by Chloë Hudson
Photograph courtesy of BU Study Abroad
Many students see college as a window of time for wanderlust. In fact, millennials represent 20 percent of international travelers. By 2020, these young travelers will take an estimated 320 million trips abroad, according to The World Youth Student and Educational Travel Confederation.
Venturing into the unknown is exhilarating, but it can also be dangerous—especially if you’re young. Whether you’re going with friends or traveling solo, take precaution to reduce unnecessary risk. Even if you’re not traveling to a “dangerous” country, you still might find yourself in dangerous situations. Here are tips to help you be safe while abroad.
Deciding on a Destination
It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of researching the best restaurants and bluest waters—the reason you’re going, after all—but go beyond this and learn all the city’s ins and outs. The good, the bad and the ugly. When looking for the most popular places to go to, also find out which ones you should avoid. With increasing incidents of terrorism, consider a vacation off the beaten path, one that avoids the tourist hot spots. By no means should this prevent you from getting the most out of your trip. Take the Eiffel Tower, for example: Instead of climbing to the top, try watching it sparkle for five minutes on the evening hour from a rooftop restaurant. Prioritize location when booking yourself into a hotel or hostel. Being able to walk to major tourist attractions is an obvious advantage. Is it an Uber city? If not, how reliable is the public transportation? Take another look at your itinerary and fill in the gaps.
Before You Go
If you’re a U.S. citizen, enroll for free in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). This service provides updated safety information for every country across the globe and can help you make informed travel decisions. Learn of travel warnings and vaccination requirements and find out more about local laws. Allow the U.S. Embassy to contact you in an emergency, whether natural disaster, civil unrest or family emergency. Your family members will also be able to get in touch with you more easily should something go wrong. Always keep close friends and family members in the loop. Leave a copy of your itinerary with someone at home and check in with them regularly when you’re abroad. Also save local emergency numbers and scan your passport to cover yourself. Google Maps even lets you save maps to use offline in case you can’t find WiFi. If your cell phone won’t work abroad, invest in a plan with free roaming or purchase a local SIM card when you arrive at your destination.
When You’re There
Just be aware. Mingle with the locals, but don’t trust people too quickly. Pickpockets, for example, can artfully blend into the crowd or create a distraction to rob you of your valuables. For this reason, leave what you don’t need behind, and separate your money between purses and pockets when you’re out. If your accommodation provides a safe, make sure to use it. Larger hotels also have an escape route mapped on the back of the door, so take a longer look at it. And if someone knocks and claims to be a staff member, feel free to ring the hotel desk to confirm.
Just keep your head up and eyes peeled, and enjoy the experience!