Tips for Travelers
- Make sure you
have a signed, valid passport and visas, if required. Also, before you go, fill
in the emergency information page of your passport!
- Read the Consular Information
Sheets (and Public Announcements or Travel Warnings, if applicable) for the
countries you plan to visit. (See the section "Preparation for Your Trip")
- Leave copies of your
itinerary, passport data page and visas with family or friends at home, so that
you can be contacted in case of an emergency.
- Make sure you have
insurance that will cover your emergency medical needs while you are overseas.
- Familiarize yourself with
local laws and customs of the countries to which you are traveling. Remember, while in a foreign country, you are subject to its laws!
- Do not leave your luggage
unattended in public areas and never accept packages from strangers.
- While abroad, avoid using
illicit drugs or drinking excessive amounts of alcoholic beverages, and
associating with people who do.
- Do not become a target for
thieves by wearing conspicuous clothing and expensive jewelry and do not carry
excessive amounts of cash or unnecessary credit cards.
- Deal only with authorized
agents when you exchange money or purchase art or antiques in order to avoid
violating local laws.
- When overseas, avoid
demonstrations and other situations that may become unruly or where
anti-American sentiments may be expressed.
Of all the safety
features aboard the aircraft, one of the most important is right at your
fingertips - Your Seat Belt. In a recent study, nearly 300
turbulence-related serious injuries to passengers were reported over a 10- year
period. None of the injured had their seat belts fastened. To prevent
turbulence-related injuries, Fly Smart travelers should always:
- Keep their seat belt fastened at all times.
- Make sure their seat belt is secured snugly and low
across the hips.
OBEY CARRY-ON BAGGAGE RESTRICTIONS
For ease of movement
and protection in the unlikely event of an evacuation, Fly Smart travelers
should follow these guidelines:
- Wear clothes made of natural fabrics such as cotton,
wool, denim and leather. They offer the best protection. Synthetics may melt
when they are heated.
- Wear clothing that allows freedom of movement. Avoid
- Wear low heeled shoes or boots. (Shoes with laces or
straps are recommended. Avoid sandals.)
- Arms and legs should be as fully covered as possible.
(Long sleeves/pants are recommended.)
SUGGESTIONS TO MAKE YOUR SAFE TRIP EVEN
- Shirt - Long sleeved, natural fabrics.
- Slacks/pants - Long, natural fabrics.
- Shoes - Leather or canvas and low-heeled.
Child Safety Seat
- Check with airline for policy on use before arrival at
On Board the Aircraft
- Safely stow carry-on baggage.
- Wear seat belt snug and low across the hips.
- Keep your seat belt fastened at all times.
- If you take your shoes off, put them on before landing.
- Review the passenger safety card before each takeoff
and each landing.
- Listen carefully to the safety briefing.
- Ask questions if safety information is not clear.
- Make a mental plan of the actions you would take in an
- Be familiar with all exits.
- Count seat rows between you and at least two exits.
Exit Row Seating
- Listen to the safety briefing and/or read the written
instructions for aircraft specifics.
- You must be physically capable and willing to perform
emergency actions. If not, request another seat.
- You must know your responsibilities in the unlikely
event of an emergency.
- Ask questions if instructions are not clear.
- Consider the effects of alcoholic beverages.
In the unlikely event of an emergency, you should be
aware of the following.
- Jump feet first into center of slide.
- Do not sit down to slide.
- Place arms across chest, elbows in, and legs and feet
- High-heeled shoes can damage slides.
- Pull oxygen mask toward you to start oxygen flow.
- Put your oxygen mask on as quickly as possible.
- Help children and others with their masks.
- Know where they are and how to use them.
- Life vests (under seat, if available), life rafts, and
some seat cushions and evacuation slides can be used as flotation devices.
Evacuating the Aircraft
- Follow instructions of crew member (if possible).
- Stay calm and proceed quickly to exit.
- Leave all your possessions behind.
Fire or Smoke
- Use wet paper towel or handkerchief over nose and
- Move away from the source of fire and smoke.
- Stay low.
- Proceed by your predetermined count of seat rows to exit(s) and/or
- Follow floor proximity lighting to an exit.
- Exit the aircraft.
- Leave all your possessions behind.
