Money and Valuables
Students should take traveler's checks, cash, some host country currency (for use before you find somewhere to exchange money), and an ATM/debit card or a credit card with them. Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs) are widely available in most large cities. When traveling to more remote areas, take local currency with you. Some debit cards and credit cards automatically have a restriction on international transactions. Check with your bank or credit card company before you depart and, if needed, have the restriction on international transactions removed.
Do not carry large amounts of cash around with you; carry traveler's checks and major credit cards instead. Keep your passport and money safe in a money belt or small purse that can be worn underneath your clothing. Wearing a purse on the outside highlights where you keep money and valuables; moreover, it can easily be cut or ripped from your shoulder. Many thieves will simply grab the bag and run, sometimes breaking arms in the process. If possible, don't carry a handbag at all. Wrapping rubber bands around your wallet can make it difficult for a pickpocket to remove.
Do not take valuable items on your trip. Guard carefully at all times your passport, visas, and other documents that you carry with you, and do not leave them in the outer flaps of your bags. It is better to have to dig for them the few times you will need them, than to leave them out for anyone to steal. Before leaving, make a copy of the identification page of your passport. Keep this copy separate from your passport and carry it with you at all times. If local law does not require you to keep your passport with you, carry only the photocopy of your passport when you are out and about.
As you are preparing for your stay abroad, remember to make preparations for your personal safety as well. While abroad, you should take the same common-sense safety precautions that you would at home: be aware of your surroundings and keep your valuables concealed. Many travelers fall victim to crimes because it is assumed they are carrying cash, and in a foreign environment, they are often easy to distract. Be prudent when meeting strangers, and listen to safety advice from your program coordinator and local residents. Remember, most incidents happen when you are careless. If you should fall victim to crime, remember that your embassy is there to help you. Every embassy and consulate has a duty officer on-call around the clock to assist in an emergency.
- Make sure someone else knows your itinerary.
- Keep your eyes and hands on your bags at all times. When you are distracted, you are an easy target for thieves. Do not leave your bags unattended. When you are on the telephone or reading a sign or train schedule, do not forget to keep an eye on your bags.
- Be especially alert in crowds at train stations, crowded shopping areas and tourist spots. Any place with a crowd is likely to be a place for thieves and muggers as well.
- Be careful to whom you give your luggage. Sometimes thieves pose as porters or taxi drivers.
- Plan your trip so that you do not arrive at an unknown town late at night without having made arrangements for spending the night.
- When traveling, always sleep with your money belt or necksafe hidden under your clothing.
- When you stay at a hotel, make use of the safety deposit boxes that many hotels have. Leave your passport and any money you don't expect to need that day safely locked away.
- If driving, keep your car doors locked and suitcases out of sight.
- Do not leave valuables in parked cars. Thieves target rental cars and cars with out-of-town or foreign license plates.
Out on the Town
- Avoid forming large groups of foreigners. Smaller groups attract less attention.
- At the same time, two are safer than one. Do NOT go with any strangers if you are alone.
- Dress to blend in with the local population.
- Find out which parts of town are considered risky by the locals. As at home, always stay in well-lit and well-traveled areas. Do not take shortcuts through alleys or unsafe areas.
In the United States, the official legal drinking age is 21--higher than it is in other countries. Attitudes towards alcohol consumption vary greatly from country to country. Whatever the local rules and customs, use moderation and good judgment, and remember that drinking may place you at risk because it reduces your awareness and ability to judge potential dangers. Excessive consumption of alcohol has been identified as the single greatest risk factor for study abroad participants.
Avoiding Sexual Assault
These suggestions have been adapted from a U.S. campus pamphlet on avoiding sexual assault. They contain common sense advice relating to personal safety in any country. We often let our guard down when we are with people we know. Unfortunately, most sexual assaults involve people who know each other. These tips can help you identify danger and protect yourself in any situation.
- Stay alert.
- Trust your intuition.
- Avoid secluded or unknown places.
- If you feel you might be in danger, you probably are. Call for help and be specific. Say "This is an attack! Call 911!" in the United States (learn the emergency number in your host country).
- Be aware of the effects of alcohol and drugs. Alcohol and drugs impair judgment and increase violent behavior.
- Do not be afraid to call attention to yourself or to ask for assistance.
In Social Situations
- Do not go off alone with someone you do not know well or who makes you feel uncomfortable. Suggest staying with a group or going to a public place.
- Do not leave friends alone at parties, bars, or clubs. Remember, there is safety in numbers.
- Beware of selfish and aggressive comments or behavior. If a person does not listen to you, stands too close, or seems to enjoy your discomfort, she or he may not respect your limits or desires.
- If you feel you may be getting into an uncomfortable situation, try to get to a safe place as soon as possible.
- Always bring money for taxi fare. Change for a phone call in case of a change of plans can be helpful as well.
- Be aware of what you are drinking and how much you are drinking. Never leave your drink unattended. Be supportive of other people's limits.
- Be aware that signals may not be interpreted clearly across cultures. Communicate your limits clearly; if someone is pressuring you to have sex when you do not want to, say NO clearly. Be direct and assertive.
Self Defense Tips
- Always keep windows and doors locked. Never prop open doors or windows.
- Do not let strangers into your room or apartment.
- If you observe a suspicious person, notify the police immediately.
- At night, close drapes, shades, or blinds.
- Never give your home address to a stranger on the phone or over the Internet.
- Be cautious about posting personal information on the Internet.
- Use a steady, confident pace.
- Practice being aware of your surroundings.
- Lower the volume or remove your headphones, so you can hear what is happening around you.
- Carry your keys in your hand, so you can get into your car or home quickly. Keys can also serve as a defense weapon if you are attacked.
- Wear comfortable shoes, and do not overload yourself with books or bags.
Excerpt taking from the International Student Exchange Program handbook