Travel can be an amazing experience. Seeing new lands, experiencing new cultures and visiting with new friends the world over can make life a richer experience. But sometimes travel isn’t wonderful. If you’re unprepared for how to travel safely in a foreign country, you may have difficulty staying safe abroad.
Fortunately, a bit of advance planning and preparations can make a tremendous difference in not only your safety but in how much you enjoy your experiences.
How to Stay Safe and Healthy While Traveling Abroad?
Staying safe abroad includes preparing for the following:
- Staying Safe on Airplanes
- Staying Safe in Cars
- Staying Safe in Crowds
- Staying Safe in Hotels and Lodging
- Staying Safe with Medical Issues
Staying Safe on Airplanes
Statistically speaking, airplanes are the safest way to travel. That should make airline travel simple enough when you’re focused on safety while traveling abroad.
Find the safest flight.
To maximize your safety on an airplane, arrange your seat ahead of time on an airline that has the highest safety rating. You can research safety rating on the Aviation Safety Network website. When booking your seat, the safest seats are those toward the back of the plane.
Choose an aisle seat.
Find an aisle seat near the back of the plane that is within five rows of the emergency exit. As you are seated, count how many seats it is to the emergency exit, should you need to escape in the dark or in smoky conditions.
Review the emergency safety procedures.
Once you are seated on the aircraft, carefully read over the laminated safety instructions so that you know what to do in case of an emergency. You should also pay careful attention to the flight attendant as he or she goes over the proper use of emergency equipment and the safest ways to evacuate. Some airlines are becoming very imaginative with their in-flight safety videos in order to get passengers actually to watch them.
Virgin Atlantic introduced their safety video in an animation way:
Do you like dancing or singing? In this case, you would love Virgin America's safety video:
Celebrities have acted in the latest in-flight video of British Airways safety instructions:
Lego and Turkish Airlines have teamed up to create a safety instructions video with Lego movie characters:
Stay seated and buckled while the plane is in motion.
Even when the pilot allows for seatbelts to be unbuckled, you should keep them buckled when you are in your seat and move around the cabin as little as possible. This is especially true as the plane is coming into the airport. Many passengers hop up while the plane is still taxing to the terminal, but sudden stops can still occur. If you are standing in the aisle with items loose in the overhead bin, accidents can and do occur.
Never smoke on a plane and avoid planes that allow smoking.
Fire is a very real danger on an airplane. There are laws outlawing smoking on domestic flights in the United States and in many other countries as well, but there are some exceptions. Flights to or from Hawaii or Alaska that are over six hours are not required to completely ban smoking. This is also true for non-stop international flights.
Airlines in the United States are required to provide nonsmoking sections on the plane, but a curtain is not going to completely stop the cigarette smoke or any resulting fire from moving between compartments. Regulations and policies vary on flights in different countries. For both comfort and safety reasons, it is wise to book your flight on an airline that is completely non-smoking.
For some, going many hours without smoking can be challenging. Some passengers may even try to disable the smoke detectors in the lavatory and smoke a quick cigarette. It is almost inevitable that you will be caught if you try to do this thanks to the small spaces on an aircraft, and on a non-smoking flight, this can have legal consequences. Additionally, the cigarette butt or ash may start a fire in the trash bin that can easily and quickly spread through the aircraft.
Stay calm and listen to instructions.
Should an emergency occur, your first job is to stay calm and follow instructions. The flight attendants are tasked with keeping passengers safe, so follow all of their instructions – including the ones given to you before the flight left the airport. If you are not happy with the service on the plane you may complain about the airline.
Check for flames and stay low.
If there is a fire, remember that smoke rises. Stay low to the floor and follow the emergency lights along the aisles to an exit. Cover your mouth and nose with a shirt or other cloth if you have one. When you arrive at the emergency exit, check outside the window before opening any doors. Opening the door with flames outside the cabin will allow the fire to come in. If there are flames outside, continue to crawl to the next available emergency exit.
Staying Safe in Cars
Maintaining your safety while traveling in cars can be trickier than you’d expect. Many of the most beautiful areas in the world are not known for their safe and highly regulated taxi drivers or car rentals.