Outside the Aircraft
- Move away from aircraft, fire, and smoke.
- If possible, help those requiring assistance.
- Remain alert for emergency vehicles.
- Never go back into a burning aircraft.
What to Bring
Safety begins when
you pack. To avoid being a target, dress conservatively. Don't wear expensive
looking jewelry. A flashy wardrobe or one that is too casual can mark
you as a tourist. As much as possible, avoid the appearance of affluence.
Always try to travel
light. You can move more quickly and will be more likely to have a free
hand. You will also be less tired and less likely to set your luggage
down, leaving it unattended.
Carry the minimum
amount of valuables necessary for your trip and plan a place or places
to conceal them. Your passport, cash and credit cards are most secure
when locked in a hotel safe. When you have to carry them on your person,
you may wish to conceal them in several places rather than putting them
all in one wallet or pouch. Avoid handbags, fanny packs and outside pockets
that are easy targets for thieves. Inside pockets and a sturdy shoulder
bag with the strap worn across your chest are somewhat safer. One of the
safest places to carry valuables is in a pouch or money belt worn under
If you wear glasses,
pack an extra pair. Bring them and any medicines you need in your carry-on
To avoid problems
when passing through customs, keep medicines in their original, labeled
containers. Bring copies of your prescriptions and the generic names for
the drugs. If a medication is unusual or contains narcotics, carry a letter
from your doctor attesting to your need to take the drug. If you have
any doubt about the legality of carrying a certain drug into a country,
consult the embassy or consulate of that country first.
Bring travelers checks
and one or two major credit cards instead of cash.
Pack an extra set
of passport photos along with a photocopy of your passport information
page to make replacement of your passport easier in the event it is lost
Put your name, address
and telephone numbers inside and outside of each piece of luggage. Use
covered luggage tags to avoid casual observation of your identity or nationality.
If possible, lock your luggage.
a telephone calling card. It is a convenient way of keeping in touch.
If you have one, verify that you can use it from your overseas location(s).
Access numbers to U.S. operators are published in many international newspapers.
Find out your access number before you go.
What to Leave
Don't bring anything
you would hate to lose. Leave at home:
or expensive-looking jewelry,
· irreplaceable family objects,
· all unnecessary credit cards,
· Social Security card, library cards, and similar items you may
routinely carry in your wallet.
Leave a copy of your
itinerary with family or friends at home in case they need to contact
you in an emergency.
A Few Things to
Bring AND Leave Behind
Make two photocopies
of your passport identification page, airline tickets, driver's license
and the credit cards that you plan to bring with you. Leave one photocopy
of this data with family or friends at home; pack the other in a place
separate from where you carry your valuables.
Leave a copy of the
serial numbers of your travelers' checks with a friend or relative at
home. Carry your copy with you in a separate place and, as you cash the
checks, cross them off the list.
What to Learn
About Before You Go
The Department of State's Consular Information Sheets are available
for every country of the world. They describe entry requirements, currency
regulations, unusual health conditions, the crime and security situation,
political disturbances, areas of instability, and special information
about driving and road conditions. They also provide addresses and emergency
telephone numbers for U.S. embassies and consulates. In general, the Sheets
do not give advice. Instead, they describe conditions so travelers can
make informed decisions about their trips.
In some dangerous
situations, however, the Department of State recommends that Americans
defer travel to a country. In such a case, a Travel Warning is
issued for the country in addition to its Consular Information Sheet.
You can access Consular Information Sheets, Travel Warnings and Public Announcements 24-hours
a day in several ways.
Local Laws and
Customs. When you leave the United States, you are subject to the
laws of the country where you are. Therefore, before you go, learn as
much as you can about the local laws and customs of the places you plan
to visit. Good resources are your library, your travel agent, and the
embassies, consulates or tourist bureaus of the countries you will visit.
In addition, keep track of what is being reported in the media about recent
developments in those countries.
TO ARRANGE BEFORE YOU GO
As much as possible, plan to stay in larger hotels that have more elaborate
security. Safety experts recommend booking a room from the second to seventh
floors above ground level to deter easy entrance from outside, but low
enough for fire equipment to reach.
and landing are the most dangerous times of a flight, book non-stop flights
when possible. When there is a choice of airport or airline, ask your
travel agent about comparative safety records.
