Are you planning an African safari, a month in Marrakesh or a bike ride through Belgium this year? There are few experiences more enriching and refreshing than seeing the world up close.
But as travel advisories remind us, the world can sometimes be a dangerous place. We hear disturbing news about airport shootings, hostage standoffs and pedestrians being run down on sidewalks. Kidnappings and cyber-fraud are also a concern, particularly for corporate executives and high-net-worth individuals.
It's important to build common-sense travel safety tips into your plans, said Briane Grey, manager of corporate security for City National Bank.
“Regardless of whether you are traveling domestically or internationally, with family or on business, situational awareness is key," he said. “You should be especially aware if you're traveling to a country where U.S. citizens could be targeted based on what's going on in the news, either to send a political message or because criminals know your company or family will pay to get you home safely."
Each trip you take will have different risks depending on where you're going, how you're getting there, and what you plan on doing. However, these guidelines are the foundation for staying safe while on vacation and something you should consider following each time you travel.
Book your trip through a well-regarded travel agency that has offices and security personnel in the countries you will visit.
“They can provide help and protection for you and your group in the event that something unexpected happens," Grey said. "If you're traveling on your own, make sure you understand the culture and environment of the countries you visit."
Once you have your flights, accommodations, and activities planned, leave a copy of a detailed itinerary with a friend or relative so they can reach you in the event of an emergency. If any major changes arise, notify that person so you have someone who's fully aware of where you're supposed to be.
Take an online or in-person course on how to react if you're faced with a natural disaster or security incident. Companies like International SOS and iJet International have added courses on how to handle crisis situations to their roster of U.S. travel advisory and weather alerts.
“Learning the best way to react in a given situation can make a huge difference in how you come through it," said Grey.
Secure your finances by notifying your bank and credit card providers that you'll be out of the country and store their helpline phone numbers so you can quickly close accounts if necessary. It's also recommended that you bring one credit card with an RFID security chip because many overseas retailers don't require you to input a PIN number.
“Financial fraud is on the rise around the world," said Grey. “Anyone traveling abroad is a preferred target for social engineering scams and identity theft."
While taking in the sights, stay vigilant and aware of your surroundings, said Mark Meader, senior vice president for industry affairs and education at the American Society of Travel Agents. Perennial scams, such as pickpocketing and overcharging people unfamiliar with local currencies, still rip off many travelers every year.
Don't wear designer watches and expensive jewelry, or carry your designer bag while you're touring the city or taking in a museum. Americans already stand out to crooks who scour train stations and tourist sites looking for wealthy travelers who make good “marks," Grey said.
Sign up for the U.S. State Department's STEP (Smart Traveler Enrollment Program), and check out their travel alerts, global security warnings, recommended health precautions and contact information for the U.S. embassy or consulate in the countries you will visit.
Meader also recommended familiarizing yourself with common international scams and considering travelers insurance. Your travel agent can help you identify the right coverage, he said.
Secure your laptop, portable device or phone before you travel so that if someone snatches it, they won't discover any sensitive information, such as links to your bank accounts or passwords. Back up all your electronic devices prior to leaving so you can restore anything that is lost or compromised when you get home. And keep up with antivirus processes, systems and security patches on all your devices.
Also, avoid connecting to Wi-Fi, especially if it is public. Doing so could cause you to transmit sensitive data through unsecured networks. Instead, activate your phone's global capabilities before you leave and use your 3G connection throughout your trip.
“It's important to understand that as an American you may be targeted for a crime outside the U.S.," Grey said.
This article is for general information and education only. It is provided as a courtesy to the clients and friends of City National Bank (City National). City National does not warrant that it is accurate or complete. Opinions expressed and estimates or projections given are those of the authors or persons quoted as of the date of the article with no obligation to update or notify of inaccuracy or change. This article may not be reproduced, distributed or further published by any person without the written consent of City National. Please cite source when quoting.