Travel Safety 101: Important Travel Tips to Stay Safe
Traveling is fun but staying safe while collecting memories is even better.
As an avid traveler, I’ve seen a thing or 2 during my journeys. And fortunately, I’ve learned a thing or 2 when it comes to staying safe while traveling as well. Because sharing is caring and knowledge is power, I’m happy to share with you my top travel tips to stay safe. These tips can easily be used for your next adventure overseas or around the U.S.
And without further ado, let’s talk all things travel safety!
Don’t Be Too Flashy
When it comes to traveling, it’s best to leave your nice jewelry and designer bags, belts and etc. at home.
What if you loose it?
Also, wearing jewelry or expensive items could set you up to be over charged by stores and street vendors.
Or even worse, it could make you a potential target for thieves and criminals. Let’s never forget the infamous Kim Kardashian Paris robbery. But let’s be real here . . . I’m sure none of us mere mortals will never ever carry around or have access to the millions upon millions of dollars worth of jewelry Kim had in her possession but theft and robberies happen with a lot less. You get the picture. So when it comes to jewelry, leave it at home.
What About a Wedding Ring?
Listen, I’m not telling you not to wear a wedding ring but definitely think twice if it’s super fancy. Instead, maybe opt for a simple solid band of gold, metal or rubber when traveling.
Keep Cash in Multiple Locations
In quite a few countries, cash is king. Meaning, the use of credit and debit cards really just aren’t a thing because majority of merchants simply don’t accept plastic. As you can imagine, carrying cash becomes very key.
When you do carry cash make sure to carry smaller denominations. Also make sure you store your cash and credit cards not in just one location but in various locations (ex. in your wallet, in a pocket, in a shoe and etc.)
Which brings me to . . .
Practice ATM Safety
Occasionally, you may need additional cash while visiting another country. And when the time comes, you’ll probably visit an ATM. The rules for visiting an ATM in a foreign country are quite similar to the ones here in the US.
Here Are a Few Travel Tips to Stay Safe at the ATM:
Make sure you visit an ATM with a large or major bank affiliation.
Be aware of your surroundings.
Make sure the ATM is in a well lit area.
If you see someone suspicious lurking around the ATM, skip it and don’t use it.
Check the ATM for skimming devices or signs of tampering. Does the ATM look normal? Is the card slot wiggly?
Guard and protect your PIN. Make sure that no one sees it.
Walk up ready to the ATM to conduct your transaction. Don’t fiddle around in your purse or wallet looking for your debit card, your phone or etc.
If possible, take a friend with you to the ATM.
Quickly put any money away that you’ve withdrawn before leaving the ATM.
Bring a Back-up Credit Card
Bringing a back-up credit card has saved my butt a few times. You never know what can happen, especially when traveling overseas. There have been a few times when my credit card was suddenly cut off because the bank didn’t recognize recent charges.
Why Bring an Extra Credit Card?
An issuer not recognizing charges (especially made in a foreign country) is the quickest way for a card issuer to shut your operation down until they verify with you if the recent charges are legit. As annoying and embarrassing as it was at the time for my card to be declined, I am thankful for their speed and diligence. Had I not traveled with a back-up credit card, I would’ve been “stuck like Chuck” in the middle of somewhere, half around the world far far far away from home. So it’s always a good practice to bring at least 2 credit cards with you when traveling.
Use the Safe
Up until recently, I never would use the hotel safe (gasp!) Crazy but true. For some reason, I just couldn’t be bothered with learning how to set my code in order to safely lock up any and all of my valuables and electronics (gasp, again!) I know, I know. I was so lazy. But now I’ve seen the error in my ways and I definitely use the hotel safe.
Don’t Think You have Anything Valuable to Secure?
Think again. Use the hotel safe to lock up your passport (super important), additional travel documentation, VISA’s, additional credit cards, cash, driver’s license, iPad, cameras and more.
Put a Lock On It
There are times when I’ve arrived at my hotel waaaay too early before my room was ready. Then there have been times when I’ve checked out of my hotel in the morning and had a ton of time to kill before my flight waaaaay later that evening. Because I have TSA approved locks on my luggage, I have little to no worry when it comes to leaving my bags in a possibly unsecured hotel storage area.
No Maps in Public
Put it away. Just put it away. Using a map in public is a like placing a HUGE lighted sign above your head saying, “hi! I’m a tourist” (a.k.a. “your next mark”). Never use a map on the street or in any openly public area (ex. subway, city bus or etc.). Instead of a map, I opt for using a GPS based app on my phone when navigating foreign cities.
These Are the 2 apps I Swear By For Navigating When Traveling:
Citymapper is such a life saver when walking and navigating public transportation (ex. city buses and subways). Thanks to the Citymapper app, I was switching trains with ease just like a local in Paris. Just enter your destination and let Citymapper do all the work. What I LOVE most about the Citymapper app is that it gives you super detailed train, bus, bike, car routes and more for reaching your destination. Download the Citymapper app HERE.