In fact, according to the World Health Organization (http://www.who.int/features/factfiles/roadsafety/en/), there are 1.3 million fatalities on roadways worldwide every year. The vast majority of these, a full 93 percent occur in middle and low income countries.
Do not drive or ride in a car at night.
Danger increases dramatically at night, especially in areas where many cars don’t have headlights or don’t use them.
Do not ride in a car that doesn’t have seatbelts.
If the seatbelts aren’t present or are broken, find a different car. Wearing a seatbelt can improve life expectancy in a crash by up to 75 percent.
If you’re you are riding in a taxi or rented a car by yourself, sit directly behind the driver.
This will limit the driver’s mobility if he has bad intentions and give you a larger chance of exiting the vehicle and escaping.
Have the right insurance.
Car insurance varies by policy, so before you leave home, research yours. If your car insurance extends to vehicles you rent overseas, you should be covered for repairs and damage. If it does not, the credit card you use to rent the car may help with some coverage. Again, this can vary wildly by the credit card policies, so it is best to do your research ahead of time to see what travel protections your credit card has in place.
If you find you do not have coverage with your credit card or current automobile insurance, you can cover rental cars – including damage and accidents – through travel insurance. Research the policies of the country itself as well. There are some that require drivers to have insurance purchased through the country itself. In those cases, credit cards, travel insurance and your standard insurance won’t cover you.
Be ready to act after a crash.
If you do wind up in an accident overseas, take steps immediately. Start by calling the local authorities or have someone nearby call them for you in the native language. Then, write down all of the information for involved parties including names, contact information, car types, colors, visible damage, and the location of the accident. Take many pictures of the damage and cars as well.
Call for insurance assistance from your travel insurance company or your standard insurance company. Finally, after you’ve completed a statement at the authorities office, be sure to request a copy of the statement for your (and your insurance company’s) records.
Staying Safe in Crowds
Tips for safety while traveling abroad should always address the chaos and potential disasters that can come from crowded streets. Street thieves are clever. They look for the easiest victims and pick pockets, empty purses and steal valuables almost with ease using well-rehearsed methods.
Don’t look or act like an easy mark.
The first rule of thumb to avoid being the easy victim is to not present yourself as one. Learn a bit of the local language. Keep your head up and walk with confidence. Smile at and make a point of noticing others around you.
Keep valuables stowed away.
If it’s not necessary to your travels, it might be best not to bring expensive handbags, watches or jewelry. The fewer valuables you have to grab, the fewer you stand to lose. Wear your money and credit cards inside your clothing in a money belt rather than an easy to grab wallet or purse. Many hotels include travel safes as well or have a hotel safe. Consider using this for valuables you can’t wear and didn’t leave behind as well as important travel documents.
Avoid crowds and chaos. Many theft ploys involve a bit of chaos.
You find yourself suddenly surrounded by a crowd or someone runs into you and stops you in a dramatic moment. Then, while you’re trying to remove yourself from the chaos, your valuables disappear.
Avoid these scenarios by keeping a wary eye on potential problems. If you do find yourself in a messy situation, grab your valuables more closely with one hand and push back gently with the other until you’ve backed out of danger. Best of all, be well enough aware that you just cross the street when trouble seems to be heading your way.
Use the US Embassy as needed.
If you do wind up a victim of theft, you will likely need the help of the Embassy. The US Embassy can assist with getting replacement passports, usually in just a few hours if you are able to find the embassy and stand in the right line. The embassy can also fly you home if you wind up without any money or identification in a foreign country. Do know that the flight is not free, however, and you will eventually pay for it.
Cancel phone service and credit cards immediately.
There are internet cafes in most international cities where you can sit and call and cancel stolen cards. Use your bank account websites to find the right numbers to call and monitor accounts for charges that might appear as you are going through this process. Be sure to cancel or suspend your phone service as well if your phone is stolen – international data charges add up fast.
File a police report.
It will take a chunk of time to sit at the police station and file a report for a stolen purse or wallet, but having the police report will ease some of the burden later. Your police report may help you through border crossings with a temporary passport and it may be required by your travel insurance provider or other insurance providers to help cover the monetary damages.
