Safety Guide


Take photos of your passport and email it to yourself, that way if you lose your passport/phone you can login to your email to retrieve your identification. They may not accept your digital picture of your passport, but it’s better than nothing. It is also wise to hide a scanned copy of your passport in your luggage.

Image - Think about the image you want to give to others who see or meet you along the way.

  • Do you want to be touristy?
  • Do you want to look wealthy?
  • Do you want to blend in with the civilians and dress humble?
  • The American tourist does not have the best reputation overseas. Whether it is the general perception--warranted or not--that Americans are loud and boorish, or too wealthy for our own good, or that we are not worldly or informed about countries other than our own, or our tendency to only speak English when many around the world are fluent in more than one language, or a general worldwide dissatisfaction with U.S. foreign, domestic and environmental policy, these points of contention could be projected onto the average American traveler. For these reasons my advice would be to not wear anything that overtly signals your nationality, generally it is okay to mention where you are from and talk about your pride in your country. Just be smart and try to keep a low profile and not draw too much attention to yourself. Whether it is true in your case or not, most around the world look at Americans and think that we are all wealthy. Remember that you may already have a target on your back as being wealthy or carrying a lot of money, so be careful not to display any ostentatious signs of wealth, such as fancy clothes, jewelry, luggage, purses, wallets, money clips, electronics, gadgets, etc. Remember that you are trying to be as nondescript as possible and attract the least amount of attention.


  • Be sure to call your banks and notify them that you’ll be using your card abroad so it doesn't get flagged and canceled. When traveling, it is smart to have two cards. One for daily use and one for emergencies. Always keep them in separate locations so if you are robbed or just lose your wallet, you still have a card you can use.
  • If you are traveling to a place that uses a different currency, confirm with your credit and debit card companies whether there is a foreign transaction fee on credit card purchases and whether you would be able to withdraw local funds with your debit card. In my experience, using a Visa or Mastercard overseas will get you the closest to the current exchange rate, but sometimes the foreign transaction fees can range between 1 and 3 percent. Look for a card that has no foreign transaction fees if you think you will be making a lot of purchases in the local currency. Since some countries and locations make it difficult to use credit cards or pay with US dollars, inquire with your bank a few weeks ahead of your departure date whether you can get a few hundred dollars’ worth of the local currency in cash, so that you will not arrive in the country without local currency. If you have some local currency when you arrive, you will not have to attempt ATM withdrawals in unsafe areas or be forced to overpay because you only have US dollars or a US credit card. Criminals are banking on American travelers arriving in the country without local currency, and they are looking to take advantage of you--anything from trying to make you overpay for something, or targeting you for mugging or an “express kidnapping”.


Learn as much as you can about the history, culture and current events of your travel destination(s). The gold standard of travel safety websites is run by the US Department of State. Here you may choose to sign up for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). Subscribing to STEP provides you with up-to-date safety and security information and helps the US government reach you in an emergency abroad. Even if you think you are going to a relatively safe and politically stable country, you never know when something like a natural disaster might strike, and in this day and age there is no telling where/when the next terrorist attack will occur.

Cell phone:

Ensure your cell phone plan will work overseas, if not, be sure you know how to purchase, install and use a local SIM card. Nothing puts you in greater danger than landing in another country and not having cell service. Most of the major cell phone carriers offer international plans for around $10 per day, and this should be good to provide the communication you need when you are outside of a reliable WiFi zone. If you plan to socialize and meet people during your travels, you may wish to purchase a cheap prepaid or “burner” phone that you can use to exchange numbers with people you meet so that they do not have your personal cell number. And of course be VERY careful about what type of personal information you share with strangers along your travels, as there is truly no way of knowing whether that person is trustworthy or not.