Above all, use your common sense and listen to your gut instincts. Don’t walk alone into dark alleys at night. Don’t pull huge wads of cash out in public and avoid leaving anything valuable in your back pockets. Download city or street maps before any outdoor excursions.

Research a safety profile of the destination you’re going to, and learn to recognize the uniforms of police officials. Common sense and street smarts are ultimately the biggest keys to staying safe abroad.

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Megan is an Australian Journalist and award-winning travel writer who has been blogging since 2007. Her husband Mike is the American naturalist and wildlife photographer behind Waking Up Wild; a website dedicated to opening your eyes to the wild & natural world.

Committed to bringing you the best in adventure travel from all around the globe, there is no mountain too high, and no fete too extreme! They haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on their list.

If you enjoy getting social, you can follow their journey on FacebookTwitterYouTubePinterest and Instagram.

    24 Comments

  1. Thanks for great tips!

    • You’re welcome! Safe travels 🙂

  2. Excellent tips. Thank you! Sadly, the experience of a friend traveling in Hungary offers another warning. Beware of children who approach you. Our friend was sitting in a nice restaurant with his wife and mother when a young boy came up to him and offered a newspaper. The young boy placed the newspaper on the table and left. It was not until my friend was ready to leave the restaurant that he realized his I-Phone was missing. The young boy had placed the paper over the phone and stole it. My friend learned many young children were part of a gang perpetrating this crime in the area. There are other parts of the world as well where children are used for similar criminal acts.

    • Ah yikes, it’s difficult when they catch you off guard like that. But yes, I’ve become accustomed to not having anything loose. It’s sad that it’s become a profitable trade for big cities to employ gangs of children, I know it’s especially common in country’s where the poverty level and population growth is high. A really great tip to watch out for. Thanks Pat!

  3. Great, common sense advice! Like you said: the most simple advice is the advice we need the most. Nice roundup of the best of the simplest advice!

    • Absolutely – I find even when we travel frequently, it’s easy to fall into the trap of becoming complacent and forgetting about the basics. So never hurts to have friendly reminders every now and then 🙂

  4. Great advice Meg it’s easy to take for granted that travel will always run smoothly. As regular travellers ourselves it’s a timely reminder to make sure the one doesn’t become too complacent.

    • Thanks Rosalind – I agree, I often become complacent as a regular traveler myself, so I try and circle back to freshen up on the basics every now and then 🙂 Happy travels!

  5. I admit to only involving the State Department when I visit a country that leaves me with the willies. (Not my clients there- just their government- or lack thereof.)
    Nor had I heard of Kitestring- which does NOT use location services. (It also works on my tablet, which is critical, since my phone doesn’t “text” on purpose!)
    Thanks!

    • I think most people take the same approach – I think it’s become a bit more important these days though now that attacks have been happening even in countries that are deemed safe.

      Glad we could introduce you to Kitestring – it’s fab 🙂

  6. There are some good points that you make apart from getting insurance before your trip. Didn’t realize that we should register our travel plans with the government, it’s true that we have to stay alert and don’t make yourself “stand out” as prey in the crowd. Furthermore, research and understand that the country you are travelling to is safe, or you are at risk falling victim to another “Joshua Boyle” story.

    • Good point – getting insurance before you travel is so essential, and it’s definitely something even frequent travelers skip. I’ll work it into an article update – definitely deserves it’s own subheading!

      Glad we could give you the heads up about registering with your Government – each country will have a slightly different system for it, but most have a website where you can fill in and lodge details online.

      Safe travels 🙂

  7. You are right many travelers forget the basics of safety and throw caution to the winds. So when they face issues, they are definitely asking for it. A few common sense precautions like being aware of surroundings goes a long way in ensuring that one is safe.This is a good reminder and a wake-up call for those of us who are tending to take the whole aspect of safety precautions while traveling for granted.

    • I think we’ve all fallen into the trap of becoming complacent about travel safety at one point or another. So never hurts to have a reminder 🙂 Glad you could take some valuable tips from the post!

  8. Great tips. I always have my family learn a few phrases in the local language or have a cheatsheet with them. We hold on to a card with the hotel information for taxis or uber as well especially in some Asian countries where their English address is different from their ‘local’ address. Never though of registering travel plans with the government though – may be we should start.

    • Thanks Priya! Learning a few phrases in the local language is such a headstart to an easy travel experience – and it’s a sign of respect to the locals that you’re at least trying 🙂

      And awesome that you’re on top of the hotel card trick – makes life so much easier when you’re trying to get around doesn’t it!

      Glad we could let you know about the Government websites – each country will have a different set up, but typically there will be some kind of online portal where you can register your plans 🙂

  9. Good points mentioned about safety Megan. I am not sure about giving or not to beggars but for sure in some cases/countries one needs to be very careful. I agree that having fun is one thing, but being safe at the same time is best. In some countries we only go with organized tours and never along. Better safe than sorry…

    • Thanks Chris, a lot of the time not giving to beggars is advised because it puts you at risk of becoming a target of theft when you pull out your wallet / wads of cash in public, and often once you give to one person, you’re vulnerable to prolonged harassment from others. So we like giving to grass roots charities who work in the local community instead.

      Glad you enjoyed the post 🙂

  10. I totally agree with your advice. I always remove all my jewellery before traveling. One point is to avoid attracting unwelcoming attackers, one more point is I tend to be forgetful and I don’t want to end up losing my precious babies! I seldom register my departure with the government but I will always let my family and friends know. So they will get me covered!

    • Thanks Chloe – I leave my jewellery at home too – you’re absolutely right that it’s usually a double reason for both not wanting them stolen, and not wanting to misplace them myself in the hectic mess that sometimes is travel!

      Glad to hear you’re in the habit of letting your family and friends in on your travel plans. If you’re heading anywhere particularity volatile in the future, the Government travel register might be a good precaution too. Safe travels!

  11. Too often I see everyone on their mobile devices paying little or no attention to their surroundings.
    Very exposed and vulnerable.

    • Absolutely – it’s impossible to be aware of your surroundings when your head is buried in your phone.

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