TRAVEL SAFETY – 27 TIPS TO STAY SAFE WHEN TRAVELING

You are currently viewing TRAVEL SAFETY – 27 TIPS TO STAY SAFE WHEN TRAVELING

After years of traveling, I and Jacqueline always question how we should stay safe while traveling. Especially if it’s a new destination we’re visiting that we aren’t familiar with.

It may seem contradictory to think of things that could go wrong during a trip or vacation. But the only way to have a safe trip and avoid any complications while traveling is to figure out what could possibly go wrong and be prepared for those situations in advance. Or even better, completely avoiding risks whenever possible.

Now we’re not saying the world is a dangerous place. Well, there are certain places and destinations that aren’t safe for tourists. But as a whole, most destinations are safe as long as we know how to minimize our risks while traveling.

The truth is, every destination has its own share of risks and dangers, even our hometown. The only difference is that familiar places are safer because we know how and when to avoid certain risks.

Staying safe while traveling is simply getting familiar with certain things in your destination of travel.

In this article, we have listed 27 tips that we always follow before and during our trips. And are [the safety tips] how we always prepare and stay safe whenever and wherever we travel.

1. RESEARCH DESTINATION

Researching the destination you plan on visiting holds all the answers to staying safe while you travel. It doesn’t matter where that destination is, your research will go a long way and will help you get familiar with that place before you are physically there. And as a result, it will be much easier to point out and avoid any risks.

Here is a list of resources that we use to research safety when traveling:

Government travel websites are a good starting point when researching a destination. You’ll find all the necessary information for your trips like Visa requirements and the most common threats in any destination. Before you research your destination, I suggest you look up your own hometown. I say this because government websites make every destination seem like the most dangerous in the world. Therefore, comparing your hometown and your travel destination will most likely have a few risks in common which will make you more at ease.

Travel blogs: Travelers just like you and I write travel blogs about the destinations they visit. The information found on these blogs is more accurate and is generally what you can really expect from that destination.

Friends and Family: If you know anyone that has been to a destination, ask them what they think. And if they have any useful tips for you that will help avoid any complications during your trip. Asking for advice and insight from a friend or relative that has been to a destination will help you get familiar with that place and you can better avoid any complications during your trip.

Are you planning a trip? Planning a trip can be a contradictory mix of feeling both excited and overwhelmed. If you feel this way and need some help you can follow our step-by-step planning guide that will help cut through all the confusion that goes into trip planning!

CLICK HERE FOR AN EASY TO FOLLOW TRIP PLANNING MANUAL

2. COMMON SCAMS

Some places are well known all over the world for their scams. But the truth is, there is no scam-free destination, scams are just about everywhere. Some are just common scams that everyone knows about like the Taxi driver who unfortunately has a broken meter; this is a common scam all over the world.

Other scams are more complex like the tuk tuk scams in Thailand or supposedly cheap tours in Indonesia.

Keep in mind that scams are usually disguised as something attractive but there is always one thing that will give it away.

If something seems strange, odd, out of place, very cheap, or stands out, it’s a good rule of thumb to take it as a scam. 

Whatever the case, it is best to do your own research and find out what are the common scams in the destination you plan to visit. There isn’t any other better way to avoid getting scammed than to actually know in advance.

3. TRAVEL INSURANCE

Purchasing travel insurance seems like an additional travel expense with no true value. In a way, that is true as long as everything goes according to plan and hopefully, nothing goes wrong.

Most travelers are happy to save on the small amount of money that travel insurance costs. Even if that means taking the risk of not getting any compensation for lost or stolen luggage, delayed flights, and not getting a refund for booked flights and hotels. (the biggest trip expense)

And in the worst case, you may need medical attention or hospitalization where bills often run into the 4 or 5 digits. 

I have a personal experience of such things going wrong while abroad. While on vacation in Italy, my mum suddenly had a heart attack. She recovered in a hospital and when she was stable got repatriated back home. Thankfully, my mum had travel insurance that took care of and paid for all the bills. I’m not sure what the cost for all that would have been, but from my research, it would have cost us at least $100.000.

Think of travel insurance as a way to manage your risks in the case of events that would result in a huge financial blow.

There are loads of travel insurance out there. Each company offers different packages which range in price and benefits. Over the last years, we have got our travel insurance through a few trustworthy companies. 

