Personal Safety Your # 1 Concern When Traveling Abroad

Posted August 17, 2011 in Uncategorized by Arthur Buono

Robyn Gardner’s disappearance on a vacation in Aruba isn’t the first and won’t be the last trouble to befall an American traveling overseas. Although risks to personal safety vary with the circumstances*, there are a few important steps you can take to minimize the dangers.

  • Safe travel again in focus with disappearance of Maryland woman in Aruba
  • First step: "Know before you go" is the mantra of one safe-travel site
  • Minimizing exposure and risk at the destination is the last step
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Planning and Preparedness Key to Safe Travel


Whether it’s study abroad, spring break, or an ordinary vacation or business trip, safe travel begins with planning. Not all travel destinations are equally safe. The State Department is the place to start for information about how safe a country is generally. It also provides specific risk alerts, like this one on spring break in Mexico.

This advice only goes so far. So you’ll want to:

  • Do your homework on the safety of your specific destination, including your hotel or resort and the surrounding area
  • Check with travel agents. They may have beta not just on crime, but on safety and health services too
  • Search also for information online including discussions, reviews, and comments at online travel sites

As an aside, the Traveler’s Bill of Rights, a bill introduced in Congress, would require online travel sites to provide this information up front. If you think it’s a good idea ask your Congressional reps to support it.

After you’ve decided on an itinerary, register with State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. This will allow State to contact your loved ones or you in case of an emergency.

When you arrive at your destination you need to expand and reinforce your personal safety awareness. Don’t travel alone. Don’t travel at night. Always know where you’re going and how to get there. Observe local customs and don’t offend them. In some countries you should expect and be prepared for a certain amount of harassment from locals. This includes panhandling and offers of commerce. Try and keep a low profile.

Regarding entertainment, unless you’re an adventure expert, consider hiring a guided tour for any potentially risky activities like Jeep touring, horseback riding, SCUBA, snorkeling even, and the like. You should check out the safety record and credentials of any tour operators, just like you would at home. Even ordinary-seeming sightseeing tours, if they involve highway travel, can be much riskier than at home. The video below tells the stories of several victims that unfortunately are too commonplace in foreign travel.

*Needless to say, Gardner’s plight could be less accidental and random than intentional. In an upcoming blog we’ll tackle a very important part of those circumstances.

Related Apps for Your Smartphone*

TripIt – Travel-planning app. Free
RESCUE – Use GPS to help responders find you. $2.99
Google Translate – Translate words and phrases between more than 50 languages using Google Translate. Free

*Please note that these apps are for informational purposes only, and neither LexisNexis nor endorses these apps or accepts liability for their use.

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