6 Min Read | September 15, 2022

30 Basic Safe Travel Tips for Traveling Abroad

Are you planning to travel internationally? These 30 travel safety tips can help you mindfully plan for your trip – and stay healthy and secure as you go.

This article contains general information and is not intended to provide information that is specific to American Express products and services. Similar products and services offered by different companies will have different features and you should always read about product details before acquiring any financial product.


Whether you’re traveling alone or with others, these travel tips can help you more effectively plan, pack, and protect yourself abroad. 

Key tips include knowing your destination, packing the right items, utilizing technology when possible, and traveling with health in mind.

Ready for a trip abroad? Whether you’re planning summer vacation with the family, a Swiss ski trip, or spring break with friends, traveling safely is likely top of mind. So it’s a good time to review basic safe travel tips, as well as some pointers to help you safely travel abroad in a quickly changing landscape. 


The following 30 travel safety tips were developed with the assistance of travel professional Norman Trichon, President of Mike’s Guiding Light, a boutique escorted tour company.

Know Your International Travel Destination – Before You Go

Safe international travel begins at home. The first seven tips focus on researching your foreign destination and planning your arrival – key steps to consider before departure. 


1. Understand which language(s) are commonly spoken to determine if you’ll have a communication barrier.

2. Know what the local currency is and get an idea for current exchange rates.

3. Study the map around your accommodations and planned excursions. Bring a marked-up hard copy as backup and store it in a plastic zipper storage bag in case it rains.

4. Check the U.S. Department of State’s Travel website1 for advisories and passport and visa information. Note the U.S. embassy contact information for your destination in case of emergency.

5. Subscribe to the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive updates about safety conditions in your destination country. It’s a free service.2

6. Arrive during daylight hours if possible. Getting acquainted with new surroundings can be easier during the day, and it’s easier to contact businesses during operating hours.

7. Plan transportation to your hotel in advance. Arriving in an unfamiliar locale can feel overwhelming at times, but a preset arrangement can reduce stress.

Gear Up for Travel with a Safety Mindset

Seasoned travelers understand the balance between bringing the right gear and overdoing it. The next seven tips focus on what to bring and how to pack it, so you can be a pro from the start. 


8. Only bring documents that you need, such as passports, driver’s licenses, travel insurance information, and visas if necessary. Removing non-essentials from your wallet, like library cards or train passes, can help you stay organized and minimize the chance of loss.

9. Bring the original documents and a backup copy. Keep them separate – consider a combination of hard copies and digital versions for this purpose, and store crucial original documents like your passport in your hotel room’s safe.

10. Invest in clothes with inside pockets and zipped closures. Avoid loose handbags, open-topped backpacks, and wallets in a back pocket. Trichon recommends carrying messenger-style daypacks for small souvenirs and water but keeping credit cards and ID separate.

11. Stash extra cash in a hidden place on your person in case a bag goes missing.

12. Bring a first aid kit with essentials like bandages, antiseptics, tweezers, and cold packs.

13. Don’t forget any prescription or over-the-counter medications like pain relievers or allergy medicines. A doctor’s note to carry certain medication with you can help smooth security checkpoints.

14. Device charging cables are vital, and remember that voltage adapters are necessary for U.S. electronics in some countries.

Travel Safe with Cash and Credit Cards

Ensuring you have access to funds when you need them is important when traveling internationally. Local currency is typically needed for smaller incidentals, like street food. Most other expenses can be charged on a credit card. The following five tips can help you safely manage finances abroad.


15. Keep only as much cash as you need. Less is often more when it comes to local currency. Try to minimize leftover local currency at the end of a trip so you don’t have to take the time to exchange back into your home currency.

16. Note that exchange rates tend to be more favorable at ATMs than currency exchange vendors or kiosks.3 However, “Use ATMs at recognizable, known banks since they have the best rates and better security,” Trichon advises.

17. Bring a credit card with no foreign transaction fees so you can make international purchases without worrying about surprise fees on your next statement.

18. Bring two credit cards on the trip. Carry one and leave the backup card in the hotel safe, just in case one gets lost, stolen, or isn’t accepted. Cards with EMV chips are often preferred due to their enhanced safety features.

19. Notify your card issuer that you’ll be traveling. You’re technically not required to, but it can help you avoid headaches like declined transactions.

There’s a Travel App for That

Technology can be an international traveler’s best friend. Here are four tips to get the most out of travel-friendly tech like smartphones.


20. Program important phone numbers and addresses into your phone. Not just family members; think hotels, airline, excursions, sights, and emergency contacts.

21. If you’re traveling for work or making online purchases, consider using a personal virtual private network (VPN) when on public Wi-Fi. The VPN adds a layer of cybersecurity by encrypting information for transmission.

22. Be sure your smartphone is loaded with helpful accessories and applications such as maps, weather, translator tools, flashlights, compasses, and calculators.

23. Keep your devices charged and consider carrying a portable charger and charging cables, especially if you plan to spend long stretches of the day away from your hotel. Using all those apps that help you translate and get around can quickly drain power.

Safety Tips for Traveling Alone

The next three tips are good advice for any traveler, but especially important for solo travelers.


24. Bring safety equipment, such as a whistle, a rubber doorstop, and a Swiss-Army knife (in checked luggage). These small items can have a big impact on keeping you safe.

25. Keep in touch with someone back home. Call, text, or drop a pin daily.

26. Register your trip with the local U.S. embassy so they can locate you in case of an emergency.

Be a Global Citizen

These days, globetrotting requires a certain level of health awareness. Trichon cautions that COVID rules are still in flux, and may make up an inconsistent patchwork of rules. The next four tips can help you stay safe and be a responsible global citizen. 


27. Triple check the entry requirements for your destination country, as well as the Center for Disease Control for reentry into the U.S.

28. Carry digital and hard copies of required travel proof like vaccination status and COVID test results. “I tell my customers to carefully time required COVID testing. Flight delays can cause a required test to fall outside an expiration window and be invalidated,” warns Trichon.

29. Pack plenty of personal protection supplies, such as masks, hand sanitizer, and disinfecting wipes. This is one area where overpacking is sensible since availability of supplies may not be reliable.

30. Have a quarantine game plan ready to deploy in the event your trip gets unexpectedly extended. Pre-plan contingencies for pets, plants, mail, and other items back home.

The Takeaway

Whether you’re rescheduling a canceled trip, trying to use up travel rewards, or planning a new international adventure, the world can be your oyster by following these 30 basic safe travel tips. Bon Voyage!

Kristina Russo

Kristina Russo is a CPA and MBA with over 20 years of business experience in firms of all sizes and across several industries, including media and publishing, entertainment, retail, and manufacturing.


All Credit Intel content is written by freelance authors and commissioned and paid for by American Express. 

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