With things changing so fast all over the world it is a good idea to purchase travel insurance that covers covid related medical issues.

Right now, whenever we travel we’re using Safetywing nomad insurance. They offer comprehensive packages for less than $1.50 a day and also cover medical costs related to Covid 19 which is a huge plus with the current situation.

CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT SAFETYWING NOMAD INSURANCE

If you want to know how to choose the right travel insurance or aren’t sure which coverage would be best for your trip, we have a detailed article that goes through everything you need to know before purchasing your plan. 

READ THE FULL TRAVEL INSURANCE ARTICLE

4. INFORM YOUR BANK

Imagine arriving at your destination after meticulously planning the perfect trip and on the first attempt of using your debit card, it is declined. It’s definitely a bad way to start any trip and could be the cause of ruining the following days too.

When you make a transaction in a foreign country, your bank may pick it up and treat it as suspicious activity and therefore freeze your account. The best case would be that your bank will reactivate your account over the phone after verifying your account through personal information. But often, your bank or card company could take a few days before reactivating your account. And in some cases, your bank may ask that you physically visit their office before they do anything.

The simple way to avoid all this is to contact your bank before your trip. Let your bank know when you plan to travel. Also, we usually make a transaction at the airport before we depart and when we arrive at our destination. This way the bank can make a link that it was probably you who did the transactions abroad.

5. RESEARCH THE REQUIREMENTS

(travel has changed drastically as have entry requirements. Pre-Covid it was possible to get a Visa on Arrival in certain destinations. And although those destinations may be currently open for tourism, the requirements for entry have probably changed and Visas will no longer be offered on arrival)

Every country around the world has its own set of requirements for tourists to enter the country. Some countries require proof of an onward flight out of the country. Or that you have at least 6 months validity on your passport and 2 blank pages for visa stamps.

Whatever the destination, you should always know the requirements in advance. Here are the most common requirements in countries around the world:

  • Visa – either on arrival or must apply before
  • Passport valid for at least 6 months
  • Number of blank pages (usually 2)
  • Proof of onward flight out of the country (when visa is required)
  • Proof of accommodation (first few days is usually enough)
  • Proof of a certain amount of money in your bank account
  • COVID-19 vaccinations
  • Negative COVID-19 PCR test (72 or 48 hours before flight)

Keep in mind that a few of these things need to be taken care of well in advance. For instance, if you need to get a new passport it could take up to 6 weeks to receive it. So it’s a good idea to start looking into the requirements well ahead.

You can check what are the requirements to enter your destination through your government travel website. You can click on one of the links below for more information

Australia

United States

United Kingdom

New Zealand

6. DOCUMENTATION BACKUP

Passports, Insurance policies, medical prescriptions, or any other form of documentation are the most important possessions when traveling.

If anything was to go wrong and the original forms are lost or stolen, the second-best option is to have a backup of those documents and your passport. 

Make copies of your passport, insurance policy, medical prescriptions, and other important documents. We also bind the copies in plastic to keep them safe from any moisture or from tearing. We give copies to a family member and keep 2 or 3 copies in different backpacks. Also, a photo of the documents would be useful in the worst case of losing originals and, copies.

7. HEALTH AND VACCINES

Nothing ruins a trip more than getting sick while in a foreign country. Especially when it’s a health issue that could have been taken care of before going abroad. Although certain health issues just come without any pre-warning signal, there are many ways to prevent getting sick and ultimately staying safe when we travel.

HEALTH CHECK UP

In order for us to keep everything in check, me and Jacqueline always book an appointment and get a health and also dental check-up before traveling. And if there is anything that needs taking care of we do it before we travel.

One time in the Philippines I got a really bad tooth infection. My mouth got all swollen up and I couldn’t even eat with the pain I had. The issue was a rotten tooth which I could have easily taken before traveling. 

After this incident, we both decided to get both dental and health checkups before traveling. Or at least before we travel long term like 3 months, 6  months or maybe a year.

VACCINES

Whenever we travel to new destinations or foreign countries we are inevitably exposing ourselves to new viruses and bacteria that our body isn’t used to. Usually, our immune system can’t fight off those viruses so we end up getting sick.