Have your affairs at home in order. If you leave a current will, insurance
documents, and power of attorney with your family or a friend, you can
feel secure about traveling and will be prepared for any emergency that
may arise while you are away. If you have minor children, consider making
guardianship arrangements for them.
a note of the credit limit on each credit card that you bring. Make certain
not to charge over that amount on your trip. In some countries, Americans
have been arrested for innocently exceeding their credit limit. Ask your
credit card company how to report the loss of your card from abroad. 800
numbers do not work from abroad, but your company should have a number
that you can call while you are overseas.
Find out if your personal property insurance covers you for loss or theft
abroad. More importantly, check on whether your health insurance covers
you abroad. Medicare and Medicaid do not provide payment for medical care
outside the U.S. Even if your health insurance will reimburse you for
medical care that you pay for abroad, normal health insurance does not
pay for medical evacuation from a remote area or from a country where
medical facilities are inadequate. Consider purchasing one of the short-term
health and emergency assistance policies designed for travelers. Also,
make sure that the plan you purchase includes medical evacuation in the
event of an accident or serious illness.
TO TAKE WHILE TRAVELING
Safety on the
Use the same common
sense traveling overseas that you would at home. Be especially cautious
in or avoid areas where you are likely to be victimized. These include
crowded subways, train stations, elevators, tourist sites, market places,
festivals and marginal areas of cities.
Don't use short cuts,
narrow alleys or poorly-lit streets. Try not to travel alone at night.
Avoid public demonstrations
and other civil disturbances.
Keep a low profile
and avoid loud conversations or arguments. Do not discuss travel plans
or other personal matters with strangers.
Avoid scam artists.
Beware of strangers who approach you, offering bargains or to be your
Beware of pickpockets.
They often have an accomplice who will:
· jostle you,
· ask you for directions or the time,
· point to something spilled on your clothing,
· or distract you by creating a disturbance.
A child or even a
woman carrying a baby can be a pickpocket. Beware of groups of vagrant
children who create a distraction while picking your pocket.
Wear the shoulder
strap of your bag across your chest and walk with the bag away from the
curb to avoid drive-by purse-snatchers.
Try to seem purposeful
when you move about. Even if you are lost, act as if you know where you
are going. When possible, ask directions only from individuals in authority.
Know how to use a
pay telephone and have the proper change or token on hand.
Learn a few phrases
in the local language so you can signal your need for help, the police,
or a doctor. Make a note of emergency telephone numbers you may need:
police, fire, your hotel, and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.
If you are confronted,
don't fight back. Give up your valuables. Your money and passport can
be replaced, but you cannot.
Safety in Your
Keep your hotel door
locked at all times. Meet visitors in the lobby.
Do not leave money
and other valuables in your hotel room while you are out. Use the hotel
Let someone know
when you expect to return if you are out late at night.
If you are alone,
do not get on an elevator if there is a suspicious-looking person inside.
Read the fire safety
instructions in your hotel room. Know how to report a fire. Be sure you
know where the nearest fire exit and alternate exits are located. Count
the doors between your room and the nearest exit. This could be a life
saver if you have to crawl through a smoke-filled corridor.
Safety on Public
If a country has
a pattern of tourists being targeted by criminals on public transport,
that information is mentioned in the Consular Information Sheets under
the "Crime Information" section.
take taxis clearly identified with official markings. Beware of unmarked
organized, systematic robbery of passengers on trains along popular tourists
routes is a serious problem. It is more common at night and especially
on overnight trains.
If you see your way
being blocked by a stranger and another person is very close to you from
behind, move away. This can happen in the corridor of the train or on
the platform or station.
Do not accept food
or drink from strangers. Criminals have been known to drug food or drink
offered to passengers. Criminals may also spray sleeping gas in train
Where possible, lock
your compartment. If it cannot be locked securely, take turns sleeping
in shifts with your traveling companions. If that is not possible, stay
awake. If you must sleep unprotected, tie down your luggage, strap your
valuables to you and sleep on top of them as much as possible.
