Tips for Travel and Safety
The excitement of travel and the newness of the environment you are in make it easy to become careless or distracted. While there is no guaranteed way to eliminate risk when traveling, the following "top ten" list of tips can help increase your chances for an incident-free trip.
- Read up on the customs and politics of every country you plan to visit. The US State Department provides up-to-date information on every country, and world news sections of major metropolitan newspapers can keep you up-to-date on current events. Or see their website travel.state.gov -- and look under 'Travel Security Information.'
- Talk to international students from the places you intend to visit before you go. Their insights will prove very helpful.
- Protect your valuable documents. Carry these in a money belt or neck wallet under you clothes at all times.
- Before leaving on your trip, make two sets of copies of all your important documents. Take a set with you, but be sure to keep it separate from the actual documents. Leave one set with a friend or family member back home. If the worst should happen, having access to these will make getting your trip back on track much easier and faster. Make sure you get a police report documenting any losses.
- Never leave your pack unattended. Thieves are quick and devious, and it takes only a moment for one to ruin your trip. Always have a hand or foot in a loop or strap of your backpack when you put it down, to avoid having it snatched away while you're not looking. This holds true no matter where you are: in a hotel, at the train station, on the train or bus, at a restaurant, or resting in a park.
- Avoid illegal drugs You are subject to the laws of the country in which you are traveling. Hundreds of American travelers end up in foreign jails each year as a result of carrying, using, or being suspected of using drugs. There is little the American embassy can do on your behalf in these cases, and the laws in many countries are more severe than at home.
- Avoid demonstrations, especially in politically volatile countries. What appears peaceful can suddenly change into a dangerous situation, and you could become caught in the middle.
- Travel with a companion at night and stay in populated, well-trafficked areas. Be especially cautious if you have been drinking; avoid arguments and don't wander the streets late at night.
- Be aware at all times of your surroundings. This is not paranoia--it's good common sense. You know what feels comfortable and what doesn't. If your instincts tell you a situations uncomfortable, trust them and move along.
- Stay healthy by eating well and getting sufficient rest. If you become ill, get proper care. Don't be afraid to visit a doctor or hospital because you don't speak the local language. Usually someone who speaks English will be available to help you.
Be safe as you prepare for the experience of your life!
Parents, students, and study abroad programs all have a role to play in minimizing potential dangers.
Among the responsibilities of program providers, they are to conduct periodic and ongoing assessments of safety conditions at the program site, excursion sites, and at nearby tourist destinations; to provide comprehensive safety information to enable prospective applicants to make informed decisions about participation and about their behavior while on site; to orient participants to help them avoid high-risk situations and deal better with problematic events; to take appropriate action if the local safety environment deteriorates; and to refer participants experiencing difficulties to appropriate medical, psychological, or legal help.
Participants, too, have their responsibilities, among which are to make available to the program any information that will be useful in planning for the their study abroad experience; to read and evaluate all materials issued by the provider that relate to safety, health, legal, environmental, political, cultural, and religious conditions at the site; to conduct their private life in a prudent manner, paying particular attention to local conditions as outlined by the program; to assume responsibility for the consequences of personal decisions and actions; and to purchase and maintain appropriate health insurance and abide by the conditions imposed by the policy.
Parents, too, should obtain and evaluate safety information concerning the study abroad location, be involved in their offspring's decision to participate in a particular program, and engage their children in a thorough discussion of safety and behavior issues linked to the overseas program and related travel and activities.
Study abroad programs cannot guarantee the absolute safety of participants or ensure that risk will not at times be greater than at home. Nor can they monitor the daily personal decisions, choices, and activities of individual participants any more than is the case on the home campus; prevent participants from engaging in illegal or risky activities if they ignore rules and advice; represent the interests of participants accused of illegal activities, beyond insuring that legal representation is available; assume responsibility for acts and events that are beyond their control; or ensure local adherence to U.S. norms of due process, individual rights, political correctness and sensitivity, relationships between the sexes, or relations among racial, cultural, and ethnic groups.
For further information, visit the U.S. Department of State Tips for Traveling Abroad.