I think travelling is very safe, and most of the safety tips you will read on the subject range from probably unnecessary to a little paranoid. Bad things do happen however, so it’s important to take some simple precautions that can get you out of a bad situation in the rare case it arrives.
The following is a list of essential precautions you should take when travelling or living in another country. They are all quick to prepare, but can absolutely save you if you get into trouble somewhere along the way.
1. Scan your important documents and email them to yourself
Before you leave your country, ensure that you take the time to scan all of your important documents. This includes your passport, your visa, your bank card, your health card, and your social insurance card. If you’re going to work abroad you should also include your degree, any certificates you’ve may have, your reference letters, and your resume. Anything that you physically bring with you that cannot be easily replaced if it is lost should be included so you can access it anytime you need.
Having said this be careful how you email these documents to yourself. Someone can potentially steal your identity with this information. To prevent this, put the documents into a zip or rar file with a password before emailing them. In addition make sure your using a trust worthy email client (I recommend Gmail), and ensure your file and your email account’s password is strong… meaning it has letters, numbers and symbols in it… making it impossible to crack for anyone except the members of CTU in the show 24 😉
2. Use online banking
When I was travelling in Thailand we took part in a scavenger hunt. One of the items on the list was an ATM receipt. I was running so quickly from place to place that when I grabbed the ATM receipt and checked it off the list, I was on the move again before grabbing my bank card. I would have been in some trouble but luckily I had online banking. I was then able to cancel my old card, and then email money transfer some money to my friend who was able to take it out of the ATM for me using his card.
Online banking is essential for travelling as it gives you a ton of freedom and options with your money should something bad happen.
3. Ensure you have a Skype account with some money on it
Every traveler knows Skype is the best way to make calls back to your own country (for free if the people you call also have Skype) but it’s also necessary should you get into trouble and need to call someone’s land phone too. When I needed to cancel my old bank card in Thailand having a Skype account allowed me to easily call my bank to do it. Skype is also ridiculously cheap and is by far the most affordable way to make a call overseas. Make sure you put a few dollars onto your Skype account before you leave so you can access it when you need it.
4. Don’t always rely on your phone
This one is important when you’re living in another country and you don’t speak the language. Here in China I would rely on my phone if I got in trouble, to call one of my local friends and ask for help. For example, if I got lost I would call my friend Angela and have her tell the taxi driver where I needed to go. I found through experience however that it’s dangerous to always rely on your phone. One night in China I was on my way between cities, running late for something important and I couldn’t find my phone. I realized that I didn’t have a single number of any of my friends memorized so even though there was a payphone nearby I couldn’t call anyone for help. The taxi drivers couldn’t understand where I wanted to go and I felt pretty screwed. (You can read about this day here) From that point on I realized it’s a good idea to carry the numbers of a few friends with you in your wallet in case you need to call them from a payphone.
5. Memorize important information
Instead of writing down the phone numbers like in the above tip, you can memorize them instead! There’s been more than a few times where different numbers I have memorized have come in handy. You should ensure you memorize information such as your passport number, online bank card number, any important passwords, ect. This is important if for example, you’re in Hong Kong updating your visa, and you want to stay the night at a hostel. The hostel will require your passport number, but because your passport is at the visa office you won’t know what it is. Most hostels however require your physical passport so a bonus #6 is, always check into your hotel before heading to the visa office!
I hope you found these tips useful. These simple and easily accomplished precautions can get you out of a troubled situation and keep your travels safe and happy.
If you have any more important safety precautions feel free to share them in the comments!