Google Maps is excellent for driving directions. Google Maps is everywhere. Yup, I used it to navigate driving the Golden Circle in Iceland! The feature I LOVE LOVE the most is Google Maps’ is the ability to enter multiple stops on your route. Download the Goolge Maps app HERE.
Still Need to Use a Map?
No problem. I get it. For those times, just slip into a cafe, whip out your map and/or ask one of the employees for directions.
Walk With a Purpose
In a new country, getting turned around is inevitable. And quite honestly, the probability of getting lost isn’t too inconceivable either. At some point, it’s just gonna happen. When it does, make sure to walk with a purpose. Meaning, act like you know exactly where you are going (when you obviously don’t) and then fake it until you make it.
***Which is the exact opposite of standing or wandering around aimlessly looking lost.***
Need to Catch Your Bearings?
No problem. Walk into a cafe, store or hotel lobby and regroup.
Which brings me too . . .
Beware of Pickpockets
It’s a sad reality but pickpockets really do exist and they especially prey upon unsuspecting tourist. On a recent trip to Paris, we were constantly warned by not only the locals, but the hotel staff and city signs (that was a new one) to be on high alert of pickpockets.
What Can You Do to Avoid Being Pickpocketed?
Keep a constant eye on your belongs and bags at all times. In crowded areas, carry your backpack in front of you. Sitting on a subway or train? Either hold your bag or slip your arm or leg through a handle when resting it on the floor or the seat next to you. And men, skip the back pocket and keep your wallet in your front pocket.
Be Aware of Your Surroundings
Being aware your surroundings is a super super important travel tip to stay safe. Especially, if you are traveling solo. Things that you do back home may be totally safe but those same things might not be necessarily safe when traveling to new places.
Here Are a Few Things to Remember:
Don’t walk alone at night (especially females). Instead, walk with a friend or take a taxi.
Don’t take shortcuts or walk down alleys.
Stay and hang out in areas that are well populated.
Don’t wander off from your group without letting someone know.
Always pay close attention and check to see if anyone is following you.
Keep a Copy of Your Passport
Come close and I’ll let you in on a little secret . . . Most of the time you don’t actually need to physically carry around your passport with you. Yes you need to have your passport for boarding the plane, money exchanges and a few other things, buuuuuut carrying your passport around can be a liability for loss or theft. I’ve heard a few stories from my traveling friends about the time when their passports were confiscated by corrupt law enforcement officers. And the only way to get them back was to pay the officer direct.
So What Can You Do for Identity?
Have a picture copy of your passport readily available on your phone or a paper color photocopy. And don’t forget to lock your passport up in your hotel safe when not carrying it.
Limit Your Alcohol
1 tequila, 2 tequila, 3 tequila . . . Floor! Because this is a post of about travel tips to stay safe, this is obviously not the vibe we are going for. Listen, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying an adult beverage on vacation, just be very cognizant of your intake. Alcohol can impair your judgment and dull your senses, leaving you vulnerable to others.
Here Are a Few Alcohol Travel Tips to Stay Safe:
Eat well and stay hydrated with water before, during and after drinking.
ALWAYS take drinks directly from the bartender.
Never leave your drink unattended. Not even for a minute.
Go slow and pace yo’ self. Drinking is not a sprint.
Consider opting to skip alcohol all together (especially when traveling solo).
Register With STEP
Allow me to introduce you to the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, commonly known as “STEP”. This is a FREE service provided by the United States Government.
Why Enroll in STEP?
To find your nearest U.S. embassy in the country you are visiting.
Helps the U.S. Embassy to contact you during your trip in case of a family emergency, natural disaster or political unrest.
Helps your family and friends to get in touch with you in the event of an emergency.
How to Enroll in STEP
Enrolling in the program is super easy and only takes a few minutes. Fill out an online form with your name, DOB, address, phone number, email and emergency contact and passport number. Once enrolled, you’ll be able to register any upcoming trips. To enroll in STEP, click HERE.
Don’t forget to check in with someone back home at least 1x/day. My favorite way of checking in is through the WhatsApp. It’s free and only requires a wifi connection (cell service not necessary) and I can check in via video call or voice call.
Download the WhatsApp app HERE.
The world is HUGE and it’s hard to know everything that’s going on in the world everyday. Not to mention, in certain political climates, sentiments towards the U.S. and other countries could change quickly. So stay safe by staying informed with the U.S. Bureau of Consular Affairs website. Honestly, this website is a wealth of knowledge.
Here You’ll Find 3 Very Important Things:
1. Color coded map. This map is a great tool for making an informed decision if you should or should not travel to certain countries. The map is updated daily and color coded by threat and safety level for travelers. Click HERE to check out the map.
2. U.S. Embassy locations around the world. Click HERE to see all of the U.S. Embassy locations around the world.
3. Important international travel tips to stay safe and information for women, LGBTQI, disabled, older and etc travelers.
