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10 Tips for Traveling Abroad Safely

Emily Paskins

READ TIME:5 min.

I’ve been so incredibly lucky to work for a company like iFit. I’ve always said that my dream job would be a combination of travel and fitness, and somehow I’m doing just that. I’ve ended up in a very unique situation where I spend over half of each year abroad, filming content for iFit that streams on NordicTrack and ProForm equipment. 

Over the years, I’ve racked up a solid list of the dos and don’ts when it comes to traveling safely. While I travel with a production crew for work, I often find myself alone, scouting the location before everyone flies out, or extending my stay after filming ends. Whether traveling alone or in a group, I feel like these tips apply, regardless. Some will seem like common sense, but honestly, the one thing I’ve learned is that in the moment, common sense doesn’t always feel quite so obvious!

1. Check the U.S. Department of State’s recommendations

This is the first thing I do when choosing a location. You can pull up any country in the world and find their recommendation on a scale of 1–4: 1 means safe (or take normal precautions), 2 means take increased precautions, 3 means reconsider travel, and 4 means do not travel. It’s hard to keep up with the news from all over the world, so this is a quick, one-stop check to see if there is political unrest or crime in the areas you’re looking at. 

2. Explore Pinterest, Instagram, and Google.

These are some of the best tools, in my opinion. I love pulling up Pinterest and finding blogs of other travelers to see where they went, where they stayed, and how they felt. There is so much information out there for all types of travelers, whether you’re flying solo, as a couple, or in a group. Luckily, most of us are not the first to experience something, so it’s easy to find plenty of resources these days. Look for things that align with your travel situation! 

3. Tell your family and friends where you’ll be going. 

Sadly, I’m guilty of not always doing this. I’m pretty certain I get at least one call a month asking, “Are you in the country right now?” With that being said, have someone back home that knows your check-in points—which hotels you should be at, your modes of transportation, etc. This is a really smart thing to do, should something ever happen. 

4. Utilize social media in a smart way.

Instagram has become a bit of a journal for me. I love that I can update my friends and family without constantly feeling the need to call or text that I’m still alive. One thing I’ve always tried to stay mindful of, though, is tagging locations while I’m still there. A general city is fine, but I won’t tag specific locations that I plan on staying at or visiting more than once. This may just be my own anxieties kicking in or maybe I’ve watched one too many murder mystery films in my life, but I prefer to be on my way out of town or safely back in my hotel before tagging a location that I was at. 

5. Email yourself and a family member a copy of your passport. 

I’ve luckily never lost my forms of identification. Thank goodness! However, if you were to lose your passport, having a copy of it saved in your email will expedite the process of getting your replacement. 

6. Travel with more than one credit card and some backup cash.

I learned this one the hard way. When I was 21, I ended up in Barcelona over the three-day holiday La Merce and my bank had turned off my card that weekend for possible fraud. All the banks were closed for three days, and I didn’t have a  backup card or cash and no international cell plan. How I got out of that one probably deserves its own post, but always let your bank know beforehand that you’ll be traveling and always travel with a spare card and extra cash.

7. Store important/expensive items properly.

I always pack a combination lock when I travel. This makes renting a locker somewhere convenient and easy, because I don’t have to worry about losing a key. If I’m walking around with important items on me, I like to keep things in secure pockets inside the bag, so a quick hand can’t easily lift anything from me. I also split up my money in at least two places—some in my main travel bag as backup and some with me for spending. Also, you never want to open up your wallet and show a wad of foreign currency. Seeing $20–50 is far less appealing to prying eyes than, say, $500.

8. Keep a low profile. 

This means a couple of things. First, don’t draw too much attention to yourself or flash expensive jewelry. Simple as that. Second, be aware of the culture. In Jordan, women are covered from head to toe. I spoke to several locals and tour guides who assured me that it was unnecessary as a tourist to cover up. However, at temples in Thailand, it was either highly recommended or oftentimes I was asked to cover my shoulders and legs. So just be sure to always be respectful of the culture and religions of other countries. 

9. Learn the basics.

If you’re traveling to a location where you don’t speak the language, learn at least a few phrases to ensure that you can be polite at the very least. I like to learn how to say, “Hello,” “Goodbye,” “Please,” “Thank you,” Excuse me,” and, “Sorry.” Being courteous and friendly can make all the difference in the world.

10. Do not get in an unmarked taxi.

If you just walked out of an airport in a foreign country, get in the taxi line. Don’t follow a random guy who’s promising you a better fare. Although this could turn out just fine, it’s better to be safe than sorry. If you get in a taxi and notice they don’t turn on the meter, be sure to negotiate a price before driving away. If you wait until you reach your destination, you’ll be at the mercy of the price they tell you. Personally, I prefer Uber, but this service is not legal/available worldwide. Check ahead of time for similar services in other countries.

There are locations that these tips will apply to more than others. There is definitely a difference in what I would wear or carry in France and Switzerland versus Morocco and Bolivia. I felt perfectly safe in all four countries, but I did conduct myself a bit differently in each. The best thing you can do is to be aware of your surroundings. Theft can happen anywhere, it’s just more inconvenient if it happens while you’re traveling abroad. 

Wishing you all a happy holiday season, whatever you celebrate, and safe traveling wherever you go! 

Emily Paskins

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