Do not be afraid
to alert authorities if you feel threatened in any way. Extra police are
often assigned to ride trains on routes where crime is a serious problem.
same type of criminal activity found on trains can be found on public
buses on popular tourist routes. For example, tourists have been drugged
and robbed while sleeping on buses or in bus stations. In some countries
whole bus loads of passengers have been held up and robbed by gangs of
Safety When You
When you rent a car,
don't go for the exotic; choose a type commonly available locally. Where
possible, ask that markings that identify it as a rental car be removed.
Make certain it is in good repair. If available, choose a car with universal
door locks and power windows, features that give the driver better control
of access to the car. An air conditioner, when available, is also a safety
feature, allowing you to drive with windows closed. Thieves can and do
snatch purses through open windows of moving cars.
Keep car doors locked
at all times. Wear seat belts.
As much as possible,
avoid driving at night.
Don't leave valuables
in the car. If you must carry things with you, keep them out of sight
locked in the trunk.
Don't park your car
on the street overnight. If the hotel or municipality does not have a
parking garage or other secure area, select a well-lit area.
Never pick up hitchhikers.
Don't get out of
the car if there are suspicious looking individuals nearby. Drive away.
Patterns of Crime
In many places frequented
by tourists, including areas of southern Europe, victimization of motorists
has been refined to an art. Where it is a problem, U.S. embassies are
aware of it and consular officers try to work with local authorities to
warn the public about the dangers. In some locations, these efforts at
public awareness have paid off, reducing the frequency of incidents. You
may also wish to ask your rental car agency for advice on avoiding robbery
while visiting tourist destinations.
Carjackers and thieves
operate at gas stations, parking lots, in city traffic and along the highway.
Be suspicious of anyone who hails you or tries to get your attention when
you are in or near your car.
Criminals use ingenious
ploys. They may pose as good Samaritans, offering help for tires that
they claim are flat or that they have made flat. Or they may flag down
a motorist, ask for assistance, and then steal the rescuer's luggage or
car. Usually they work in groups, one person carrying on the pretense
while the others rob you.
Other criminals get
your attention with abuse, either trying to drive you off the road, or
causing an "accident" by rear-ending you or creating a "fender
In some urban areas,
thieves don't waste time on ploys, they simply smash car windows at traffic
lights, grab your valuables or your car and get away. In cities around
the world, "defensive driving" has come to mean more than avoiding
auto accidents; it means keeping an eye out for potentially criminal pedestrians,
cyclists and scooter riders.
How to Handle
To avoid carrying
large amounts of cash, change your travelers' checks only as you need
currency. Countersign travelers' checks only in front of the person who
will cash them.
Do not flash large
amounts of money when paying a bill. Make sure your credit card is returned
to you after each transaction.
Deal only with authorized
agents when you exchange money, buy airline tickets or purchase souvenirs.
Do not change money on the black market.
If your possessions
are lost or stolen, report the loss immediately to the local police. Keep
a copy of the police report for insurance claims and as an explanation
of your plight. After reporting missing items to the police, report the
loss or theft of:
checks to the nearest agent of the issuing company,
· credit cards to the issuing company,
· airline tickets to the airline or travel agent,
· passport to the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.
How to Avoid Legal
When you are in a
foreign country, you are subject to its laws and are under its jurisdiction
NOT the protection of the U.S. Constitution.
You can be arrested
overseas for actions that may be either legal or considered minor infractions
in the United States. Be aware of what is considered criminal in the country
where you are. Consular Information Sheets include information on unusual
patterns of arrests in various countries when appropriate.
Some of the offenses
for which U.S. citizens have been arrested abroad are:
More than 1/3 of U.S. citizens incarcerated abroad are held on drug charges.
Some countries do not distinguish between possession and trafficking.
Many countries have mandatory sentences - even for possession of a small
amount of marijuana or cocaine. A number of Americans have been arrested
for possessing prescription drugs, particularly tranquilizers and amphetamines,
that they purchased legally in certain Asian countries and then brought
to some countries in the Middle East where they are illegal. Other U.S.
citizens have been arrested for purchasing prescription drugs abroad in
quantities that local authorities suspected were for commercial use. If
in doubt about foreign drug laws, ask local authorities or the nearest
U.S. embassy or consulate.
