The overwhelming majority of United States citizens that travel abroad will have a safe and incident free vacation experience, but as a leader in international travel services Vacation Inspirations always advises all of our customers to remain diligent when in foreign countries, and adhere to the best possible safe travel practices. SAFETY PRECAUTIONS BEFORE YOU TRAVEL Set the tone for a safe vacation experience by packing the appropriate items prior to departure, and what you do not bring is just as important as what you do. Your travel list should not include any unnecessary flashy or expensive looking jewelry. Intentionally presenting the image of a very wealthy tourist is a behavior that could potentially make you a target for theft. Although it’s easier said than done, it’s perpetually wise to travel light. Not being bogged down with heavy luggage means you can move faster and will be less likely to frequently tire when in transit on foot, therefore making you less likely to have to set down your luggage and rest, thus leaving fewer opportunities for your unattended luggage to attract attention from a thief. If you can manage to travel with only one bag you will also always have the advantage of having one free hand. Have a plan on how you intend to conceal your valuables, and pack the required items. The safe at your hotel or resort is a relatively solid place to put your valuables, including credit cards, extra cash, or your passport. It’s always best to make photocopies of your passport prior to departure when travelling internationally. You need not carry the original on you – the photocopy will do fine should you need to present international identification. Hand bags and fanny packs are the prime targets for thieves, smarter alternatives are inside pockets or a pouch or money belt worn under your clothing, or at the very least a shoulder bag with a strap work across your chest. Carry the minimum number of valuables, and plan ahead of time as to where you intend to conceal them. Your passport, cash and credit cards are most secure when locked in a hotel safe. When carrying both cash and credit cards on your person, it’s advisable to keep each in an alternate location. Don’t forget any medicines you might have, pack them in your carryon bag, not a checked bag, along with a copy of your prescription and make the medicines are stored in the original labeled containers. If you wear glasses or contacts – pack a extra pair. While it’s wise to put your name, address and telephone number on each piece of luggage you are bringing, covered luggage tags will pay dividends, as they prevent passersby from easily identifying your name or nationality. Once you have arrived at your destination and your are travelling about, you should always lock your luggage – but check with your airline prior to departure about current regulations related to locked luggage during your flight out of the states. There have been many changes to airline security practices in the United States over the past decade and the current U.S. regulations are ever changing. If you lock your bags prior to departing the U.S. on an international flight and they are randomly selected for screening by the TSA during a layover or plane change in the states, the TSA may break your locks to inspect your bag contents. Signs are supposed to be posted conspicuously advising travelers of this regulation, but often they are not placed prominently and go unnoticed. Leave a copy of your itinerary with family or friends and go through your wallet to ensure you are not bringing anything unnecessary. Just because something has a valid reason to be in your wallet in the states, does not mean that logic holds true on vacation. Your social security card and library card are two good examples of items that can surely be left behind. STREET SAFETY Never travel alone at night unless it is absolutely necessary. Whenever possible, keep a generally low profile and do not call any undue attention to yourself. Public demonstrations or local political disturbances in foreign countries are notorious for turning violent at a moment’s notice. In the unlikely situation that such an event should be unfolding during your visit, fight off your innate sense of curiosity and urge for a photo opportunity, it’s not worth the risk. Avoid seedy areas of town and all “short cuts”, narrow alleyways or dimly lit streets, even if you are in an area heavily populated by tourists. Pick pocketing is big business in many foreign countries, so beware, teams of pickpockets will have accomplices that attempt to avert your attention by violently bumping into you, spilling something on you, starting an argument with you or generally creating a ruckus. Anything that intensely consumes your full attention, even for a second, can be just the opening a pickpocket needs. If anything strikes you as an intentional distraction, keep your wits about you and use common sense. It’s not difficult to minimize your exposure to pick pocketing, just do not make yourself an easy target by having a wallet bulging in your back pocket, purse hanging loosely off a shoulder, etc. Thieves always take the path of least resistance, and unless you strike them as an easy mark, there are always other options on the street. Generally move with purpose, many street criminals are experts at identifying people who are lost by recognizing the paralanguage associated with people who are lost. So in the unfortunate circumstance where you happen to get lost, just remain calm and act as though you know exactly where you are going. If at all possible, only ask directions from people in authority. Take the time to digest how the local pay phones operate and always carry the appropriate local currency coin or token required, you will thank yourself should an emergency arrive. Carry a list of emergency phone numbers, including local police and the appropriate U.S. embassy or consulate. HOTEL SAFETY Always keep your hotel door locked and know where the closest fire exit is. It’s also advisable to actually take the time to count the doors between your room and the closest fire exit, since that knowledge could be a lifesaver in a smoke filled hallway. SAFE USE OF TAXI’S Be aware of the official taxi markings in the country you are visiting, it's best to research this information ahead of time, and once you arrive never take unmarked cabs. This is one rule of thumb that's just as valid for domestic travel as it is abroad. SAFE DRIVING If renting a car when travelling abroad, choose a common local style of vehicle, and it’s worth asking if any markings that identify the vehicle as a rental can be removed. Also, when travelling to a tropical destination, think of air conditioning as a security feature, as it facilitates driving with the windows closed, which affords you an extra level of protection. When driving in foreign countries, never underestimate the forethought and scheming ability of criminals. They may pose as fellow motorists in distress and flag you down under the guise of quickly snatching your luggage, along with any number of other ploys.