To prevent getting sick when traveling to certain countries, it is best to get vaccinated when it is advised.

8. FIRST AID KIT

Consider packing a first aid kit whenever you travel. It comes in handy in the event of small injuries or mild sickness. Not there is no need to go crazy and pack a whole medical kit. Here are some of the basics supplies that will serve well in any minor situation: plasters, bandages, gauze, surgical spray, paracetamol, diarrhea tablets, sickness pills, insect repellents, antibiotic medication (medication for infections).

Seek advice from your doctor or pharmacist if you are allergic to any medication. Your doctor or pharmacist will know what alternative to give you.

9. SHARE YOUR TRAVEL PLANS

Before you hop on that plane and head to who knows where, make sure you share your travel plans with someone you trust. If something happens in the place you’re visiting at least someone will know.

A good idea is to a set up a schedule with someone you will call for example every other day. That way, you have someone expecting you to contact them and if that doesn’t happen, they will know something isn’t right.

10. FREE Wi-Fi HOTSPOTS

Free wi-fi hotspots are a great way to stay connected. Even more so when you’re traveling and roaming fees are sky-high. But do you know the risks associated with free wi-fi spots found in just about every airport, park, cafe?

When we use wi-fi hotspots, there is a risk that someone can hack into our account and steal our personal information. Think of all the information you have on your phone, bank account details, social media accounts, a hacker monitoring that wi-fi hotspot could easily access your account.

To avoid getting hacked, the best thing you can do is use a VPN. A VPN is a system that will encrypt all your information making it almost impossible for hackers to steal. Or just purchase a local Sim card from your destination. It will cost a fraction of the roaming fees offered by your hometown service provider.

11. TRANSPORT – MOVING AROUND

In order to move around safely, we always research the best and safest transport options.

In certain non-urbanized destinations, scooters are a great way to get around. However, renting a scooter in a highly-populated city like Bangkok or Jakarta would mean trouble.

Know how you will be moving around in advance. Do your research and figure out what is the most reliable form of transport. Find out if there are any related risks like avoiding subways and not hailing down random taxis in the middle of the night.

12. LOCK YOUR BELONGINGS

Whether traveling with lots of expensive stuff or you travel light with not much more than $100 dollars worth of travel items [this reminds me of us] you should always keep your belongings safe by keeping everything locked. It isn’t nice to have anything stolen. Especially when traveling and those possessions are all you have.

It’s very easy for someone to go through your belongings if the backpack or luggage isn’t locked. Think of how many times you stowed away bags in the luggage compartment on buses. One time in Thailand a guy taking care of the luggage stayed in the luggage compartment probably sifting through all the open luggage. 

Crafty thieves could easily open your bag while stored overhead on a train. Or even walk behind you on the street and open your bag without you even noticing.

If you’ll be using hostels as your main accommodation, take a padlock with you. Most hostels offer free lockers to store valuables like passports and electronics and it’s best to have your own padlock to lock it up.

On beaches or in situations where you’ll inevitably need to leave your bag unattended, consider investing in a cable lock and secure your bag to a non-movable object. It isn’t the safest solution but will potentially deter anyone looking for an easy grab-and-run kind of thing.

13. ASK THE LOCALS FOR ADVICE

Locals are a valuable source of information for many things. After all, they probably lived in that place all their lives and probably have some sound advice to offer.

It isn’t that straightforward to just walk up to some random guy in the street and snap a conversation. So in the meantime ask your hotel receptionist if there is anything to look out for. Ask about common scams, dangerous neighborhoods, and other general safety precautions.

Other locals you could ask are waiters or maybe while riding buses or trams strike a conversation. Most locals will be happy to help.

However, if asking taxi drivers or tour agents, take their advice mildly. They usually tell you what would be beneficial to them, like using a bus is a death sentence or if you walk more than 10 minutes you’ll get abducted. Well maybe not that extreme but I guess you got my point.

14. DON’T GIVE AWAY TOO MUCH DETAIL

It is normal for people that you just met to ask certain questions like what hotels are you staying in or what are your travel plans. However, don’t give away too much about yourself. You never know what that person has in mind.

One thing is for sure, tour agents most often will ask for the name of your hotel before giving you a final price for the tour you want. What will happen is that the price they offer will reflect the quality of your hotel: high-end hotel – higher price, run-down hostel – normal or lower price.

