Before travelling to any country, it is important to educate yourself on what safety risks to expect. Doing a little online research beforehand can save you a lot of stress in the future, and make your international experience much more rewarding.
- Check for any travel alerts or warnings for your destination and familiarize yourself with the specific areas to avoid. Petty crime is common in big cities throughout the world, especially where tourists are abound. Familiarize yourself with common scams and make responsible decisions. More often than not these scams aren’t dangerous, but you may be conned or guilted out of a lot of money. To make yourself less of a target, avoid flaunting expensive jewelry or watches, and keep your passport, wallet, and important documents in a secure place (i.e. not your back pocket).
- During election season, some cities may see increased unrest, riots, and strikes – plan to avoid travelling through such cities at these times.
- Practice common-sense discretion when going out at night. Avoid travelling long-distances alone and keep to well-lit, busy areas. In some countries, local transportation methods – buses, motorbikes, etc. – may not be very safe, especially at night. Call a taxi or driver if necessary.
- Understand local natural disaster risks. This may include flooding, fires, monsoons, hurricanes, tornadoes, blizzards, landslides, and earthquakes. Consult with your program advisor and familiarize yourself with the necessary emergency procedures should such an event occur. The STEP program will alert you to any arising risks, and will help the local U.S. Embassy reach you in case of an emergency in your area.
- Consider doing a little pre-travel research on local culture and customs. Learn what is socially appropriate and inappropriate. Certain gestures, clothes, and behaviors that are benign or normal to you may be considered offensive in other countries. Additionally, such research will help prepare you for some elements of 'culture shock' and may reduce the discomfort or frustrations of such situations.
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