Safety is no accident. Many who travel abroad for fun, business, or college credit mistakenly assume that avoiding scams, identity theft, and other potential dangers requires no more than teaming up with a buddy and protecting a passport and credit cards against theft. But there are greater steps you can—and should—take to ensure that you and your family are legally, medically, and financially covered while spending time outside the U.S. Go beyond the basics with 7 smart tips from the ClearCause Foundation.
1. Register with the U.S. Department of State (DOS, travel.state.gov) to get travel warnings for destination countries, record emergency contacts so DOS can help you if needed, and more.
2. Identify and carry the U.S. Consulate phone number and address, and the three-digit number for emergency help (the equivalent of 911 in the U.S.) for each country.
3. Parents should have valid passports, power of attorney, and funds available for emergency travel in case their child needs them.
4. Purchase international healthcare, medical assistance, security, and repatriation services from a reputable provider such as Fly for Good and StuCard for about $1 per day for a month-long trip. Your insurance provider might offer these services as a temporary rider.
5. Store medical information on a cloud-based system such as Dropbox, translated into the foreign language if possible. Additionally, make electronic and paper copies of passports, driver’s license, insurance information, credit cards, serial numbers of electronic devices, etc. and store separately from the originals in case of theft. Invite your emergency contacts to Dropbox for quick and easy access to the data in case of emergency.
6. Check security features upon arrival. Don’t assume housing will have secure locks, safe balconies, fire extinguishers, escapes, or alarms, especially in youth hostels. “Several American students died in a Paris fire, tragically from jumping to escape. In South America, many tourists have died falling from balconies not built to U.S. standards,” says the ClearCause website.
7. Research public safety data on road casualties, bus transit, and beaches in every travel destination. “Tragically, entire vans and busloads of students and others have died in unsafe vehicles on unsafe roadways in India, Turkey, New Zealand and other locations. In Costa Rica, many students died from drowning after being placed on the same unsafe beaches year after year.” Don’t take transportation that is suspect. Walk or find alternatives.