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.
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.