Statements like “You must be aware of your surroundings while traveling abroad” may seem obvious, but nevertheless, is it an important point. While traveling abroad your surroundings will be vastly different than rural Oklahoma.
Below are general safety tips for the worldly traveler:
•Enroll in STEP (Smart Traveler Enrollment Program) :
STEP is a government initiative to help keep Americans safe while traveling abroad. The service is free and will provide travel warning and alerts for a particular country, and will help the government assist you better in an emergency.
•Provide a copy of your travel itinerary to someone at home: This will allow your loved ones at home to know your whereabouts while abroad without having to call or check in every day. You can post updates on social media when able to let those at home know you are safe and happy.
•Separate your money: Do not keep all your credit cards and cash in the same place. Don’t carry more money than you can afford to lose. Keep some cash in your wallet, and leave some in a zippered pocket of your luggage or another safe location. Store credit cards in a separate pocket of your purse or day bag from your cash.
•Scan your passport (and other important items): If something happens to your passport or other documents while you are out of the country, it could take up to 6 weeks for a new one to arrive. Having a color copy of your passport can help the process go more smoothly. You can also make copies of other important items such as credit cards. Make sure to copy both sides so you have the contact information to cancel the card in the event it is stolen.
•Get Travelers Insurance: Accidents can happen anywhere – and your home insurance may not cover you abroad.
•Avoid credit card hurdles: Make sure to inform your credit card companies and your bank (if using debit card) of your travel plans – where you are going and how long you will be there – to avoid a freeze on your account.
•Be cautious and alert: especially in extremely crowded places like the metro, buses, flea markets and crowded tourist attractions.
•Be particularly careful at night: Go in groups and be ready to take a taxi home if necessary.
•Do not drink excessively: Alcohol consumption to the point of drunkenness is dangerous behavior while traveling abroad. You are not as alert and your common sense is dulled. If you do drink, use moderation and never leave a bar alone with someone you have just met.
•Keep track of all local emergency numbers:
Although your mom’s number may be etched in your memory, here are some important emergency contacts to store in your phone:
— The nearest US consulate or embassy
— Local police and fire stations
— Nearby hospital or medical center
— A local cab company
— Any other numbers you may need in a pinch!
•Stay Healthy: Double-check that you have brought any and all prescription medications with you, including extras if possible. Get all necessary travel shots, and make sure you are aware of local medical laws that could differ from the U.S. (such as which prescriptions are legal or illegal in your destination). As mentioned, find the nearest hospital or medical center, and keep the phone number on you at all times.
It is hard to overemphasize the problems that can happen if you abuse alcohol on study abroad. Most of the serious situations that study abroad participants get themselves into deal with alcohol abuse. Many of them can be very serious!
Got a smartphone?... then check out the Smart Traveler App created by the US Dept. of State.