If you lost all of your credit cards and funds, you will need replacement funds. This can be done in different ways. You might have someone at home send you funds through Western Union or you might have them send you a prepaid credit or debit card via FedEx or UPS. If your bank has a branch in the city where you are located, you may be able to withdraw cash directly. If you have no means to replenish your funds, appeal to the embassy and they will help you fly home immediately.
Staying Safe in Hotels and Lodging
At the end of every busy day abroad, it’s nice to return to the safety of your hotel room. Safe holiday tips should include the combination of factors required to find safe lodging.
Reserve a hotel with electronic locks.
Traditional door keys are highly visible behind the check-in station and can easily be “borrowed” or used to see if you are home. This is not an issue with electronic door keys.
Don’t stay at ground level.
Your hotel room should never be on the ground floor, but it also should not be higher than the second or third floor. Your goal is to be hard to reach from the ground level to discourage thieves, but not so high that you can’t escape should an emergency arise.
Keep hotel details and luggage private.
As you arrive in a hotel, keep your luggage with you at all times – you can’t always trust the employees to keep your luggage safe while you check-in. As you are checking in, be discreet about room number and the number of people in your room. You might find nosy individuals standing close by to try and learn who is alone and what room numbers might be free during the day while you’re out.
Check the locks and deadbolts.
Once you arrive in your room, check that the door locks work correctly. If you are unable to deadbolt the door, request a new room immediately. It is also a good idea to use a door jammer like a wedged door stop to further secure the door at night and when you are in the room during the day.
Staying Safe with Medical Issues
New lands come with new possibilities for health concerns. Before boarding the plane, check with the government travel alerts to see if there are special circumstances in your destination.
Check on medications.
In some cases, you should consider checking with your doctor as well should any vaccines, booster shots or medications be needed before traveling to foreign countries. If your doctor does prescribe medications, be sure to take the full course – even if you are still taking medication when you arrive home.
Bring your own first aid kit.
Pack a first aid kit with items specifically selected for the area. Review the contents of your first aid kit before leaving so that you know exactly what you have and where to find it should a need arise. Here is the example of what to carry inside your first aid kit:
Be careful with food and drink in foreign countries.
Diarrhea is the most common complaint from travelers. Be careful when dining in unknown restaurants or cafes. Remember you may always complain about food in a restaurant or cafe to the waiter or management. Hygiene and careful food practices can help stave off digestion issues, however.
Have written medical instructions.
Nobody wants to get sick or hurt overseas, but you should be prepared for a worst case scenario. This means packing and carrying a list of medications you’re currently using and cautions about allergies or existing conditions. A doctor’s letter with medications, ongoing treatments and chronic conditions is also good to have when traveling. Even if your list is in English, being able to hand it over for the hospital to translate will simplify this process.
Know emergency words.
While it’s great if you speak the language, you should make yourself a cheat sheet and learn the most important emergency words like “take me to the hospital” or “I need help”. Hopefully, you’ll never need the phrases, but knowing them is critically important.
Arrange your insurance coverage beforehand.
Insurance coverage can vary for medical coverage outside of your state or country. Before traveling overseas, be sure that your medical insurance will cover any emergencies you may encounter. If your insurance will not cover you out of the country, consider travel medical insurance. This insurance will apply to all medical needs you may have while traveling.
Use the consulate.
If you do wind up in a hospital in a foreign country, you will likely have questions and concerns. The consulate in the city can help you answer questions about finding the right hospital and doctor as well as arranging for wire transfers and funds needed to pay your hospital bill. It is a good idea to write down the name and phone number for the consulate in towns where you’ll be staying.
Provide an emergency contact.
Your passport should have an emergency contact listed. Be sure that the contact is correct. Consider including emergency contact information on your insurance card and medication list as well for hospital workers to have available.
Travel is an exciting and enriching experience. To get the most from your travel plans, spend an adequate amount of time planning, preparing and predicting circumstances that may arise. While you would hope to never need safety tips while on a dream vacation, practicality says you should always prepare for the best while planning for the worse.
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