Nothing can ruin a travel experience of a lifetime than getting hurt or being the recipient of a criminal act while traveling abroad, or anywhere, for that matter. While not every circumstance can be avoided, certainly, there are preventive actions we can take to keep us from most harm. Here are a few suggestions for you to consider. Please respond to this blog with suggestions of your own!
- Consider where you are planning to travel before you ever leave home. Plan in advance! Is the location considered a “safe” place to go? Safe is relative to each individual. Trusted websites to start your research when considering the location to travel are the World Health Organization, US Center for Disease Control, USA Gov, and the US Department of State Travel section, for information about specific country locations. Vaccines required, COVID-related information, any recent disease outbreaks or travel threats will be located on these sites. In addition, if you are a US citizen, you can sign up for the US Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), a free service that provides travel alerts, keeps you abreast of safety conditions where you travel, helps the US Embassy contact you in an emergency, and helps your family keep in touch with you in the event of an emergency.
Each individual has a certain tolerance for risk and has a unique understanding of what is safe. Make sure that where you choose to go and the activities in which you want to participate considers your comfort level of risk. Having said that, traveling with an organization that provides a “safe risk” will create the environment for personal growth, a transformational experience that will empower you to step out of your comfort zone more often and live a more fulfilled life. Soulful Traveling can help you sort through your thoughts about safe travel locations.
- Emergency Evacuation, Medical and Travel Assistance Insurance. Purchasing medical and travel insurance gives you and your family peace of mind while you are traveling. Resources, advice, and assistance is available 24/7 should an emergency arise. Some countries, such as Cuba, require country-approved medical insurance. Be sure you are aware of your destination requirements.
- Keep COVID-safe. Regardless of the regulations of where you are traveling, keep yourself and others COVID-safe by being fully vaccinated with the booster, mask up, use your hand sanitizer often. Be a respectful and considerate traveler by following all local health laws and protocols. Breakthrough cases are a possibility so you may be an asymptomatic carrier. Protect those you encounter by wearing a mask indoors and in crowed outdoor settings. Carry personal COVID tests with you and use appropriately if you feel you may have been exposed.
- Be quiet and small. At Soulful Traveling, we cater to small private groups and individuals and leave a small footprint, blending into the communities as much as possible. Leave jewelry and fancy clothes at home. Dress culturally appropriate, even a bit more modest that what is typically seen in the area. Be respectful of your location, honoring local protocol. Save wild partying and heavy consumption of alcohol for home. Refrain from any type of illegal drug consumption. Purchase your alcoholic beverages yourself directly from a trusted bar tender. If you are traveling with a group, choose small group or private group travel experiences that stay in small hotels, cottages, or safe family homes. Less attention is attracted at small accommodations than large, fancy hotels and with small groups than large groups.
- Social Media Use. Refrain from using social media until you get back home. When you post while you are abroad, you are notifying the public where you are and that you are not at home, both of which can be problematic for you if someone is looking to do you or your property harm.
- Vehicle Rental. Only rent a vehicle if you are familiar with the location and are clear where you are going. Purchase in-country full-coverage car rental insurance to take care of you in the event of an accident. Be aware your GPS services may not work when you are driving so make sure you have hard-copy maps for your use. Some countries will not recognize your country’s driver license so be sure to check. You may need an International Driving Permit.
- Document Protection. Make two printed copies and digital images of all of your documents. Leave a copy of all of your documents at home with a trusted individual. If it is safe and appropriate, leave your documents locked in a safe in your accommodations and carry one copy with you. Some destination countries require you to keep your passport on your person at all times so be sure you know before you go. Keep a small memory key of digital documents locked in a safe at your accommodations.
- Petty Crime. Pickpocketing is probably the most common type of crime committed while traveling abroad. Have a plan and practice how you will react to being accosted. Never keep your travel documents or much money in your purse, backpack, or pocket, just small bills in the estimated amount you need for your outing. Hidden internal pockets in your clothes is a place you can stash your documents, extra cash or a credit card.
- Be aware. Pay attention to your surroundings and people around you at all times. Listen to your gut. If something gives you the willies, change the situation. Stop in a busy café or shop to assess a situation.
- Taxi Safety. Always use official airport taxis upon arrival at the new destination. Never get into a taxi alone if there are multiple people in the taxi unless you are aware of local taxi protocol. For example, collectivos are common taxis in Latin America that help you save a bit of cash. Use only if you are certain they are legit. Ask for the fare amount before agreeing to the ride, i.e. before you get into the taxi. Have the fare and a little bit more cash handy, but keep the remaining cash in a safely hidden spot on your person. Contact Vannetta, Soulful Traveling, for a great idea for a hiding place.
- Money Issues. Make sure you are very clear on what currency you will be using and the exchange rate, if your credit or debit cards will work in-country, how much cash you should carry, and how, when and where you will exchange money. Notify your debit and credit card companies where you are going and when. Be sure the currency you carry can be exchanged in the destination country. For example, Cuba will not exchange US dollars. Typically, new, large denomination bills ($100 or equivalent) are best for exchange with less trouble. Always exchange at least $100 USD or the equivalent at the airport when you arrive. You may not be able to get the best exchange rate at the airport, but you need a little bit of cash to get you started. Contact Vannetta, Soulful Traveling, to find out a secret way to carry cash safely. Never expose large quantities of money in public.
- Electronic Devices and Internet Service. Plan on having none. Have hard-copy documents of emergency contact information, websites, addresses, itineraries, prescriptions and health documents, travel documents, and any other pertinent information you may need throughout your trip. Make a digital copy for the memory key and your phone, but keep the hard-copy documents in your bags. Be sure to check ahead of time how and where you can access the internet and the cost.
Emergency Assistance. Sometimes, in spite of careful planning, things still go wrong during a trip abroad. For help for emergencies 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate overseas or the Washington, D. C. office (888-407-4747 or 202-501-4444).
Think ahead. Be informed. Be prepared. Be connected. Be safe.
Disclaimer. Soulful Traveling assumes no responsibility or liability for the professional ability or reputation of, or the quality of services provided by, the entities or individuals whose names appear on or are linked to the above page. Inclusion of private groups on this page is in no way an endorsement by the Soulful Traveling. The order in which names appear has no significance. Soulful Traveling is not in a position to vouch for the information.