Safety Tips For Travelers: The Ultimate List
Essential Safety Tips for Travelers
Informed by my experiences traveling the world, I’ve developed one of the most exhaustive and thorough lists of safety tips for travelers like you.
Visiting many notoriously dangerous cities, these safety strategies have largely kept me out of trouble and definitely helped me navigate some sticky situations.
While many of the ways we stay safe as travelers are pretty obvious, I bet you probably haven’t considered some of these!
Components Of Travel Safety
Physical safety isn’t the only priority. Modern travelers have to protect their belongings, health, personal data, and financial information. They also have to conduct themselves appropriately according to the local culture.
I’ll share all these tips by category below. After some general tips, I’ll cover more topics like situational awareness, protecting your possessions, ATM safety, fraud protection, and more.
LGBTQ travel safety is another hugely important subtopic, to which I’ve dedicated an entirely separate post!
General Safety Tips For Travelers
Let’s first cover some basics.
Take Photos Of Important Documents
Digital copies of important documents could come in handy in the event you lose them. Take photos of your passport, government ID, insurance information, and credit card.
Securely store these images on your mobile device and keep them accessible. I use the OneNote app to store mine in a password-protected folder.
Ask Locals About Safety
Who better to trust with local safety information than actual residents? Ask your hotel concierge, Airbnb host, or even staff at a restaurant about local safety once you arrive. Get more than one opinion for a better understanding.
Ask The Right Questions
Have a safety-related worry? Be direct in how you ask for information. Vague questions get vague answers.
For example, if you’re worried about dangerous neighborhoods, don’t just ask if the city is safe. Instead, ask “Where are the dangerous areas?”
Check In With Friends
Routinely check in with friends or family. If you’re going out to a big party or on a remote camping trip, give someone your estimated return time. Or at least send them a message when you’ve safely returned.
Spend More On Things That Affect Safety
I once took a bus to a city known for not being the safest that arrived right in the middle of the night. It wasn’t an ideal situation, as I then had to find a taxi and enter my rental apartment in the dark.
This is a perfect example of a time when I should have spent a little more to take a bus that would arrive at a reasonable hour.
Allow yourself to spend more when it comes to safety. Whether it’s utilizing private cars instead of public transport or booking transportation that arrives at a good time, the marginal extra cost is worth your comfort and safety.
Stay Connected With A Backup Charger
Has your phone ever run out of battery while you’re doing something important? Now imagine that same feeling, except you’re trying to find directions in a foreign city.
Worrying about charging your devices is stressful. Always carry a backup battery in your day bag so you can stay safely connected.
Stay Aware Of Surroundings
If you’re oblivious to things around you, there’s a better chance of being targeted for a crime. While there’s no need to be overly cautious, it’s best to stay skeptical of others and stay on the defense.
Destination Awareness Travel Safety Tips
Learning relevant destination facts and identifying local information before your trip is essential. Planning ahead will help you feel comfortable.
Write Down Important Phone Numbers
Have you ever thought about needing to call the police or an ambulance in a foreign country?
Luckily most of us haven’t needed to, but we should still write down destination country emergency numbers as well as the number to the local embassy.
Identify Dangerous Areas
There are dangerous cities in many of the world’s cities. Do some research to find out if you should avoid passing through any areas. Numbeo provides a useful list of crime indices by world city.
Have A Backup Plan
Life is never certain. Keep updated on any political unrest that may interfere with travel plans. After that, figure out what you would do if a negative situation came about suddenly.
Check Travel Advisories
Scan your government’s warnings, restrictions, and travel safety advice for your destination.
Personal Belongings Safety Tips For Travelers
Follow these suggestions to keep your stuff out of the hands of thieves, and to prepare for situations where you lose something while traveling.
Store Possessions Securely
If you don’t have lockable luggage and are wary of trusting an airline, you can always wrap your bags in plastic at the airport. Once you make it to your hotel, make use of available safe boxes as necessary.
Keep A Look Out
We all stop to take photos in awesome places or get distracted by a conversation. Make the effort to keep all your stuff in sight if you set it down for any reason.
Wear Anti-Theft Clothing & Accessories
Have you ever had the feeling that someone was tugging on your backpack? How about a memory of something slipping out of your pocket in an Uber?
You can protect yourself against theft and losing things while giving yourself peace of mind with some super cool products.
With an anti-theft backpack, you’ll be fearless to wander through busy crowds. Shorts with zipper pockets can be quite useful. I’ve dropped so many things while walking around from consistently pulling my phone out of my pocket.
Don’t Leave Your ID Behind
Bringing a passport out to bars and clubs to prove your age is never a comfortable situation. Some cities like Mexico City notoriously check ID cards.
Proactively Protect Belongings
Wrap bag straps around your legs when sleeping in transit or sitting in any area where you might be vulnerable. Only bring necessary valuables.
Bring An Old Mobile Phone As A Backup
Sometimes our mobile devices break or we might lose them. Especially for longer journeys, pack an old phone as a backup device.
