Staying safe abroad

Traveling is a wonderful, educational and fun way to see the world, but it is also very important to stay safe while doing so. Since safety is probably the last thing on your mind when you buy your airline tickets, following these simple travel and safety tips will help you avoid any serious problems.

Tip 1: Whether you are traveling to Japan or Mexico, do some research on where you will be spending your time. Read some travel books to get ideas about where you would like to go and make a top-10 list of what you would most like to do or see. While you’re researching, familiarize yourself with the cultural norms, appropriate attire and any holidays that may coincide with your travels. Any travel destination can be dangerous if you do not pay attention to your environment, so remember the cardinal rule of travel: Be aware of yourself, your stuff and your surroundings at all times.

Tip 2: Always carry a copy of your passport because it is your ticket home. Leave your real passport in your locked luggage, a safe or with the front desk of your hotel so that if you lose the copy, the original is still in a safe place. The same goes for the cancellation numbers for traveler’s checks and credit cards. Also, keep a business card of the place you are staying with you, so that you can always get back if you’re lost or don’t speak the language.

Tip 3: Never stash all of your money in one place. Wear a money belt under your clothes where it cannot be seen, and keep most of your large bills there. Keep change and small bills, enough for tips, a drink or possibly a taxi, in one or two other pockets. Keep bills individually folded so no one can see how much you really have. Pulling a roll of bills out of your pocket is like holding a neon “Rob me” sign.

Tip 4: It is best to travel with a companion, but if you are traveling alone, do not get into a taxi by yourself. During your pre-travel research, you will usually be able to find out if the taxis are safe. Don’t be paranoid — just be aware.

Tip 5: Watch what you eat and what you drink. Not in the American calorie-and-carb-counting sense, but in the smart-traveler sense. As for beverages, only drink bottled water. Most people are aware that foreign tap water can make you sick because there are bacteria in it that our digestive systems are not used to. Remember that ice is water too, even in blended drinks. Also, if you eat ice cream, make sure it isn’t crystallized (thawed and refrozen), which can make you as sick as drinking from the tap. Be adventurous with your cuisine selections, since that is one of the best parts of traveling, but make sure your food is prepared in a way your body can handle.

By following these simple travel and safety tips, you can avoid almost any unwanted situation. Once you develop your own travel style, these should become second nature to you. So get out there, be safe, have fun and soak it all in.