Travel Safety Essentials and Precautions for an International Trip

November 20, 2023

Planning an international vacation arouses excitement. Exploring unfamiliar cultures and sights is incredibly rewarding for travelers. However, voyagers must make preparations for the inherent risks of visiting unfamiliar places. By being vigilant and conducting proper research, you can embark on an adventurous journey while minimizing the risk of mishaps. This guide provides travel safety tips to prevent accidents and remain secure during journeys abroad.

Understanding and Avoiding Petty Theft and Scams

According to the Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC), petty theft like pickpocketing and bag snatching is common for travelers, especially in crowded tourist areas. To safeguard belongings:

  • Use anti-theft bags with hidden compartments and zippers facing the body.

  • Avoid keeping all cash and cards in one place. Spread out in different secure spots.

  • Don’t carry your passport around. Leave locked up safely in the room.

  • Research common tourist tricks at destinations and know how to spot and avoid them.

  • Stay vigilant of your surroundings. Don’t let your guard down, even if someone seems friendly.

  • Staying alert deters would-be thieves looking for easy targets.

Road Safety for International Travelers

Shocking statistics from the World Health Organization show road crashes are the #1 killer of young adults globally. Driving in unfamiliar territory is extremely dangerous. Follow the guidelines to stay safe:

  • Avoid driving yourself. Opt for public transport, trains, and pre-arranged private transport instead.

  • If you must drive, arrange for rental car insurance and understand all local road rules in advance. Get an International Driving Permit (IDP).

  • Use seat belts, approved child seats, and helmets for all vehicle occupants. Don’t drink and drive.

  • Exercise extra caution when crossing as a pedestrian. Always use crosswalks and look both ways before crossing the street.

  • Don’t ride motorcycles abroad. The risk of crashes stays incredibly high, even for experienced riders.

  • Making smart decisions on roads could save lives.

If you do get into a vehicle accident abroad, immediately seek any necessary medical treatment. Then be sure to document the incident by photographing damage, obtaining police reports, contacting your rental agency or insurance provider, and consulting with a trusted Myrtle Beach injury lawyer upon returning home to understand your options.

Water Safety While Traveling

CDC reports over 200 outbreaks of swimming-related illnesses from 2015-2019. Follow water safety travel tips:

  • Swim only in lifeguard-protected areas. Never swim alone.

  • Use extreme caution while boating and wear a life jacket.

  • Avoid stormy, dark, or isolated water. Know limits and don’t overexert.

  • Don’t drink tap or well water. Opt for sealed bottled water instead.

  • Take care at water parks. Follow all posted instructions and lifeguard guidance.

  • Keep an eye on children at all times when swimming. Kids can drown in seconds.

  • Vigilance around water is critical for preventing tragic accidents.

Maintaining Low Profile

Blending in with locals and avoiding risky situations enhances safety. Follow the guidelines:

  • Dress modestly and avoid drawing excessive attention through loud behavior.

  • Stay respectful of local cultural norms and customs. Learn some key phrases in the local language.

  • Avoid protests, demonstrations, and areas with high crime rates.

  • Don’t share travel plans with strangers. Keep details vague if asked.

  • Patronize only reputable businesses. Research ratings and avoid making purchases on the street.

  • Using common sense and choosing low-risk activities goes a long way.

Utilizing U.S. Department of State Resources

The U.S. Department of State offers useful services:

  • Register trips with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to get important travel alerts.

  • Contact the nearest embassy or consulate if you lose your passport, are victimized by crime, or face a medical emergency or legal issue.

  • Call +1-202-501-4444 for emergency assistance from U.S. embassies/consulates while abroad.

  • Don’t hesitate to tap into these valuable resources as needed.

Financial Precautions When Traveling

Avoid problems by taking monetary precautions:

  • Notify the bank/credit card company of international travel plans.

  • Carry a mix of cash, debit cards, credit cards, and mobile payment options. Don’t rely exclusively on one.

  • Exchange currency at authorized outlets only. Avoid street vendors for money exchange.