15. DON’T BE A TOURIST

Tourists are usually the prime targets of thieves or pickpockets. This is especially true in crowded places that are popular with tourists.

Instead of being an obvious tourist, blend in with the crowd. Ditch that bright-colored flower shirt and panama hat and wear neutral-colored outfits or something that matches the culture of your destination.

16. HIDE VALUABLES

While keeping a low profile will help avoid being detected, the shady guy lurking around tourist crowds won’t just rob any random tourist. At least this won’t be the case most times.

Thieves and pickpockets usually stalk their targets for some time and evaluate what are the risks. If nothing valuable stands on your person, they’ll probably move on to someone that seems more lucrative.

In order to avoid becoming a victim of robbery or pickpockets, hide your valuables. Have nothing expensive in plain sight. If you have expensive jewelry, wear it discreetly or don’t wear it altogether. Keep expensive phones in your bag or front pocket. If you have a camera wrapped around your shoulder, put it away and get it out when you need it. Keep in mind that even a relatively cheap camera ($500) is 2 months salary in certain places.

17. LISTEN TO YOUR GUT

Often a gut feeling lets us know there is something wrong. But we usually just shake it off and take it as just being overly worried for no reason.

The truth is, that gut feeling comes when our senses picked something up but our conscious mind didn’t register it. Instead of suppressing it, be aware of what is going on around you, that feeling may be a warning sign.

18. MONEY

Cash draws attention and attention isn’t something you want if you intend to stay safe when traveling.

It is inevitable to have cash most of the time. Everyone has cash and the key here is to look as if you’ve not got much of it.

Instead of walking around with big amounts of cash, leave the bulk locked up at your hotel or hostel. Only take with you what is needed for your activity. 

If for some reason you need to carry large amounts of cash, maybe you’ve just done a withdrawal or need to pay for something later on during the day, keep that money in a hidden money belt. And carry a dummy wallet with enough to cash to get you through the day. If a mugger confronts you, just hand over the dummy wallet.

19. BE AWARE

Many times people fall victim to scams, or pickpockets because they were caught off guard. And this is all so common while traveling or on vacation. 

Being alert doesn’t necessarily mean to freak out and get all paranoid everywhere you go. But instead, be attentive of what’s going on around you, watch out for anyone seedy lurking around and most important don’t get caught up in something that you forget about everything else.

20. HAVE A PURPOSE

Before heading out of your hotel room know exactly where you’re going. Looking up your destination on a map in advance will give you a sense of orientation on where you’re headed. 

If you end up getting lost, make sure you’re not heading into a dangerous neighborhood. In the meantime discreetly look up in what direction is your destination without giving away that you are lost.

21. HAVE AN OUT

Having an out is basically a Plan B if anything goes wrong. If you’re in a situation where you feel vulnerable or you think something could go wrong, look for the way out of that situation before it happens.

In some situations, knowing where is your out before something goes wrong could be a life saver

In Thailand we once got caught in a really bad thunderstorm on a dangerous highway while riding a scooter back to the hotel. Our hotel was still about 2 hours away and it was getting dark. There was nowhere to shelter from the rain and the second best option was to stop someone in a van to ride us back.

22. KNOW YOUR CAPABILITIES

While I encourage anyone to be adventurous and try new things, always consider your capabilities and if there are any risks involved.

This is especially true if you have any physical restrictions or mental fears that will determine what activities could be either of risk or may cause injury in the case of physical limitations.

For instance, due to a bad leg injury years ago, Jacqueline knows that a physically challenging trek could potentially injury her leg.

23. SPLURGE WHEN NECESSARY

We all love to make that vacation a little cheaper. Maybe we choose cheap flights and opt for the cheaper hotels and restaurants over the more expensive ones.

It’s very attractive to choose what is cheap especially if you’re a budget backpacker like us.

But it’s also important to know why those things are cheap before booking. 

Some hotels could be cheap because they’re in a shady neighbourhood or are used for something completely different. Like a hotel we booked in Thailand that was used primarily for prostitution. We figured this out during the night.

So don’t just look at the price. Instead do your research, look into reviews and find out what other ordinary tourists think. In some cases, choosing the cheap option may be a risky way of saving a few extra bucks. And in those cases, it will be better to splurge on a safer option.

