Safe Travels - Arriving at Your Destination

You arrive at your international destination, road weary, disoriented and ripe for the picking!

The US State Department and many travel bloggers agree that airports and transportation offer the greatest opportunities for scams and theft. Be prepared to be unaffected by following these tips:

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Walk with confidence and avoid groups of men and youth congregating around coffee stands.

Do not engage in conversation with anyone except the officials working behind the ticket counter.

Locate your luggage and keep it together with you.

Call someone (privately) to let them know you have arrived.

Look for your driver and the code name you gave the service. Ask the driver for identification. Write down the number. Review the costs and method of payment before you go with the driver.

Watch the driver load your bags into the trunk to be sure everything is loaded and nothing is amiss.

Keep your backpack, purse, briefcase, etc. with you!

If you must take a cab:

Never go with anyone who approaches you or grabs your bags and says they have a car waiting!

You should

-Check with your hotel or the airport officials on the approximate cost of the ride to your hotel

-Negotiate the price up front with the cab driver

-Write down the ID number of the driver

-Keep your belongings with you in the car

-Watch the driver load the trunk if necessary

Select one that

-Is clearly marked

-Is parked in the official pick up area

-Displays driver identification

-Has a working meter

 

 

When you reach your hotel:

Keep an eye on people in the lobby.

Converse so that your personal information will not be overhead by bystanders.

Stay above the ground floor (most vulnerable), preferably floors 2 – 8, and near an emergency exit.

Change rooms if necessary.

Check the internal locks in your room to be sure they work.

Carry a rubber door stop and use it.

Never communicate credit card numbers or personal information over the hotel phone. Go to the reception desk if necessary.

Never allow anyone into your room.

Call the lobby if anyone poses as a hotel employee seeking to gain access to your room.

Safe Travels - Before You Go

Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.  Don’t let this be your travel motto! Whether you travel around the country or around the globe, invest a little time in preplanning for a safe return from your experience.  Some travelers, such as those with disabilities, women, and LGBTI persons, may face additional challenges when abroad. 

It’s called the World Wide web for good reason. Use it!

As you plan your trip, visit the State Department travel site on travel.state.gov to find:

Country Specific Information for every country of the world

Travel Warnings, and Travel Alerts

Information on crime and security, health and medical conditions, local laws and more 

Requirements for visas, custody paperwork (when traveling with children) and other documentation that you will need to cross the border.

Options for cash, debit/credit cards, and ATMs, and exchange rates

Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive security messages about terrorist threats, security incidents, planned demonstrations, natural disasters, etc., and to help the State Department find you in the event of an emergency.

Use Google Street View or other software to view your destination and accommodations, and to plan your routes. Check out the local neighborhoods, observe local people and look for any signs of danger such as gang graffiti or bars on the windows.

Arrange transportation with a reputable company ahead of time. Contact local authorities or tourism officials to find out what is and is not safe. Keep the contact information with you. Form a backup plan in case Plan A fails.

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Never leave the airport unless you have secure transportation such as transportation from the airport’s official pick-up area, cars from the limousine counters, or a car from your hotel.

Informal taxis or mini-buses pose particular threats to people unfamiliar with the local conditions, especially to women traveling alone. 

 Riding public transportation with suitcases and belongings will attract crime.

Plan to blend in!

Pack inconspicuous clothes (no bling)  that are appropriate to local laws and customs. Women and LGBTI individuals should take special care with their clothing and appearance. You are a guest in a foreign land where people have different rights and views.

Learn a little of the local language. Be familiar with essential phrases like, “I need help”, “Call the police.” “I need a doctor.”

Notify your financial institutions of your travel plans so you will have access to your money

Make sure your cell phone is enabled for international use or purchase a local SIM card when you arrive.

Write this down and keep it with you! In any emergency, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate or call the following numbers: 1-888-407-4747 (toll-free in the United States and Canada) or 1-202-501-4444 from other countries. 

Keep Your WITS About You!

W - Watch everything

Scan your surroundings every few minutes to note changes in your surroundings or behaviors in others that could mean trouble. Stay aware of exits and hazards. Don’t focus all your attention on your cell phone, tablet or maps, etc. Make steady, but non-threatening eye contact with people who appear to be watching you.

I – Trust your Intuition

Trust your gut feelings and intuition. Notice other people, what they wear and what they carry – look for things that don’t seem right. If a situation or interaction feels wrong, it may be wrong. Say “no” and step away. Too much pressure from others usually means a scam in play.

T – Think ahead

Know your route and your next steps. Use apps like Google Street View to see your path.

Plan for the unexpected. In every new environment, think through possible scenarios and how you might react.

Check the local news and US State Department website for reports of demonstrations or protests and avoid those areas.

S – Secure your valuables

Keep your belongings and money secure. Only bring what you need; leave heirlooms and expensive items at home. Use the hotel safe or invest in a slash-proof lock bag and secure it to an inconspicuous fixture in your room.  Make it as hard as possible for someone to walk away with your stuff!

Don’t keep all your eggs in the same basket! Divide your money and papers and keep them in separate places on your person, for instance, keep your large bills in a money belt, small bills and change in your front pocket, and emergency cash (about $50) in your sock or shoe. Wear your backpack or purse across your front.

In crowded places, guard against professional pickpockets. Position yourself away from other people as much as possible, and try to stand or sit against a wall. Keep your positions in front of you and, preferably, in contact with your body.

On a bus or train, turn sideways in your seat to keep your back against the side of the vehicle. Try to stay awake. If you must dose, make sure your bags and carry items are attached to you by straps or carabiners. Place your arms, hands or feet on your items.

Memorize important contacts. Make copies of everything: your passport, your itinerary, the front and back of your credit cards, etc. Give one set to someone at home, keep one set with you - email a copy to yourself so you have cloud access.