Travel Safety: Before You Go
You’re about to set foot on foreign soil. Are you prepared to be there? If you’ve done the following, you’re in good shape:
1. Fill out the emergency information page of your passport. You never know where – or when – this information will be critical.
2. Get a physical and dental exam. Be sure you’re up-to-date on all of your standard vaccinations: measles, mumps, rubella, polio, diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis. If you’re traveling to Europe, Australia or New Zealand, these basic immunizations should be all you need. Africa, Asia and Latin America, however, require you to show a vaccination certificate for cholera, yellow fever, typhoid and others (such as Malaria). Some foreign countries even insist you be tested for HIV. (This applies mainly to those visiting for an extended period of time.) It’ll take a few weeks to get all of these vaccinations completed, so be sure to allow enough time. If you’re not sure which ones are required for your destination, contact your local public health department. They’ll be able to tell you what you need, as well as where to go to get them.
3. Invest in travel health insurance. You may already have it under your current medical plan, however double check to be sure. At the very least, you want to make sure you’re covered for accidents and hospital costs abroad.
4. Learn local customs and laws. What are the standards on tipping? Can women wear shorts? Remember, the world does not revolve around you. Make a concerted effort to understand, practice and appreciate the way other cultures live. It’ll keep you out of trouble and your experience will be richer for it.
5. Stay abreast of current news. You’d be surprised at the number of foreign countries that post their newspapers online. Be on the lookout for travel advisories or warnings.
6. Read up on what The State Department has to say. The State Department does an excellent job of providing Travel Warnings (advising Americans to avoid certain countries), Public Announcements (postings of significant risks to the security of American travelers) and Consular Information Sheets for every country in the world. Be sure to check in when planning your trip and before you leave.
7. Learn enough of the language to communicate. When it comes time for assistance, you’ll be glad you did. Plus, locals are more likely to respond warmly if they know you’re trying to speak their language. Never assume the world speaks English. It doesn’t.