Be Cautious of Hotel & Public Wifi
We live in a day and age where our lives run on internet. We pay bills on the internet. We check our mail on the internet. We access our bank accounts on the internet. We store documents and pictures on “the cloud” via the internet. And the list goes on and on of the things we do daily on the internet. So much of our lives are tied to the world wide web.
How Can I Keep My Information Safe From Hackers When Traveling?
“If it’s free, it’s for me!” Which is typically the case for me. But when it comes “free wifi” or “public” networks, please take caution. To safe guard yourself against identity and cyber theft, having a VPN is your best line of defense and protection. I like and use NordVPN when traveling overseas and even in the U.S. when using any public unsecured wifi too. Their military-grade encryption keeps me from worrying.
What is a VPN?
VPN stands for virtual private network. A VPN encrypts your internet traffic and redirects your connection through a secure remote server allowing you to use the internet safely. I use my NordVPN on my iPhone, Mac and iPad. Bye, bye cyber theft. With a VPN, you are free to safely surf about the internet.
Secure up to 6 devices with your NordVPN. And plans start at just $2.99/month. Ready to secure your internet connection? Click HERE to get started with NordVPN.
Know the Emergency Number
Do you know how to call the police or fire department in an emergency situation outside of the US??? Easy, it’s 9-1-1. Right? Unfortunately not. The emergency number can vary by country. In some countries, the emergency number is 9-1-1 and in others it’s not. For example, in the UK and Hong Kong, the emergency number is 999, in Europe it’s 112 and in Australia it’s 000. So before you travel, make sure to familiarize yourself with the local emergency number just in case. You never know what could happen.
How to Find the Emergency Number in the Country You Are Visiting?
A quick Google search will let you know what the emergency number is in the country you are visiting.
Get Travel Insurance
Okay, so one of my many many many rookie mistakes I made (among others) when I first started traveling is not getting travel insurance. I really didn’t think it was that big of a deal. I’m young. I’m not doing anything crazy on my trips. Thug shrug, I should be ok. Well, we all know Murphy’s Law of “what can go wrong, will go wrong.” Fortunately for me, “Murphy” never decided to flex his muscles and enforce “his law” but I do now make it point to get travel insurance prior to each trip overseas. It’s always a good idea to have travel insurance just in case something goes wrong. Honestly, I would easily say that having travel insurance is one of the most important travel tips to stay safe.
Need Travel Insurance?
I personally use and love World Nomads for my travel insurance coverage. World Nomads provides travel insurance to travelers from over 140 countries and is backed by reputable insurers and has 24-hour around the clock assistance providers. Click HERE to learn more about World Nomads travel insurance or to get a free quote.
Ask Locals for Advice
One of the things I ALWAYS do when traveling to a different place is to ask locals for their advice on where to go, what to do and how is the best way to get there (train, taxi and etc). Locals are by far one of the best sources of information. On a recent trip to Detroit, my Uber driver’s advice proved invaluable. He not only told me where to go, he also told me where not to go and where all the sketchy parts of town were to avoid (this was so important).
Not Sure Who to Ask for Travel Recommendations?
Start with your Uber driver, the hotel concierge or your Airbnb host.
Trust Your Gut (Intuition)
Honestly, out of all of the travel tips to stay safe, I think this is “the most important” one of them all. Seriously. Because no matter how prepped and super prepared you are to stay safe while traveling, nothing can replace the gift we possess and that is. . . our intuition. Fortunately, the gift of intuition is inherently inside all of us.
Let me ask you, have you ever had a bad feeling about something? Did you act on it? Or did you ignore it? If you ignored it, did you regretfully reflect back later and think that should’ve listened to that “little voice in your head”? Maybe what you ignored wasn’t a “little voice”, maybe it was a sinking feeling you got in the pit of your stomach. Or maybe it was an overall indescribable feeling that something was “just off.” Well, that my friend was your Intuition. Intuition is our body’s warning system and alarm. It’s our body’s subconscious way of telling us, “you in danger girl!”
So the next time your intuition kicks in, don’t ignore it. Embrace it.
Looking for discounts on hotel rooms? I use Booking.com for the availability and rates.
Ready to stay at an Airbnb? Get started with Airbnb with $40 off your first stay.
Don’t forget Travel insurance (it’s not too late even if you are already traveling). I use and love World Nomads.
Using FREE wifi while traveling? Make sure to protect your personal data (passwords, email, credit cards and etc) with a VPN (Virtual Private Network). I use Nord VPN.
Thanks so much for stopping by and reading. I’m a frequent traveler and safety is key for me, especially when traveling solo. Feel free to leave comments below with any questions or share your own travel tips to stay safe. Or just to say “hi”, I don’t bite (as long as I’m properly fed).
And if you found value in what I shared, share it with a friend, save it, or pin it. I greatly appreciate the love and as always, sharing is caring.
-XOXO (as always)
Photography & Editing by: Yours Truly, Melissa Drake
Disclosure: Keep in mind that some of the links in this post are affiliate links and if you go through them to make a purchase I will earn a commission. Please know I link these companies because of their quality. I do not recommend any product or service I do not use.