Crimes against travelers are crimes of opportunity. To play it safe, here are some steps to follow:
- If you travel with valuables, put them in the hotel safe.
- Find out what parts of town locals consider risky and avoid them.
- Keep your car doors locked and suitcases out of sight.
- If you see an accident, don't stop; instead call for help.
- Minimize the amount of cash you carry. Replace cash with Travelers Checks, which, once signed, are refundable if lost or stolen. ATM machines are also readily available in most places.
- Have a cell phone on you for emergencies - and don't forget to pack your charger!
For practical advice on protecting yourself against crime, write for a free copy of the brochure Travel Safety from the American Society of Travel Agents (1101 King Street, Alexandria, VA 22313). Send a self-addressed, stamped envelope.
Fire is often more of a hazard when you're away from home because of the unfamiliarity of your surroundings. Here's how to protect yourself:
- Take a minute to study the fire instructions posted in your room.
- Keep your room key on a bedside table so you can find it in the dark. In case of fire, take the key with you when you leave.
- If exit routes are blocked, you may have to return to your room.
- If smoke is coming into the room, touch the door, frame, and knob. If they are cool, slowly open the door. Take a wet towel to cover your face. Go to the nearest exit according to the posted instructions. (Never use the elevator when there's a fire .) If your door is hot, do not open it, but remain in the room. Run water in the tub, soak towels, and use them to block the crack under the door.
Travel Health Insurance
Several companies now offer various health plans to cover emergency medical costs, emergency air-ambulance service, hotel and incidental expenses for those named in the insurance coverage, and outpatient treatment.
- Check your insurance policy's overseas coverage.
- Have all your bills itemized in legible English and be prepared to pay foreign doctors and hospital bills in cash. However, many hospitals now accept the American Express Card for payment. Enrolled American Express Card members can also rely on Express Cash.
- Submit proof of payment to your company on your return.
The U.S. State Department issues periodic Consular Information Sheets about political, health, economic, and other conditions that may affect travelers. You can obtain information by calling an automated answering system at the State Department's Citizens Emergency Center at 202-647-5225.
The International Airline Passengers Association (214-404-9980) publishes a quarterly newsletter, IAPA World. The publication calls attention to dangerous travel conditions in the U.S. and overseas, and offers cautionary advice. You must obtain a membership in order to receive a subscription to this newsletter.
Here are some general suggestions to help you keep in top shape while traveling:
- Do some medical research before going overseas. Find out whether the countries you are visiting require vaccinations and whether preventive measures or inoculations are mandatory or advisable.
- U.S. Public Health Service recommendations, current information on vaccination certificate requirements, and other data are included in
Health Information for International Travel
- You can obtain a list of vaccination recommendations by calling one
of the American Express Card hotlines.
- You can get international traveler's health information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention hotline by calling 404-639-1610.
- Pack an extra pair of eyeglasses or contact lenses, and take along a copy of your prescription, written in metric measurements. Also take contact lens supplies, as they may not be available overseas.
- Wear a bracelet or other medical identification if you have diabetes, an allergy to penicillin, or any other condition that may require emergency care.
- Keep medicines in their original containers to avoid problems with customs duties. Also, leave the cotton in drug bottles to prevent pills from breaking.
- The Rockport Company, in association with the American Society of Travel Agents, has produced a booklet, Destination: Good Health. A Guide to Healthy Travel Habits. For a free copy, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to ASTA, 1101 King Stree t, Alexandria, VA 22314, or call (703) 739-2782.
- Have a dental checkup to lessen the need for emergency treatment while overseas.
- Consider requesting a special meal when you make your airline reservation. Major carriers now offer as many as 18 alternative menus, including kosher, Hindu, vegetarian, high-protein, low-calorie, low-cholesterol, no-salt, and seafood plates.
Avoid common travelers' ailments
In some countries, it's advisable to:
- Avoid raw vegetables, unpeeled fruit, meat, seafood, tap water, ice, and unpasteurized milk and dairy products.
- Drink only commercially bottled and sealed beverages or water that has been boiled or treated.
- Resist the temptation to buy food from street vendors.
If you need a doctor
If you become ill out of town, it can be difficult to locate a physician quickly. Here's where to turn for help:
- The nearest American embassy or consulate will have a list of English-speaking doctors.
- You can also become a member of the nonprofit International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers (IAMAT, 716-754-4883). Members receive a directory of certified English-speaking doctors and other health-care providers.
- If you have purchased travel insurance, there will be a 24 hour emergency number available for you as well.
Helpful Health & Travel Advisories
CDC Travel Information News and reference material for international travel.
International Society of Travel Medicine (ISTM) Information about the organization plus a directory of clinics worldwide.
U.S. State Department: Travel Warnings and Consular Information Sheets Worldwide travel advisories from the U.S. State Department.
Travel Health Home Page A large, colorful, friendly web site with information to help you stay healthy while you travel overseas. Information by country, by disease, general info
Travel Health Online Information sources for the health concerns of travelers.