Safety AbroadWe want you to have a fulfilling, enjoyable, and safe experience during your time abroad. At times, the excitement of travel and the newness of the environment can make it easy for you to become careless or distracted. Remember that you are responsible for your own safety, so be aware of where you are and what is going on around you at all times.
The following suggestions offer no guarantee of safety, but they will help you take the appropriate steps.
- Keep a low profile – don’t draw attention to yourself with jewelry, expensive clothes, etc.
- Take precautions – don’t give out your phone number or address to strangers.
- Register with the local American consulate office.
- Don't walk alone at night.
- Keep people informed of your itinerary when you go somewhere, even if you plan to be away just overnight.
- Never leave your baggage unattended.
- Protect your valuable documents. Never keep all your documents and money in one place. Keep copies of important documents in different places.
- Never agree to carry or look after packages or suitcases for anyone.
- Be aware at all times of your surroundings and the people with whom you have contact.
- Trust your feelings. If you feel uneasy or scared, there is a reason for that. Go to a place of safety or call for help.
- Avoid situations where you might lose all control due to over-consumption of alcohol.
- Avoid illegal drugs. Hundreds of North Americans end up in foreign jails each year as a result of carrying, using, or being suspected of using drugs. There is little the U.S. embassy can do on your behalf in these cases and the laws in many countries are more severe than at home.
- Watch out for pickpockets and scam artists. While you may be smarter than they are, they are experienced in scamming tourists, so watch your belongings! Your wallet can disappear before you even realize who bumped into you.
We hope that each and every one of you will have at least one opportunity to travel around and see the sites of your host country. We also want you to be safe.
- Wear a money belt or neck pouch to carry your cash, credit cards, and other valuables. Only carry what you can afford to lose, and avoid carrying large amounts of cash. Leave other cash and valuables securely stored in your hotel/hostel.
- When taking the train, choose compartments with people in them.
- Note the location of emergency equipment on any sort of vehicle.
- Don’t fall asleep on short trips. You could wind up inadvertently taking a long ride.
- Don’t stand on the edge of a train or metro platform.
- Keep your wallet in a side pocket/keep your purse closed. When in large crowds, carry your backpack in front of you. If you put it down, even for a moment, put your foot through the strap.
- NEVER leave backpacks or purses hanging from a chair while in a cafe or restaurant.
- If someone is bothering you, inform the driver or train operator.
- Beware of scams and keep an eye open for potential problems.
- Make use of lockers or safes in hostels/hotels.
- Buy a chain bicycle lock and use it to secure your luggage to racks or poles on trains and buses. Usually the presence of the lock itself will be enough of a deterrent to thieves.
- Having a cell phone with you may be helpful if you find yourself in a dangerous or uncomfortable situation.
- If someone tries to take your backpack or other property by force, let them have it. Your personal safety is far more important than any property.
Sexual harassment while overseas is any unwanted sexual advances from anyone with power over any aspect of your stay overseas, including your living arrangements and your educational or work environment.
Sometimes it is difficult to evaluate whether or not you’re being sexually harassed. Americans sometimes react with discomfort to the normal conversational distance between people in a culture they are exploring, and you should be aware of your own feelings within that context. However, no one, male or female, studying abroad should have to suffer from unwelcome sexual pressure. Should it persist, inform the appropriate officials, including your host coordinator, and inform us as soon as possible so that we may intervene on your behalf. (Excerpted from Sexual Harassment, by Joan N. Savitt, Ph.D., and Gloria DeSole, Ph.D.)
Statistics show that the most dangerous activity for Americans overseas is riding in or driving motor vehicles.
- If you plan to drive overseas, familiarize yourself with the local driving laws, both spoken and unspoken.
- Learn to recognize the international road signs
- You may be required by local laws to obtain a local driver’s license.
- Many countries do not require that you obtain a local driver’s license, but do require that you carry an international diving permit (IDP) in addition to your U.S. driver’s license. (See AAA’s application form for a list of countries in which this is acceptable, and to apply for an IDP.)
- Even though it may not be the local law or custom, wear your seat belt at all times while either riding in or driving a car.
In one word: DON'T! While you may find that illegal drugs are easier to obtain overseas, drug dealers are often paid by police to turn in buyers. Most foreign countries have extremely harsh penalties, including execution, for anyone caught in possession of illegal drugs. If you are caught with drugs, relatives and lawyers may not be permitted access to you.
You are not protected by the U.S. Embassy, Seattle Pacific University, or study abroad program authorities if you break local laws.