With lots of trips and even more mistakes under my belt– I’ve learned a lot about how to travel safely firsthand.
Please learn from my failures.
Here are some things you should do before you travel, to help you stay safe! Especially if you’re going abroad. Some of these safety travel tips are things I’ve learned firsthand. Others are things I’ve always done, but I think can be easily overlooked or forgetten. They’re all important to keep in mind before you go!
In This Post
Get a SIM card or international phone plan
This is very important in case you get lost or an emergency happens. Our phones nowadays have so much power to keep us connected and get help!
For everyone like me circa 5 years ago, I used to be weirdly against this too. I used to think things like:
“Hell no, I’m not spending money to make calls abroad. I would rather spend that money on #travel.”
“Phones separate us from real experiences. I want to live in the moment and connect with people in that country.”
But that was before we couldn’t find our hotel at 2 AM in a sketchy part of Rome. And before I got stranded far from my friends while motorbiking along a remote highway in Vietnam. And before I read this story about people who got in a near fatal motorbike accident in Bali and survived only because of a Facebook post for help. These experiences and story 100% showed me the importance of traveling with either a SIM card or cell phone plan with international service.
Yes, people definitely were able to travel without phone service before. But having the connection available just makes it so much easier in case emergencies happen. And you can always, you know, switch your phone off if you truly want to disconnect.
Download dictionary apps
After you get the SIM card or phone plan, you’d think your phone would be totally usable in a new country. Right?
Nope! Depending where you’re traveling to, service can still get spotty. So it’s important to download offline apps of anything you would normally need the internet for on your trip, just in case.
If you’re going to a country where you don’t speak the language, for example, look into getting a dictionary app of that language. It tends to be in the places without service where you need to know random pieces of a different language the most. This is one of the apps I’ve found most important while traveling. But I also speak 1 language, so.
Plus, downloading dictionary apps are less bulky than carrying an actual dictionary 😛.
Download offline maps
The first time I went abroad on my own, I was visiting one of my best friends who traveled abroad much more than me. His number one piece of travel advice was to download CityMaps2Go before going anywhere, which has maps of cities you download, so you can see where things are– even without an Internet connection!
That was back in 2014, and now, there are even more map apps! I’ve been using Maps.me, which I like better because it gives you estimated walking times. Sometimes I use Tripadvisor’s because it gives you more info on things to do or places to eat nearby. Even Google Maps has an offline version. Whichever app you prefer, make sure you have a map of the cities you’re going to handy.
Like above, offline maps are important in case you need to know where you’re going and don’t have service. Navigating in other countries can be hard if you don’t speak the language or if you’re going to less frequented spots. Even if you’re going somewhere popular, it can be easy to get lost if you’re not paying attention. My offline map saved me when I decided to go to Versailles without planning how to actually get there and back.
Pack portable batteries
Hopefully you see how important our phones can be while traveling (if you didn’t already recognize that before this post).
So you also don’t want your phone to die! Even on airplane mode, when you’re spending all day exploring and taking pictures, it can die pretty fast. Bring reusable batteries so you don’t have to worry about losing power!
I always bring multiple because sometimes cheap hostels don’t have enough outlets to recharge everything at once. That way if I’m only able to charge my phone one night, I still have a battery ready to go. If you stay in nicer hostels/places, you probably won’t have this issue though.
Figure out how to get out of the airport ahead of time
This will keep you less stressed.
Even if you have all the things like offline maps and a phone that works abroad, I’ve sometimes had difficulty figuring out how to leave the airport– if I’m trying to figure it out when I’m there. Sometimes the airports are far enough from the main city that I don’t have service yet, sometimes there’s no WiFi airport, sometimes no one I ask makes sense because I’m sleep deprived.
Especially if you tend to take public transportation, with all the potential transfers and different schedules, having a sense of what to do before will keep things less complicated. Like what if the bus isn’t running when you arrive? This happens to me in Seattle, and it still throws me off if I don’t check the times first.
And even if you plan to just take a taxi, looking it up before can give you an idea of cost and timing.
Stay up to date on your vaccines
Vaccines are so important to keeping yourself and the people you come in contact with safe from highly contagious diseases. Technically, you should be up to date regardless of if you’re traveling or not, but I know it’s not the case for everyone.
But I think it’s especially important as travelers to be vaccinated, so you’re not reintroducing diseases to countries that have already or almost eradicated them, like this French couple did in Costa Rica or like American travelers are doing when they return to the US from countries with measles outbreaks. Plus some countries like Guatemala actually require you to have proof of certain vaccinations before you enter, depending where you’re coming from.
Look into what’s required for your trip, and make sure you’re up to date– not just for your safety, but also for everyone else’s. And don’t forget to check with your doctor well in advance, because some need a few weeks in order to be fully effective, so you might need to plan ahead!
Make sure you have travel insurance
Travel insurance can protect you from so many things that can go wrong– from medical emergencies during your trip, to lost baggage at the airport, to cancelled flights or cruises, to the ability to cancel trips yourself becuase of natural disasters or political unrest.
Like remember when WOW Airlines shut down suddenly, cancelled all their flights, and left so many passengers without a return flight or refund? Certain travel insurance plans would have helped if you were in that situation!
I can’t speak from a place of actually having to use the travel insurance, so I’m not going to recommend any companies. Sites like this go over the different travel insurance options though. But I will say that it gives me extra piece of mind knowing that I have it for emergencies. If you can afford a plane ticket, you can afford protection on your trip.
Bring emergency cash and cards
Have you ever been in a situation where you had to sell selfies to guys from Kazakhstan, so you could taxi out of the airport, because both your credit cards and debit cards weren’t working? Even though you called your bank earlier to set a travel notice on your card, which you should do before traveling to a new country? No? Good, you don’t want to be in that spot, becuase it’s awkward.
Make sure you bring a backup card in case your primary card doesn’t work. And make sure you bring emergency cash in case none of them work! Weird things happen, and you want to be prepared.
Make a digital copy of your passport
I learned about this from a friend who travels a ton, and read more about it on Trip Savvy.
You can read the full details on their site, but basically this will help you replace your passport more easily in case you lose it abroad. This hasn’t happened to me yet, but I always have a digital copy handy just in case. And very minor +1, but this also makes digging for your passport when you need to write the number go away if it’s just on your phone!
It’s also handy to have the number and address of your country’s consulate available in case you need to contact them for anything, including help with a replacement passport. If you’re from the US, you can look up the consulate or embassy in the country you’ll be traveling to here.
And those are my safety travel tips before you take off! What would you add? Let me know in the comments!