Firearms. The places where U.S. citizens most often come into difficulties
for illegal possession of firearms are nearby - Mexico, Canada and the
Caribbean. Sentences for possession of firearms in Mexico can be up to
30 years. In general, firearms, even those legally registered in the U.S.,
cannot be brought into a country unless a permit is first obtained from
the embassy or a consulate of that country and the firearm is registered
with foreign authorities on arrival. (Note: If you take firearms or ammunition
to another country, you cannot bring them back into the U.S. unless you
register them with U.S. Customs before you leave the U.S.)
In many countries you can be harassed or detained for photographing such
things as police and military installations, government buildings, border
areas and transportation facilities. If you are in doubt, ask permission
before taking photographs.
Americans have been arrested for purchasing souvenirs that were, or looked
like, antiques and which local customs authorities believed were national
treasures. This is especially true in Turkey, Egypt and Mexico. In countries
where antiques are important, document your purchases as reproductions
if that is the case, or if they are authentic, secure the necessary export
permit (usually from the national museum.)
Terrorist acts occur
at random and unpredictably, making it impossible to protect yourself
absolutely. The first and best protection is to avoid travel to unsafe
areas where there has been a persistent record of terrorist attacks or
kidnapping. The vast majority of foreign states have good records of maintaining
public order and protecting residents and visitors within their borders
Most terrorist attacks
are the result of long and careful planning. Just as a car thief will
first be attracted to an unlocked car with the key in the ignition, terrorists
are looking for defenseless, easily accessible targets who follow predictable
patterns. The chances that a tourist, traveling with an unpublished program
or itinerary, would be the victim of terrorism are slight. In addition,
many terrorist groups, seeking publicity for political causes within their
own country or region, may not be looking for American targets.
following pointers may help you avoid becoming a target of opportunity.
They should be considered as adjuncts to the tips listed in the previous
sections on how to protect yourself against the far greater likelihood
of being a victim of crime. These precautions may provide some degree
of protection, and can serve as practical and psychological deterrents
to would-be terrorists.
direct flights if possible and avoid stops in high-risk airports or areas.
Consider other options for travel, such as trains.
· Be aware
of what you discuss with strangers or what may be overheard by others.
· Try to minimize
the time spent in the public area of an airport, which is a less protected
area. Move quickly from the check-in counter to the secured areas. On
arrival, leave the airport as soon as possible.
· As much as possible, avoid luggage tags, dress and behavior that
may identify you as an American.
· Keep an
eye out for suspicious abandoned packages or briefcases. Report them to
airport security or other authorities and leave the area promptly.
· Avoid obvious
terrorist targets such as places where Americans and Westerners are known
Travel to High-Risk
If you must travel
in an area where there has been a history of terrorist attacks or kidnapping,
make it a habit to:
with your family what they would do in the event of an emergency. Make
sure your affairs are in order before leaving home.
with the U.S. embassy or consulate upon arrival.
· Remain friendly
but be cautious about discussing personal matters, your itinerary or program.
· Leave no
personal or business papers in your hotel room.
· Watch for
people following you or "loiterers" observing your comings and
· Keep a mental
note of safe-havens, such as police stations, hotels, hospitals.
· Let someone
else know what your travel plans are. Keep them informed if you change
· Avoid predictable
times and routes of travel and report any suspicious activity to local
police, and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.
· Select your own taxi cabs at random. Don't take a vehicle that
is not clearly identified as a taxi. Compare the face of the driver with
the one posted on his or her license.
· If possible,
travel with others.
· Be sure
of the identity of visitors before opening the door of your hotel room.
Don't meet strangers at unknown or remote locations.
· Refuse unexpected
a plan of action for what you will do if a bomb explodes or there is gunfire
· Check for
loose wires or other suspicious activity around your car.
· Be sure
your vehicle is in good operating condition in case you need to resort
to high-speed or evasive driving.
· Drive with
car windows closed in crowded streets. Bombs can be thrown through open
· If you are
ever in a situation where somebody starts shooting, drop to the floor
or get down as low as possible. Don't move until you are sure the danger
has passed. Do not attempt to help rescuers and do not pick up a weapon.
If possible, shield yourself behind or under a solid object. If you must
move, crawl on your stomach.