When it comes to traveling abroad one of the number one things that everyone worries about is their safety. We tend to feel safer traveling through our home countries, but when we start exploring new countries it can feel like we’re a fish out of water.
When it comes to traveling abroad one of the number one things that everyone worries about is their safety. We tend to feel safer traveling through our home countries, but when we start exploring new countries it can feel like we’re a fish out of water. That’s where you might want to look into some of the most important safety tips. With these tips, you can feel more confident, whether you’re heading to a country that feels just like your own or a country that’s half a world away.
Safety List when volunteering abroad:
Check-in with the Embassy– There are state departments and embassies in any country that you want to travel to, so make sure that you check-in when you arrive somewhere new. Let the embassy know who you are, where you’re staying and how long you’re going to be in the country in case anything happens or someone from your family tries to check up on you.
Check for a travel advisory– If there is any kind of civil unrest, health hazard, natural disaster, political problems or anything else there will be a travel advisory. Make sure before you set foot in any new country you check for any of these potential problems and maybe make changes to your plan to avoid areas that are in turmoil.
Have backups of everything– It’s essential that you’re always able to prove who you are to get into and out of the country whenever you want. That means you should have your ID and passport with you, but you should also make sure you have copies of them. Show these to the embassy and make sure they’re stored somewhere separate from the originals in case you lose anything.
Keep emergency information– When you’re traveling to a new country you probably don’t want to carry the phone number of your parents back home and expect that to be enough. Sure, you would want them notified if something happens, but how are they going to help you? Instead, carry the number of the local embassy and the police in the area. If you have any kind of problems those are the people you’ll want to call.
Know how to talk to people– you don’t need to be completely fluent in the local language, but you should absolutely know some basic words and phrases. You should know how to ask for help or for directions to the embassy. You’ll likely want to know how to say things like ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and how to ask for a restroom or how much something is. The more you know the less likely you are to be scammed.
Check for vaccination recommendations– Some countries have had outbreaks of diseases that are completely (or almost completely) eradicated in the United States. That means you’ll want to check into any kind of recommendations for different vaccinations. If you haven’t had to get them before you may not even think about it, but things like yellow fever and malaria are alive and well in some parts of the world.
Protect yourself– Knowing self-defense and having your own first aid kit at all times are great ways to protect yourself. You want to be able to get away from a harmful situation and you want to know how to take care of the minor scrapes and bruises that can happen anywhere as well.
Be culturally sensitive– when you travel to another country it’s always a good idea to pay attention to their customs and their culture. You don’t need to engage in all of those customs, but it’s a good idea to follow some basic curtesy. In some parts of the world, women wear a full hijab and while that’s not necessary for female tourists, it’s a good idea to at least wear clothing that covers you (no short shorts or crop tops). It’s showing basic courtesy to their beliefs and traditions.
Travel light – You may think you need 10 pairs of pants and 20 tops but do you really? Could you find a place to wash your clothes or maybe you’re not actually going for as long as you had originally planned? The lighter you can pack and the fewer items you can bring along with you the better off you’re going to be. It’s going to be a lot easier for you to get from one place to another.
Upgrade for enhanced safety– You may think you can save a little bit by taking the no-name taxi that just pulled up on the street, but you don’t know anything about them or where they’re going to take you. Spend a little more money and hire someone that you know is actually going to look out for you rather than trying to save and not knowing what you’re going to get.
Keep your money hidden– It’s never a good idea to flash money around, so make sure that you keep it hidden as well as possible. You should keep money in several different places in your bags or even on your person, so in case you lose some or you’re pickpocketed you won’t lose everything you have. Flashing money around makes you a bigger target, and that’s definitely something to avoid.
Keep in constant contact – Someone back home should know where you are at all times. That means calling frequently. Texting is great, but keep in mind that anyone can send a text from your phone. Calling lets them know that you are actually all right and it lets them know where you are so if they don’t hear from you they have a smaller area to send searched out to.
