As with cooking, weddings and surgery, safe travel overseas requires some preparation. Caroline Morris of Smarter Travel outlines ten steps you can take for a happier and more secure journey.
1. Choose your ground transportation wisely
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), motor vehicle crashes are the No. 1 cause of death for U.S. citizens abroad. Whenever possible, travel in a vehicle that is in good condition and offers working seat belts. Research the safety records of bus companies, and avoid using less-safe vehicles like rickshaws and mopeds.
2. Check in with the State Department
Did you know that the State Department provides updated safety information for every country in the world? You can search the website and get trustworthy details about wherever you're visiting, from which vaccinations you need to the local laws to any travel warnings (including crime and security warnings). While you're on the website, head over to the State Department's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) page, where you can register your travel plans. Once you’ve registered, they’ll be able to contact you in the event of an emergency, whether it's a natural disaster, an emergency back home or civil unrest.
3. Review the escape route in your hotel room
When you check in to a hotel room, it’s normal for you to be more focused on scoping out the amenities than studying the map on the back of your door. But before you get too settled in, you should take a quick look at the emergency escape routes. You'll be glad you did if an emergency arises in the middle of the night.
4. Leave an itinerary and emergency contact
Unplugging while on vacation can be great, but try not to go too under the radar, especially if you're traveling alone. Leave your itinerary (even if it's just as basic as which city you'll be visiting and when you'll return) with a trusted friend or family member back home, and try to check in with him or her every day. That way, if something happens, they can alert authorities on your behalf.
5. Scan a copy of your passport
Before you leave, scan a copy of your passport, e-mail it to yourself and take a photo of it to save on your cell phone. That way, if you need your passport while out (but it's locked up in your hotel safe), you'll have access to all your details. Plus, if it's stolen, getting a replacement will be that much easier.
6. Confirm visitors with the hotel desk
You're in your hotel room and there's a knock at the door from someone claiming to be maintenance or housekeeping. Before you let this person in, call down to the front desk to verify that someone from the property needs access to your room. Criminals have been known to pose as hotel workers in order to get inside rooms.
7. Don't flash your cash or valuables
Keep your cash separated, with some spending money easily accessible and the rest hidden, so that you're not showing off a big wad of cash every time you pay. Although it's tempting to have your smartphone out constantly to look up directions or take photos, be mindful of your surroundings -- thieves love to grab cell phones from people using them on trains and run off at the next stop.
8. Steer clear of animals
Cute stray dogs and cats roaming the streets may make for good photo opportunities, but resist the urge to get too close. Wild animals can carry all kinds of not-so-fun diseases (including rabies) that could ruin your trip.
9. Keep an emergency car kit
Whether you're driving your own car on a road trip or renting one abroad, make sure you keep a fully stocked kit in case of emergency. This should include a backup battery for your phone, a first-aid kit, reflective warning signs, blankets, non-perishable food, a tire gauge, a flashlight, bottled water and a snow shovel.
10. Save emergency numbers
Remember, you can't call 911 everywhere. Find out what the local emergency hotlines are and save them to your phone (preferably on speed dial). Also research the nearest U.S. embassies or consulates and save those addresses and phone numbers as well.
Source: USA Today