Pack A Combination Lock
Backpackers will definitely benefit from this travel safety tip. Most traditional hostels don’t have built-in or electronic locks. They often charge extra to rent locks and require a deposit.
Save yourself the hassle and cash by investing in a strong combination lock.
Fraud Prevention Tips While Traveling
Keep your personal and financial world secure just like your physical possessions with these fraud prevention strategies.
Enroll In Purchase & Withdrawal Alerts
With alerts for large transactions from your bank, you can keep informed about purchases. Any questionable charges can be easily identified.
Identify Travel Scams By Researching Them
Stick to reputable companies when possible. Run a quick Google search on any suspicious companies or booking engines. Including the keywords “scam” plus a forum name like “Reddit” will likely uncover any issues.
Use A VPN On Public Wi-Fi Networks
Browsing unsecured networks is risky. Plus, data theft and interception of personal information are increasingly common. Using a virtual private network like NordVPN can keep you safe from data thieves.
Using a VPN connection affords travelers a bunch of other benefits, too!
Don't Use Public USB Charging Stations
You’ll want to think twice about using any USB charging stations like the ones in airports or public shopping malls.
While regular outlet chargers are fine, charging your devices via public USB ports exposes your device to potentially harmful situations like being infected with malware or being hacked altogether.
Bringing your own portable power bank is a better idea. Plus it’s more convenient!
Use A Phone Password
I don’t think I know anyone who doesn’t use a phone password these days. But, if you don’t use one, go make one now.
Situational Safety Tips For Travelers
This category of safety tips will help you navigate different situations along your journey. Familiarize yourself with these protective measures and situations to avoid.
Don’t Share Your Hotel Name
Whether it’s someone on the street or your taxi driver, don’t mention the name of your hotel if you perceive any personal threat.
If the taxi is going to your hotel, you can give them the nearest intersection as a drop-off point.
Don’t Engage Beggars
While our emotions may compel us to respond to beggars, engaging with them can be dangerous.
They could become violent, follow you or threaten you. It’s best to leave public outreach to the local services and pass them by with a “sorry” at most.
Travel In Groups
There is always safety in numbers, especially in desolate areas. Stick with your friends. If you’re traveling solo, stay in sight of others whenever possible.
Avoid Talking With Strangers In Bad Areas
Be careful when interacting with strangers in unfamiliar areas. In large tourist locations, schemes to distract and pickpocket tourists are common. If you engage in conversation, stay spatially aware.
Nothing radiates confidence more than someone who looks like they know exactly where they’re going.
Take this one step further by looking unamused, like you can’t be bothered. Put on your determined face as if you’ve walked that path hundreds of times before! This works like a charm.
Don’t Let People See You Drunk
Had a little too much to drink? Try not to be too obvious about it. Of course, call for proper help if you need it. In most instances though, you’ll be safer by not letting on that you’re tipsy.
No Flashy Jewelry
You’ve definitely heard this one already. Avoid being a target of theft. Don’t wear any elaborate clothing or jewelry to the extent necessary.
Cultural Awareness Travel Tips
Responsible travelers do some cultural research before a journey. Especially in Middle Eastern destinations, these are some of my most important safety tips for travelers.
Blend In With Locals
Following local customs will make your travels much easier. Not only is blending in with locals fun, but you won’t stick out like a sore thumb!
Follow Local Dress Codes
Remember that in various parts of the world, it’s crucial for your safety to follow mandatory dress codes.
Women may be required to cover their shoulders, knees, or hair. For men, I recommend avoiding potentially offensive graphics on t-shirts.
Avoid Accidental Insults
Study cultural mannerisms and identify actions or body language that may be considered inappropriate or offensive in your destination.
For example, showing the soles of your shoes is offensive in much of the Arab world.
Money & ATM Safety Tips For Travelers
Losing your wallet or being robbed abroad can leave you feeling frustrated, helpless, and definitely scared. Safeguard your money and reduce the risk of theft with these money safety tips.
Don’t Accept Help At ATMs
Scammers often attempt to rob unsuspecting travelers by offering to help them at ATM machines. We’ve all had issues trying to withdraw money from a foreign bank ATM and thieves know which ones often give us trouble.
Don’t Make ATM Withdrawals Obvious
Actions like walking away from an ATM while counting cash are asking for trouble. Try to be as discreet as you can.
Count Your Change
Especially in countries where currency conversions are confusing, make a habit out of counting change after cash transactions. Don’t get duped!
Avoid Carrying Large Amounts Of Cash
Only keep the money you’ll need handy. Stash the rest in your luggage or somewhere other than your wallet or purse.
Keep A Backup Debit Card
Store a backup debit card in your luggage in case of theft or loss. A card from a separate banking institution may also be helpful.
Carry An “Essentials Only” Wallet To Bars And Clubs
Never bring your entire wallet’s contents out to a bar or club. Losing all those important cards can be pretty devastating.
For a typical night out, bring along a minimalist wallet that will hold just the cards and cash you need, like this wallet from Herschel.