Have a plan in place – What if disaster strikes and you suddenly find yourself in the middle of a hurricane or an earthquake? You should always have a plan in place for just what you’re going to do and how you’re going to protect yourself in the event of any of these disasters. Do you have a way to get out of the country? Or do you have a way to hunker down and ride it out?
What about a medical emergency?– What are you going to do if you have a major medical emergency? Do you have a plan in place? Do you know how to protect yourself? Do you know where to go for help? You should have an idea of local clinics in the area whenever you arrive somewhere new, and you should carry some of the basic first aid supplies you might need with you at all times. That includes things like antiseptic, bandages and medications for minor pains, upset stomach and allergies.
Always be aware of your surroundings– This is a good idea whether you’re in your own hometown or anywhere else in the world. You should always be aware of your surroundings. Don’t get so drunk or ‘out of it’ that you don’t know what’s happening around you. You could end up the victim of a scam or worse.
Be careful about your hotel on your tour days – Staying in a small place or a hostel may seem like a great idea but you want to make sure that you do your research first. Make sure the place you’re staying in has great reviews and that it’s been around for a little while. You never know what you could end up with if you’re not careful.
Check for the bank – Rather than walking up to just any ATM you want to make sure you’re going to an actual bank to use theirs. It may cost you a little money, but these ATM’s are less likely to be scams and they’re less likely to have scammers standing outside waiting for you.
Choose the right provider – If you’re booking your travel through a company (which is always a good idea) make sure that you book the right type of organization. You want someone that’s been around awhile and has some great reviews. If they don’t you could find yourself on tours that you don’t really like or you could even find out you’ve paid for a scam and you get nothing out of it.
Protect your personal information – It’s easy for someone to get your passwords or your bank information if you use a public computer, so make sure that you’re protecting everything. Don’t access anything secure from a public computer or Wi-Fi network and make sure that you have a VPN in place for areas that you do need to do anything secure. You’ll also want to make sure that you change your passwords when you get back home so that you don’t have to worry about anything someone may have seen.
Use your own judgement– There’s that tingling feeling on the back of your head when someone is watching you or that feeling in your gut when something just isn’t right. Don’t ignore your instincts. They’re there for a reason and you should absolutely be paying attention to them. When something just seems wrong it’s a good time for you to turn and walk quickly in the opposite direction.
Watch everything you eat and drink– You never know the sanitation of the different places you’re going and while in the United States we tend to believe that everything follows the health codes, those codes are entirely different or non-existent in other places. So use your own discretion about the restaurants you eat in, the food vendors you buy from and the water you’re getting from anywhere at all.
Keep your life personal – It’s fun to meet new people and make new friends, but that doesn’t mean you should tell them everything about yourself. Try to keep information quiet and definitely keep things like your hotel private. Also, make sure that no one from home knows you’re out of town until you get back (unless you have someone else staying at your home).
Stick with the group– Traveling with groups is a good way to protect yourself and it’s definitely going to make a difference for your comfort as well. Make sure you know the group you’re traveling with and make sure that they’re not going to leave anyone behind. That way, you know that you’re not going to get separated and you know they’ll come looking for you if somehow you do end up outside the group.
Know the transportation system– It’s a good idea to use local buses or even bikes and other forms of transportation like the locals do, but make sure that you know what you’re getting involved with. You should know the routes and have a good idea of how to use the system before you do.
Where to Travel To
You can travel to a number of different places, but if you’re really looking to immerse yourself in some fun and the opportunity for volunteer work you’re going to want to look at places like Peru, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Kenya, Tanzania, and Nepal. These are regions where you can really make a difference for the people and the culture and they’re also places where you’re going to have no problem really getting immersed in everything that they have to offer.
You can have a great experience when you’re traveling. It’s all about making sure that you know what you’re doing and making sure that you do everything you can to stay safe. You deserve to have a great time and you deserve to get back to your own hometown with no problems. By keeping an eye on these things, and staying vigilant along the way, you shouldn’t have a problem with either of those things. While safety is an issue that too many of us ignore or just plain don’t think about, it’s something that can make the difference between the trip of a lifetime and a trip you just want to forget.
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