Personal Safety Abroad
Below are some general tips for staying safe, but we also recommend referring to your Country Handbook for more specific information.
- Keep your money and valuables safe
- Stay aware of your personal safety
- Take care of your health
- Monitor your alcohol consumption
- Avoid situations that could be dangerous
- Know how to defend yourself
Tips for Guarding Your Money and Valuables
- For arrival, we recommend taking over some cash and some host country currency (to use before finding somewhere to exchange money).
- Do not carry large amounts of cash with you; use a debit card and major credit cards instead. ATMs are widely available in most large cities.
- Some debit and credit cards have an automatic restriction on international transactions. Check with your bank or credit card company before you depart. Make sure you let them know that you will be out of the country and the dates you will be gone so that they do not block purchases. -** When traveling **to more remote areas, take local currency.
- If you do go out with cash, store the amount in two places (like a purse and a money belt), just in case you get robbed or lose your wallet or purse.
- Make photocopies of credit and debit cards along with other essential documents; take one set of copies abroad and leave one set with someone at home.
- Carefully guard your passport, visas and other documents. Keep the originals secured in your room and carry the photocopies with you unless local law requires otherwise.
- When traveling, use a money belt that can be worn underneath your clothing. Purses and bags can easily be cut or ripped from your shoulder by thieves, possibly causing injury in the process.
Tips for Personal Safety
- Make sure someone else always knows your itinerary.
- Keep your eyes and hands on your bags at all times, especially when talking on the telephone or reading a sign or train schedule. If you’re distracted, you become an easy target for thieves. If you are sitting at an outdoor restaurant and have a bag or purse, hook the handle on the bottom of your chair to help prevent someone from taking it.
- Be mindful when handing your luggage to anyone. Thieves often pose as porters or drivers. At the airport, save your checked luggage receipts because you might need them to be able to leave with your luggage at baggage claim.
- Plan your trip so that you don’t arrive at an unknown town late at night without having made prior arrangements for accommodations.
- When you stay at a hotel, make use of the provided safe. Leave your passport, money and electronics safely locked away. For hostels and budget hotels, bring your own padlock because often they do not provide you with one to lock up your valuables.
- If driving, keep doors locked and suitcases out of sight. Don’t leave valuables in cars. Thieves target rental cars and vehicles with foreign license plates.
- Although there is an added safety to traveling in numbers, we recommend trying to avoid forming large groups of foreigners. Smaller groups attract less attention.
- Don’t go anywhere with strangers if you are alone.
- Dress to blend in with the local population. Research your host country’s culture to see what type of clothing is appropriate to wear for your gender.
- Find out which parts of town are considered risky by the locals and avoid those areas.
- Always stay in well-lit and well-traveled places. Don’t take short cuts through alleys or unsafe areas.
Tips for Health and Self-Care
- See Important Medical Information for tips to prepare to study abroad that may help prevent health issues during your program.
- Talk to your host ISEP coordinator if you are experiencing any physical or mental health problems.
- Know where to get routine and emergency treatment before a medical problem arises. Refer to the Institutional Information Sheet (IIS) you will receive upon your acceptance into the program for the available physical and mental health services on campus or locally.
- Know the signs of culture shock and use these tips for coping
- Use these tips to maintain your mental health by recognizing what is going on as you adjust to being abroad.
Tips for Monitoring Your Alcohol Consumption
- Attitudes toward alcohol consumption vary greatly from country to country. We recommend researching your host culture’s social norms and attitudes towards alcohol before arriving.
- Whatever the local rules and customs, use moderation and good judgment; drinking may place you at risk because it reduces your awareness and ability to judge potential dangers.
- Never leave your drink unattended.
- Excessive drinking has been identified as the single greatest risk factor for study abroad students.
Tips for Avoiding Dangerous Social Situations
- Stay alert and trust your intuition when you feel you may be in danger. If you feel you may be getting into an uncomfortable situation, try to get to a safe place as soon as possible.
- Learn the emergency number in your host country and use it when needed.
- Memorize your address and add it in your smart phone before going out just in case you forget it.
- If cannot speak your host country’s language, have someone write your address in that country’s language on a piece of paper before going out. Hand the piece of paper to a cab driver to get home.
- Don’t be afraid to call attention to yourself or ask for assistance if you’re in trouble. When calling for help, be specific about what you need.
- Be aware of the effects of alcohol and drugs. These effects include impaired judgment and increased violent behavior.
- Know your own limits and be supportive of other people’s limits. -** Do not go off alone** with someone you don’t know well or who makes you feel uncomfortable. Suggest staying with a group or going to a public place. Don’t leave friends alone at parties, bars or clubs.
- Always bring money for taxi fare to a safe place. Change for a phone call in case of an emergency can be helpful as well.
Tips for Self Defense
- Always keep windows and doors locked, not propped open. At night, make sure your drapes, shades or blinds are closed.
- Don’t let strangers into your room or apartment. Never give them your home address on the phone or over the internet. If you observe a suspicious person, notify the police immediately.
- Use a steady, confident pace when walking and always be aware of your surroundings.
- Wear comfortable shoes. Don’t overload yourself with books or bags.
- Make sure you can hear what’s happening around you, especially if you are on the phone or wearing headphones.
- Carry your keys in your hand so you can get into your home quickly.
- Be aware that signals may not be interpreted clearly across cultures. If someone is pressuring you to have sex when you don’t want to, say NO clearly. Be direct and assertive.
- If possible, register with your country’s embassy so that they know you are traveling abroad and so that you can receive relevant travel alerts.