Here is what to look out for before booking:

Cheap Hotels: find out where the hotel is located. It could be in a dangerous neighborhood. Or maybe it’s just too far from any amenities (restaurants, bars, nightlife) and as a result, the transportation costs will end up costing more than a better hotel.

Cheap Taxi: in some places, you will find that certain taxi prices are much cheaper than others. Usually it’s not that the taxis are cheap but because they aren’t real taxis. This is common in parts of South America where just random locals paint their cars like taxis. Sometimes, these fake taxis are into more serious crimes like kidnappings and robbery.

Instead, use online taxi apps like Uber or Grab. They are much safer and you can see the profile of the driver. Before getting in the car be sure the license plate matches the one on your booking.

Cheap tours: similar to fake taxis, there are also tours that promote themselves as reliable, safe, and so on. However, it isn’t always the case. Certain tours have poor standards and may very well be dangerous. This is the case for certain bus companies that employ maniac drivers, boat tours that aren’t regulated and even non official activities.

Final note: Whatever it is that you intend to book, always research the company and check for reviews. It doesn’t matter if the tour or hotel is cheap or not, before booking always know exactly what you’re paying for.

24. ATM SCAMS

It is sound advice to always cover the pin with your hand. But also be aware of your surroundings and avoid ATMs in seedy areas.

If someone close by looks suspicious or is too close, just walk away and find another ATM in a safer area. It isn’t uncommon for someone to grab your cash the moment it comes out of the machine and make a run for it.

Check the ATM, see there is nothing suspicious like loose parts or misalignments and overall that everything feels solid. If you notice anything suspicious, it may be a tampered ATM where scammers place a card slot on the original to steal card details and use a pinhole camera to read your pin.

The best way to avoid complications is to withdraw from ATMs that are part of the physical bank and during bank hours. Try to avoid withdrawals during the night and even more in seedy areas.

25. FOOD

It is tempting to indulge in the local food culture and try all those exotic dishes. But always watch out for the basics to follow regarding food. Eating at the wrong places could potentially ruin a trip if you get bad food poisoning.

A good rule that you’ve probably heard is to go where the locals eat. If you’re looking for a good street food stall go to that place with the longest line.

Avoid buying pre-cooked meals. You never know when the food was prepared and how long its been just sitting there. Instead, only buy from a stall where your food is cooked right in front of you and is served hot.

When I was in Bandung – Indonesia I once had a dish of fried noodles from a street stall and on my way out saw the guy washing the dishes in filthy water. So although the food may have been ok, what it was served on was not. The following 4 or 5 days I went through the worst food poisoning.

Therefore, besides buying hot meals always keep in mind hygiene standards like where the food is served.

26. DRINK / WATER

If you’re used to drinking directly from the tap at home, avoid that while traveling. You never know what is the source of that water. And in a lot of countries, not even the locals drink from the tap because they know it isn’t safe.

But instead of constantly buying bottled water, consider taking a travel flask on your trip. In most hostels and hotels you can get a free water refill. This will save you money and also reduces plastic waste.

27. DON’T GET WASTED

Let’s face it, those wild nights out with friends are one of the memories that stick around for a long time. So try and keep it that way rather than getting so wasted that you have no idea what’s going on. Let alone remembering any details in the future.

It’s not just the fact you’ll ruin the night for yourself; your friends probably won’t be that happy to babysit you. And your lack of awareness will make you an easy target.

If you do intend to drink, do it responsibly and with a group of friends you trust. Always figure out how you’ll be getting back to your hotel before going out, and stick to that plan.

FINAL NOTES

The above travel safety tips are a roundup of the basic safety rules to follow while traveling. It doesn’t matter what is the destination you’ll be in, most tips apply for every place in the world. In fact, most of the tips are just common things that we do on a regular basis back home. And I said above, at home we know all the risks and dangers and avoid them blindly.

We can incorporate the steps we take to stay safe in our home country and apply them when traveling.

The most important things to keep in mind are to always use common sense and be on high alert (without freaking out) and don’t do things you wouldn’t do back home. Like drive a scooter with no license, no helmet, and probably intoxicated. You can follow this tip if you want, but I didn’t list it because it’s just plain stupid.

Leave a Reply