Food & Water Safety Tips For Travelers
The funny thing about food poisoning is that you never think about it until it’s too late. Preventing food-related sickness while traveling is easy. The harder part is staying consistent.
You won’t want to skip these crucial food & water safety tips for travelers, especially if you’re heading to a region of the world where foreigners notoriously get food poisoning.
Only Drink Bottled Water
Drinking water from the tap in some foreign countries is fine, but doing so in others can get you really sick. It’s always best to play it safe and stick with bottled beverages. In a pinch, you can always boil tap water before drinking.
Don’t Eat Street Food
I can attest…Delhi belly is real. Street food in many places tends to be fine, but in the cities where you’ve heard rumors, it’s best to stay away.
Ensure Vegetables Are Washed With Clean Water
If your food hasn’t been freshly cooked, it’s best to make sure there are no harmful bacteria on the surface. Rise with some bottled water.
Keep Medications Handy
For travel to some countries, doctors will prescribe antibiotics ahead of time, used to treat stomach issues related to food bacteria.
Eat Foods You Can Peel
Peeling off a food’s exterior means you don’t need to worry about washing off surface bacteria.
Sanitize Your Hands Often
Your food might be clean, but dirty hands just as easily contribute to illness. Carry some travel-size hand sanitizer just in case there’s nowhere to wash up.
Health & Medical Safety Tips For Travelers
Getting sick or injured abroad can be a huge bummer. Prepare for the unknowns that travel brings with these medical safety tips.
Pack Travel-Size Medical Supplies
Listen To Your Body
Travelers want to get the most out of their holidays, myself included. It’s unwise to do so at the expense of your own health though.
If you feel ill, don’t force yourself to continue on with your plans. Allow yourself some recovery time.
Don’t Put Yourself In Danger
Sacrificing safety for good photos isn’t worth it. I was once chased by a furious monkey in Thailand who would have bitten me if I hadn’t jumped into the ocean!
Check Your Immunizations
Traveling to disease-prone areas? Consult your doctor to make sure you don’t need additional shots or preventative medication. Travelers often take anti-malaria medications when visiting some world regions.
Wear A Helmet
More than half the world’s countries don’t have comprehensive motorcycle helmet laws. While it might be tempting to ride a motorbike with the wind in your hair, you’re better safe than sorry.
Consider Travel Insurance
I bet you’ve heard this one before! Travel insurance plans come in many different package types. Many are pretty affordable, too.
Travelex has several affordable tiers of travel coverage. Not a bad idea for some peace of mind if you ask me.
Travel Safety Tips For Women
Last but not least, a few more tips that address common safety issues women face while traveling.
Avoid Crowded Public Transit
While transit might be your first option (especially in expensive cities), avoiding it could prevent unfortunate interactions like assault or theft.
If you do choose public transit, keep your wits about you. Avoid desolate as well as overcrowded areas. Traveltipz has more public transit safety tips for female travelers.
Avoid Low Visibility Areas
While this applies to everyone, it bears repeating. Keep clear of dark alleys or low-lighting areas, especially when out enjoying local nightlife.
Don’t Hang Your Purse On The Backs Of Chairs
This is one of the easiest ways to have your valuables swiped. When sitting at a restaurant, keep your bag or clutch somewhere within sight or where you can feel it.
To be extra careful, consider attaching the bag strap to a belt loop with one of these double-clasp handbag chains.
Use Reputable Rideshare Companies
Choosing Uber as opposed to the local taxi application where possible can be safe. Companies like Uber have various tools available to safeguard passengers, like in-app emergency dial functionality that shares trip details with local authorities.
If You Feel You Are In Danger
For anything life-threatening or other imminent danger, you should call the appropriate authorities. Otherwise, in less drastic situations where you feel threatened, utilize these strategies to stay safe.
Look Over Your Shoulder
This is something I do even when I’m in my home city of New York. If my gut ever tells me I might be vulnerable, I’ll look over my shoulder to check my surroundings multiple times.
Cross To The Other Side Of The Street
If you feel that someone might be following you, then switch to the other side of the street. I found myself doing this a couple of times while walking through Guadalajara at night.
Take Shelter Inside An Establishment
If you sense danger, stopping inside a well-lit store or restaurant can help you relax, reset and avoid any imminent danger. If you need help, let someone inside know.
Request An Uber
An easy way to quickly flee is to request a ride from a reputable taxi application. Strategically request a pickup location a bit ahead of you so you can continue walking.
Utilize Appropriate Travel Safety Tips
Most importantly, you must pick and choose which of these travel safety tips are appropriate to follow based on your destination. While it’s good to be familiar with them all, following every single one in a safe location is probably overdoing it.
Pick and choose which strategies you plan on implementing or remaining aware of during your journey. Assess the overall risk, prepare yourself, and plan for an enjoyable trip.
Remember, safety tips specifically for gay travelers can be found in wolfyy’s LGBTQ travel safety post.
See wolfyy’s travel resources page for booking discounts and recommended partner sites.