Safety Tips for Travelers
The holiday season is a time that many Volunteers like to travel; some explore the country in which they’re serving and others visit new countries. And while traveling can bring lots of wonderful memories and new experiences, traveling also increases the risk that you’ll be the victim of a crime – you’re at risk when using public transportation, you’re at risk when you get to your destination and your stuff back home is at risk because you’re not there to look after it!
Here are some tips for staying safe over the holidays:
- Stick together! There’s safety in numbers; don’t travel alone and don’t walk alone in unfamiliar areas, especially at night.
- Stay alert! Be aware of your surroundings and know where you can get help if you need it. Be on the lookout for suspicious persons, especially people following you or paying too much attention to what you’re doing.
- Stay in control! Drinking is okay – but drinking too much can be a problem as too much alcohol can impair judgment.
- Stay awake! Don’t take a little “something” to help you sleep on that long bus ride. If you’re passed out, your bags and wallet will get off the bus without you. And you never know where you’ll wake up.
- Don’t put all your eggs in one basket! Keep your money, passport, tickets and other important things close to you at all times – but not all in one place. Spread them out over several pockets and use security devices such as “leg safes”, hidden money pouches or tricks like pinning your pockets together.
- Trust your instincts! It’s okay to be a little paranoid. If something “just doesn’t feel right”, then don’t do it! Listen to that little voice in the back of your head. Don’t trust someone if you really don’t know them – don’t invite them in, don’t get in their car and don’t go back to “their place”.
- Zip it up! And then lock it. Putting locks on the zippers of your backpack will make it a little bit harder for a bad guy to get in. Most thieves are looking for a quick score – unzip the bag, grab the wallet and go. But if they can’t easily unzip your backpack, they’ll move on.
- Lock it up! Yes, you CAN lock your suitcase if you’re checking it as baggage when you’re flying. You may have to stand around and wait while your bag is screened in case it needs to be inspected, but that’s better than getting to your destination to find that someone has pilfered all of your possessions from your suitcase.
- Leave it locked! Make sure your house is secure before you leave and ask someone you trust to look after things. Put your valuables out of sight – or better yet, lock them away in a strong, heavy trunk that would be hard to break into and even harder to steal. Don’t give anyone the key unless you absolutely have to. Once the key is out of your hands, you have no control over who gets their hands on it.
- Keep an eye on it! Don’t leave your bag, phone, iPod or camera laying around – it won’t be there when you come back. And don’t trust that the “nice” person you just met will look after your stuff while you go to the bathroom. When you come back, your stuff and your “friend” will be gone.
- Keep a hand on it! Don’t put ANY valuables into your suitcase or backpack if you’re going to be separated from it while you’re traveling. A bag that’s under the bus or on top of the mini-van taxi can disappear before you know it. Keep your expensive stuff in the bag that you carry with all the time – and don’t let go of it.
- Keep it down! Listening to your iPod can be a great way to pass the hours on a long trip but don’t turn the volume up so loud that you can’t hear what’s going on around you.
- Don’t bring it! Only carry what you need for the trip; leave your other valuables at some in a secure location. Sure, you probably do need your camera for your trip – but do you really need to bring your laptop computer?
- Don’t leave it out! Don’t leave valuables laying around your hotel room or in the hostel – the temptation may be too great for housekeeping staff and other “guests”. Keep your valuables locked in your suitcase or backpack.
- Be prepared! Expect the worst – hope for the best. Carry extras of the things you can’t do without, like eyeglasses and medications. Make copies of your passport, visa, shot record and other important documents and keep the copies separate from the originals.
- Make a list; check it twice! Carry with you a list of important phone numbers – your Peace Corps office, the Washington Duty Officer and the Peace Corps office in the countries you’ll be visiting, along with the numbers for the U.S Embassies in those countries. It’s also a good idea to carry numbers for your family or other useful contacts in America – someone may have to make an important call on your behalf. Keep a record of credit card numbers and the phone numbers for your credit card companies, just in case the cards are lost or stolen.
- Know where you’re going! Figure out the best routes, the most reliable transportation and the safest places to stay. Plan your route as much as possible so that you don’t look lost in a strange place – that’s a surefire way to attract the attention of criminals. Peace Corps posts can often provide suggestions for places to stay and taxis to use – and to avoid.
- Know what’s going on! Learn as much as you can about the situation in the places you plan to visit. One good source for travel information is the State Department’s website at www.travel.state.gov. You can find links to the latest Travel Warnings and Public Announcements as well as Consular Information Sheets that provide information regarding crime and safety issues in the country as well as useful information about medical services, laws, transportation and how to get in contact with the U.S. Embassy in an emergency.
- Tell us where you’re going! Give Peace Corps a detailed itinerary of where you’re going, how you’re getting there and where you’re going to be staying (along with contact information). If you don’t show up, we have a better idea where to start looking. Also register with the State Department so they’ll know to look for you if any problems arise in the place you’re visiting.