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Safe Travel Tips and Suggestions
by Justin Tyme
Whether you are planning a regional, domestic or international trip -- traveling by jet . . . or simply driving across the state -- there are some simple precautions you can take to help keep you safe while traveling. Before you take off, take a few minutes to review these safety tips for staying out of harm's way at hotels, airports, and on the street.
Before you go
- Don't publicize your travel plans -- limit knowledge to those who need to know.
- Ensure that your passport, if needed, is good for at least three or four months.
- Make sure visa(s) are appropriate and current for place and type of travel.
- Take only the credit cards and personal identification that you will actually need.
- Carry a driver's license from your state of residence with a photograph.
- Make a copy of your credit cards, traveler check numbers, and the telephone numbers
needed to report a theft. Keep the copy in a location separate from the documents.
- If possible, carry any required prescriptions in the original containers. Consider
carrying them on the plane instead of leaving them in your checked bags.
- Carry a list of blood type, allergies, or any special medical conditions. Medical alert
bracelets are a good idea.
- Hand carry any sensitive or proprietary information. Leave all expensive and unneeded
personal or professional property at home.
- Check with your medical insurance carrier about coverage away from your home and work.
Know coverage protection for out-of-country travel.
- Avoid a demanding schedule upon your arrival if you have traveled across many time
zones. Give yourself a chance to adjust to new surroundings.
Other Foreign Travel Considerations:
- Many foreign airports do not allow butane lighters or hair dryers to be taken on board.
Consider leaving them at home.
- For foreign travel, some airports charge hefty "take off" charges payable only
in local currency and only when you are preparing to leave the country. Be prepared!
- Most foreign airports are very serious about security. Be prepared to be questioned and
always answer customs' questions honestly.
- Do not exchange much currency before you enter your destination country. Exchange rates
in hotels are typically not very good. If you can, land in your destination country with
$50 or so of their currency for immediate expenses (bathrooms, taxis, porter charges,
- Check your destination country's holidays. Usually public transportation, gas stations,
and grocery stores are not open on holidays.
- In most foreign countries, stores - including gas and grocery - close by 5:00 p.m. Be
prepared for the lack of "convenience stores".
Before you take off
- Make sure someone near your residence knows where to contact you in emergencies or is
authorized to make critical decisions regarding your residence.
- Make copies of your passport photo page; put a copy in your carry-on and leave a copy at
- Check with your personal insurance carrier to see what coverage you may have on luggage
- Make sure your luggage is tagged inside and out, but don't use your position or
- Check in early to avoid the last minute rush.
- DO NOT transport items for other people.
- NEVER leave your bags unattended -- anywhere! Portable computers are particularly
susceptible to theft, even at airport security checkpoints.
- Do not exchange items between bags while waiting for customs or security screening.
- At a transportation terminal, do not get involved in any disturbance.
- Dress casually when traveling to avoid attention; avoid showy jewelry.
- Locks on luggage are not secure; consider using a strip of nylon filament tape around
your suitcase. Never place extreme valuables in your checked luggage.
- Go directly to the gate or secure area after checking your luggage, and avoid waiting
rooms or shopping areas outside secure areas.
- Be alert at security checkpoints. Don't place belongings on conveyor until you can keep
an eye on items being screened.
- Do not place weapons or disabling chemical sprays in your bags.
- At many international airports, security and customs personnel will ask you questions
about your luggage. Know what you're carrying and be able to describe any electronics.
- Whenever possible, arrange to be met at your destination.
At your hotel
- Make your own hotel reservations, whenever possible, consistent with university policy.
- If traveling abroad in areas of concern, consider making reservations using your
university address, without identifying the university. Use your personal credit card.
- Be aware that credit card information may be compromised at hotels, car rentals, or
- In some foreign countries, your passport may be held by a hotel for copying or for
review by the police; retrieve it at the earliest possible time.
- In a hotel, try to secure a room between floors two and seven. Some fire departments may
not have the capability to rescue above the seventh floor.
- Always check for the nearest fire stairwells, hoses, and emergency telephones when
checking in to a hotel.
- Avoid hanging the "Please Clean Room" tag on your door. It is an obvious
signal that you are not in.
- Before allowing entry of hotel maintenance or other supposed hotel staff, verify with
the front desk.
- Do not leave sensitive information or documents in your hotel room. Hand carry and
personally protect your documents, as well as laptop computers and other valuables.
- Arrive as near the hotel entrance as possible and, if after dark, in a well-lit area.
- Do not linger or wander unnecessarily in parking lots, garages, or public spaces near
- Stay with your luggage until it is brought into the lobby or placed in your taxi.
- Many foreign hotels consider the basement to be Floor #1 and the ground floor is Floor
#2. Remember this in emergencies.
At your hotel, in case of fire
- Locate the nearest stairwell to your room.
- Locate the nearest house telephone to be used in an emergency.
- Remain calm and do not panic.
- Call the front desk and make sure they are aware of the fire and its exact location.
- Check your door by placing the palm of your hand on the door or the knob. If either
feels hot, do not open the door.
- Do not use an elevator if there is a fire.
- If you cannot leave your room or the stairwells are unsafe, notify the front desk that
you are in your room.
- Fill the tub and sink with water. Soak towels and blankets as necessary to block vents
and openings around doors to keep smoke and fumes out. A wet towel swung around the room
will help clear it of smoke.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a wet cloth.
- Stay low but alert to any signs of rescue from the street or the halls. Let firefighters
know where you are by waving a towel or sheet out of the window.
On the street
- Invest in a good map of the city you are visiting. Note significant points on the map
such as your hotel, the U. S. Embassy, and a local police station.
- Be aware of your surroundings. Look up and down the street before exiting a building.
- Learn how to place a local telephone call and how to use coin telephones. Make sure you
have extra tokens or coins for telephones.
- Ask the bellman, concierge, and front desk personnel regarding safe -- and not-so-safe
-- areas around the city to jog, dine, or sightsee. Be aware of local traffic regulations
and driving habits. Joggers have been seriously injured by failing to understand traffic
- When you go out for recreation, be sure you carry identification and who to notify in an
emergency (especially while cycling, roller blading, jogging, or walking).
- Keep your passport with you at all times. Only relinquish it to the hotel if required by
law when registering, or if required to identify yourself to local authorities.
- Keep in mind that purse snatchers and briefcase thieves often work hotel bars and
restaurants. Keep your purse or briefcase in view or in hand.
- Be alert to scams involving an unknown person spilling a drink or food on your clothing;
an accomplice may be preparing to steal your wallet, purse, or briefcase.
- If you drive, make sure your driver's license is valid and familiarize yourself with
local traffic laws and patterns.
- If you drive, make sure you have valid insurance and emergency notification information.
- ATM cards work in most western European countries, but not in many eastern European,
African, or some Asian countries. If you attempt to use the card in a country that does
not accept it, the machine will not give it back.
Wherever you are
- Always be aware of the location of your closest exit.
- Always be alert for distractions that may be staged by pickpocketers, luggage thieves,
or purse snatchers.
- Consider wearing a money belt or other secure storage device; waist pouches are not
advised because potential thieves will know the location of your valuables.
- Keep briefcases and purses in view or in hand when using telephones. If you're using a
credit card, block the views of the key pad when entering the number.
- Be cautious when entering public restrooms.
- Carefully inspect any gifts received in a foreign country before packing for your