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Student Travel Safety - While Traveling


  • Carefully obey all local laws and customs.  Your civil rights will vary greatly once outside of the United States.
  • Use the “buddy system” – try to travel in groups consisting of locals/classmates from the country.  Avoid hitchhiking at all costs.
  • Organize your funds into two separate packs each consisting of a credit card and currency.  When in-country, one of these packs should always be left at your residence as a back-up.  Keep the cash you need separate from the rest of your money.
  • Always notify your local contact of your intended schedule and social plans.
  • Stay away from illegal drugs entirely. Most foreign countries have extremely strict laws regarding even small quantities of drugs. In certain countries there is an automatic death sentence for possession of drugs no matter what the amount!
  • Drinking age varies greatly depending where you are. Keep in mind that while under the influence your natural awareness is diminished and you standout by the very fact that you are a foreigner.
  • Women from more liberated cultures may be perceived as sexually promiscuous. Adopt a modest dress code and modify your social behavior in accordance especially when dealing with locals of the opposite sex.
  • Learn about your surroundings.  Avoid problem and unlighted areas, especially alleys and parks.
  • Do not carry luggage or packages for others.
  • Know how to use public telephones and how to contact the police. Have necessary coins or phone cards available.
  • Use a shoulder strap if possible when using a purse.  Carry your wallet in an inside coat or front trouser pocket.
  • Take credit cards to assure that you get the most favorable exchange rates, know your credit limits in advance of leaving the U.S.; cards recognized internationally include; Visa, AMEX, MasterCard, and Diners Club.
  • Don’t leave your luggage or handbag unattended anywhere. Should you put a backpack down, place it on the floor between your legs or wrap a strap around a fixed object.
  • Travel with a small, high-powered flashlight in your backpack, purse, or pouch when out, and on your bedside table at night for emergencies.
  • When riding in a cab, keep all the doors locked and the windows rolled up to within two inches of the top.
  • Don’t resist an armed theft. If robbed, never pursue on foot.


  • Buy comfortable, closed and protective footwear to protect from fleas, ticks and various parasites.
  • Wash your hands before eating or preparing foods.
  • Try to learn key phrases in the local language, i.e.: “Where is the doctor?” . . . “I need help.”

Things to Avoid

  • Jetlag by drinking caffeine-free drinks, eating light meals and avoiding alcohol during the flight.
  • Over-exhaustion and heat illness by drinking plenty of fluids, adding salt and minerals to your diet and wearing loose-fitting, light-colored clothing made of natural fabrics.
  • Motion sickness by sitting in the front window seat of a car or bus; sit over the wings or wheels on an airplane.
  • Tap water, ice cubes and local dairy products and eat only well-cooked foods that are still hot.
  • Salads, uncooked vegetables, raw seafood and foods sold at roadside stands.  Seek advice from your program director or on-site host for referrals to local restaurants offering safe local foods.
  • Walking barefoot or wading in fresh water streams and lakes.

In the Hotel

  • Select a room between the third and sixth floors. Locate exits and familiarize yourself with the surroundings.
  • Always check the window and door locks. Lock doors while in or out of the room.
  • Do not admit someone to your room until you are satisfied as to their identity and purpose. Remain alert and cautious, particularly if unusual activity is noted in or near the hotel.
  • Put “Do Not Disturb” sign on door and leave TV or radio on when you are out of the room at night. Check your belongings regularly.
  • Use authorized transportation to and from the airport or rail station, and when possible, let the hotel provide this for you.

Driving Abroad

  • Before driving be certain of your responsibilities and the status of your insurance.  Familiarize yourself with the rules of the road for the location in which you will be using an automobile.
  • Be certain that your automobile always contains at least a half tank of fuel. Make sure your lights, signals, horn, and brakes are in proper order.
  • Avoid traveling by road after dark (especially in rural areas). Park in a well lighted place.
  • Avoid riding motorcycles – if you do, wear a helmet.
  • Always lock your car and use seat belts, even for short trips.

Pay particular attention to all of the following, which are common on the roads of many countries:

  • Passing on the right and cutting in front of other vehicles from the right side.
  • Unexpected stops or turns without signaling for no apparent reason.
  • Stopping in unexpected locations to pick up or let off passengers by cars, buses, and trucks, including main highway entrance ramps, intersections and along major highways.
  • Trucks parked at night without lights on the highway rather than on the side of the road.
  • Disabled vehicles parked without warning signs.
  • Many countries also require that all vehicles have certain equipment available, check local laws.

Frequent mandatory items:

  • First aid kit
  • Reflective warning triangle
  • Spare fuses and light bulbs
  • Fire extinguisher

Return to general advice or view while traveling safety tips.

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Dr. Deryle Hope   

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