  • Split up cash and cards between multiple secure spots like a money belt or hidden wallet.

  • Keep photocopies/photos of key documents as backups in case lost/stolen.

  • Securing finances ahead of time provides peace of mind.

Effective Communication Tips

Follow the tips to stay connected:

  • Arrange international coverage or unlocking for mobile phones ahead of time.

  • Download useful offline translation apps, maps, and travel guides for use when WiFi is limited.

  • Set communication expectations with loved ones back home regarding frequency of contact.

  • Carry a physical map as backup navigation in areas with potentially spotty phone service.

  • Share full itinerary, hotel details, and emergency contacts with family/friends.

  • Maintaining open communication channels is highly beneficial when traveling internationally.

  • By taking sensible precautions and using discernment, you can focus on creating lifelong memories rather than worrying about safety hazards. This international travel safety advice helps avoid accidents and enjoy the journey.

Additional Tips for Staying Safe and Healthy While Traveling Abroad


Some diseases are more common in other countries. Check which vaccinations are recommended for your destination and get them well before departure. This protects from illnesses like hepatitis, typhoid, yellow fever, and meningitis.


Purchase comprehensive travel insurance to cover costs of medical care, emergency evacuation, canceled flights, lost baggage, and more. Having insurance gives peace of mind if the unexpected happens.


Bring enough medications in a carry-on bag to last your whole trip, plus some extra. Keep meds in original containers with the doctor’s prescription. Research if your medications are illegal abroad – some common drugs like Adderall are banned in certain countries.

Copy Important Documents

Make 2-3 copies of passports, visas, itineraries, insurance, medical prescriptions, and emergency contacts. Leave one copy at home and pack separate copies in luggage and carry-on. This safeguards if originals get damaged or stolen.

First Aid Supplies

Pack a small first aid kit with bandages, antibiotics, pain/fever reducers, insect repellent, antihistamine, motion sickness meds – anything you may need in a pinch. Make sure items are allowed through security checkpoints.

Local Laws and Customs

Read up on local laws and dress codes. Avoid issues by being respectful of norms for clothing, alcohol, drugs, politics, speech, gender roles, sexuality, and photography restrictions. Ignorance of laws will not excuse you.

Food and Water Precautions

Drink only bottled or boiled water. Choose restaurants carefully and eat fully cooked foods. Avoid buffets as food sits out. Acclimate by eating smaller portions initially. Carry antidiarrheal and anti-nausea medications.


Research lodging thoroughly using reviews, photos, and descriptions. Book refundable rates when possible. Confirm amenities like air conditioning, hot water, WiFi, accessibility features if needed, room size, bed types, etc. Small details make a big difference in comfort.

Language Help

Learn common phrases in the local language like greetings, directions, numbers, and asking for help. Download an offline translation app. Have your hotel address written in the foreign language in case you need to take a taxi.

Blend In

Avoid standing out as a tourist, which makes you an easy target. Don’t wear expensive-looking jewelry and watches. Dress modestly according to local norms. Be discreet using maps, phones, and cameras in public. Observe and mimic local behaviors.

Day Trips and Tours

Book sightseeing tours and day trips through vetted and insured companies. Read the fine print carefully for exclusions and refund policies. For custom multi-day tours, use reputable firms. Don’t give money to unverified strangers promising trips.

Returning Home

When packing to fly home, avoid buying prohibited foods, plants, animals, and antiquities. Know customs rules on tobacco, alcohol, and money amounts. Keep receipts for all significant purchases in case you need to declare them for duty taxes. Declare all food items.

By taking precautions, conducting thorough research, respecting local cultures, and remaining vigilant, world travelers can stay healthy and safe while creating unforgettable memories. Follow these fundamental international travel tips for a stress-free, life-changing journey.

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Andi Perullo de Ledesma

I am Andi Perullo de Ledesma, a Chinese Medicine Doctor and Travel Photojournalist in Charlotte, NC. I am also wife to Lucas and mother to Joaquín. Follow us as we explore life and the world one beautiful adventure at a time.

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