Safety Tips for FirsTime Travelers
Get Travel Insurance
I know this sounds like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised by how many people get too caught up in their trip itinerary plans to think of travel insurance. If you don’t already have it, you most definitely need it; safeguard against lost luggage or canceled flights can save you big bucks in the long run and give you peace of mind.
Keep Electronics to A Minimum
For tech-savvy millennials it’s tempting to tote around every camera accessory possible, but in the case of electronics less is more. You don’t need your huge digital camera on every excursion, and who are you kidding – you won’t be working from your laptop in your free time.
Your phone can take awesome quality photos and send emails if need be. Lugging around bulky electronics not only slows you down but also makes you an obvious target for those looking to snatch them up. With the exception of your phone (obviously), keep your electronics locked up in your hotel room’s valuables safe – or better yet, don’t bring any on your trip to begin with!
Keep Your Head Up
Walk like you know where you’re going; it’s widely known that your less likely to be approached if you are quick and alert. As an alternative to staring down at your phone’s Google maps while navigating around a new city, plug in an earbud and listen to the voice guide you! You’ll take in more sights and be more aware of your surroundings.
Be Cautious at Bars
No one’s telling you NOT to go on Tinder dates when traveling, just be careful. Advertising that you’re in town on vacation makes you a bit more susceptible to being targeted than the next person. Watch your drink (that goes without saying), but watch your bartender make your drink too; not everyone is trustworthy.
Download Safety Apps
With solo travel trending right now, it’s likely that at some point you’ll end up wandering around an unfamiliar city alone. Family and friends can keep tabs on you even from a distance, thanks to some of the free apps on the market. Must-haves include:
- Uber: Most 20- or 30- somethings already have Uber downloaded, but don’t forget that it spans beyond just your local barhopping scene! If public transportation intimidates or confuses you, don’t be afraid to call for an Uber during your travels.
- bSafe: Although your friends or family members must download it as well, it is definitely worth it if traveling alone. If you are in a situation that feels unsafe, the app can give your friends your location, have them “follow” you as you walk to your destination, or send them an SOS if you are panicked. Although they may not be able to come to your rescue, they can notify police who can.
- Drunk Mode: Another app that’s probably already downloaded on your phone, but (amazingly enough) can be put to use when sober. Turn it on before setting out on your day’s activities, and if you decide to separate from the group at some point to take your own detour it’s easy to find your friends’ location. Plus, it’s fun to look back and see where you went at the end of the day!
Be Aware of Your Money
Keep always keep small amounts of cash on hand, and keep copies of the fronts and backs of all of your credit cards (as well as passports or IDs). Also, don’t forget to notify your bank that you are traveling because they will freeze your cards at the most inconvenient times if you don’t.
Try not to stand out; do some basic research as to what the locals generally wear. What may be standard summer clothing in the U.S. may be much too revealing in other countries and can even be considered inappropriate. Men and women alike, though, should try to be as inconspicuous as possible when in an unfamiliar place. Blend in! You’re less likely to be targeted by pickpockets and potentially dangerous predators. Which leads me to my next point…
Don’t Let People Distract You
Pickpocketing is a thing; it really happens, especially in tourist hotspots. The innocent-looking woman or child shoving a sign or paper in your face is often an attempt to catch you off guard and grab your wallet. Don’t be vulnerable – if anyone suddenly approaches you, be mindful that it may be a ploy to quickly divert your attention. Keep valuables secure on your body at all times!
If you happen to get a few bug bites or a scratch while traveling – especially internationally – make sure to clean and treat them carefully and quickly! Neglect to care for even the most minimal of flesh wounds could lead to serious discomfort and health issues. Keep in mind that most travel and health insurers do not cover medical fees internationally; although your insurance may reimburse you in the future, be prepared to front the cost of any potential hospital bills.
Know Your Country’s Embassy Information
Your country’s embassy or consulate in foreign countries can be helpful in so many unexpected situations. Know their contact information and location! Or better yet, if you live in the U.S. you can sign up for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program – a free service provided by the government that keeps you updated on safety and security information, and can help you stay in contact with your family in case of emergency.