Traveling Safely Abroad

There is a lot of talk these days about Cyber security, but in this article, I would like to discuss another type of security: physical safety and security while traveling abroad.  While traveling internationally, there are important safety measures to take in order to get the most out of your trip.  You cannot take for granted that all countries are as safe as your home country, wherever that may be.

One of the most important things to do for international travel is to keep your passport secure and safe throughout the entire trip.  Just in case it does get lost along the way, it is always smart to scan a copy of it prior to leaving and to save it electronically so that you have access in emergency situations.

Common Sense Tips

Using common sense when travelling will help you to stay safe and avoid many types of problems on your trip.

For example, if you are visiting a crowded area in a big city, it is smart not to carry around valuables or large amounts of cash. Pick-pocketers are able to tell which people in a crowd are non-locals, such as tourists or business travelers, so it’s smart to blend in as best as possible. Avoid using your back pockets, even for things like a hotel key.

Another good step to take is to familiarize yourself with your travel itinerary. If you plan to explore the local area before or after your working hours, the safest way could be to research the area prior to the trip and then to add a few desired destinations to your schedule.

By doing your due diligence and planning ahead, you can allot the time to visit some without having to worry about time. In many trips to Europe and Asia, I have taken advantage of my contacts there to give myself time to visit local restaurants and tourist and cultural attractions.

Local Customs and Practices

Many countries have different customs and practices that are useful to know prior to your trip. A great way to learn about these differences is to explore the local area during any down time.

One of the best places to learn in advance how to explore new countries safely is the US State Department’s online portal.  The US State Department provides a traveler’s checklist, country by country tips, and emergency procedures easily accessible online. Using this resource has been beneficial to me for trips to Asia and Africa where I needed work visas and vaccinations, respectively.

As mentioned in How to Show Up at the Top of Your Game, taking precautionary measures before international travel can be crucial in getting the most out of your trips. Adequate preparation has created opportunities for me to explore dozens of international cities that I could not have done without proper planning.

Traveling with Local Contacts

While looking for information online is valuable, I’ve often found that the best way to prepare for your trip is to speak with someone who has been there before. Anyone who is familiar with the destination and people with whom you may meet will have practical advice on what is customary and worth seeing at your destination.

Once you arrive in a new country, it is always best to meet up with your host if possible. Even if you arrive a day in advance of formal business dealings, meeting with your local contact can be extremely beneficial.

Meeting with your host will help you to complete two important things. First, you can learn the safe and unsafe places in the area so that you have an idea of where you should and should not go.

Second, residents of the area may be able to point out some places to experience authentic food or activities that foreign tour guides do not know about.

“If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay home.”
-James Michener, Author

What to do When Bad Things Happen

When something goes wrong overseas, it’s important not to panic. As long as you take the proper precautionary measures before your trip, most crises can be avoided.

Another good tip is to find out where the nearest police station, embassy, and consulates will be during your stay. As mentioned above, the US State Department’s website is a great tool to use in your safety planning.

Becoming comfortable traveling internationally will ultimately open doors for professionals today. Understanding the risks and taking the proper steps to avoid issues on your business trips are important to the success of the trip.

Additional Resources:

International Travel

12 Top Safety Tips for the International Traveler

Travel Safety: Why Common Sense is The Best Way to Stay Safe Abroad