International travel is popular both for business and pleasure with the US government issuing over 20 million passports in 2019. Over 100 million passengers flew to and from a U.S. destination in the same year.

With the COVID-19 pandemic and many borders now shut, there are fewer people traveling abroad. The virus won’t close things forever, though, and now is a good time for planning your next international destination.

If you’ve never traveled abroad, there are a few things you should do to ensure a safe trip. Wondering what those things are?

Keep reading for 10 tips for staying safe while traveling abroad.

1. Your Passport and Itinerary

Your passport is your most important document when traveling abroad. You’ll need it with you for certain transactions, like checking into a hotel or renting a car.

If your passport gets lost or stolen, it’s a major hassle. You can even miss your plane home without a passport.

Always keep your passport in a safe place on your person. A passport holder that hangs like a necklace tucked under your shirt is a good option.

Keep a color copy of your passport back at the hotel. It’ll make it much easier if you do happen to lose yours. You can take the copy to the nearest American Embassy and get help.

It’s also a good idea to leave a passport copy with a family member back at home. While you’re leaving the passport copy, give your family member a copy of your itinerary. Include all hotels where you’ll stay along with contact information for each hotel.

Make copies of all your important documents and leave them in the safe at the hotel.

2. Traveler’s Insurance

Traveler’s insurance is affordable and can help you with two problems, medical emergencies and canceled trips. If you have a medical emergency while traveling abroad, your regular health insurance may not cover it.

If you get sick and cancel your trip, you can get airfare and hotel refunds. Some insurance policies even cover accidental death. While it’s unlikely you’ll die while on vacation abroad, it does sometimes happen.

If a loved one dies while traveling, you may want to contact some wrongful death attorneys. An attorney can tell you whether you have a case, depending on what the situation was.

Always read the fine print on any insurance policy before you buy it so you know exactly what’s covered.

3. Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)

Enroll in the STEP program before you travel. Once enrolled, you’ll receive informational alerts from the Embassy in your destination country. The alerts include safety alerts.

In case of a natural disaster or political unrest, enrollment in the program helps the U.S. Embassy locate you. The US Embassy can also help friends and family back home get in touch with you in an emergency.

4. See a Travel Doctor

Before you leave, see a travel doctor. Get a checkup and any appropriate vaccinations. Keep in mind that some vaccinations require more than one shot spaced apart by as much as six months.

Depending on your destination, your doctor may give you some antibiotics in case you get traveler’s diarrhea.

5. Pay Attention to Your Surroundings

Always pay attention to your surroundings when traveling. There are thieves and pickpockets in every major city around the world. Never carry anything in your back pockets.

If you’re carrying a backpack, carry it on your front instead of your back. Never leave a backpack or purse on the back of your chair when sitting in a cafe or other place.

Put purses, backpacks, and shopping bags in your lap or on the ground at your feet with the straps around your leg.

Remember that handy passport carrier? Put a credit card and some money in that. If you should misplace your purse or backpack, you won’t lose everything.

Do you feel uneasy about something? Listen to your gut. If something doesn’t feel right, it isn’t.

Don’t fall prey to someone distracting you while someone else steals your bag. This is a common trick for thieves throughout the world.

6. Carry the Hotel Name and Address

When you’re traveling, forgetting your hotel name is easy to do. Always have the name and address of your hotel with you.

Also, carry the address and phone number of the U.S. Embassy as well as an emergency contact. Speaking of emergency contacts…

7. International Calling

It’s good to have local emergency contacts but also make sure you’ve got an international calling plan on your cellphone. In an emergency, you’ll want to be able to make international as well as local calls.

It’s also good if you’re traveling with others. If you all have international service, you can call each other if you get lost.

8. Do Your Research

Research your destination before you go. Understand the local cultural norms and customs and make sure you know what the locals consider acceptable behavior.

Are you going to a tropical beach destination? Never get in the water without researching the currents and tides and checking with locals first. Drowning is a serious risk if you’re swimming in unfamiliar waters.

9. Check Your Transportation

Before you go, check up on different types of ground transportation. Don’t give in to the temptation of a cheap ride offered by someone who says he’s a cab driver.

Always use reputable companies and make sure the cab driver is licensed.

10. Avoid Drinking Too Much

Many people enjoy drinking while on vacation. It’s fine to indulge in a drink or two but be wary. If you’re drunk, you’re a target for criminals.

You’re also more susceptible to drowning or other accidents if you’re intoxicated. Never leave a drink unattended wherever you are.

Traveling Abroad Is Fun

Traveling abroad is fun and offers a lot of once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Safety is always important even at home, so don’t let your fears keep you from traveling.

Do your research before you go, and sign up for the STEP program. Use lots of common sense and make sure you understand the local customs. Travel insurance is a good idea for any trip, both for medical reasons and unforeseen travel interruptions.

If you follow these tips, you should have a great time traveling abroad!

Looking for more great tips and advice? Keep reading the blog!

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