Security Tips for International Travel
Keeping your finances and belongings safe during international travel is similar to domestic travel, but with a few nuances. Ensure you have the best trip possible by taking precautions before, during, and after your trip.
Before You Leave
- Learn About Your Destination: No matter where you're traveling, check the U.S. Department of State website to find out if the organization has issued any travel advisories about your destination.
- Enroll in STEP: You can sign up for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) for free. By enrolling in STEP, you will receive updates about your destination, enable the U.S. Embassy to contact you in an emergency, and allow family and friends to get in touch with you more easily in case there is an emergency.
Even if you're not traveling, you can sign up to receive travel advisory alerts for any countries that you select.
While You're There
- Limit Social Media: In today's age of Instagram-worthy destinations, many travelers can't wait to post photos of their toes in the sands of the Adriatic or a plate piled high with udon noodles. But think twice not only before you share photos, but even before you reveal your international travel plans. Your post may not make yourself a target in your destination, but it does alert everyone that you're not at your house — even if you think you have strict privacy settings.
- Lock up Valuables: Consider disconnecting and leaving your laptop, tablet, and other high-value electronics at home. If you have to bring them, consider carrying a combination lock. You can store your valuables in your luggage and keep it locked when you leave your room. Keep in mind that hotel employees can still easily open your hotel safe.
- Strategize What You Carry: There are a number of ways to pay when traveling abroad, but you'll want to have some local currency. If you're traveling with others, divvy up your cash and cards between you. If you're alone, consider putting different cards and amounts of cash in different pockets — zippered pockets are best. It may feel like an inconvenience, but it makes it harder for someone to take everything in one swipe. Keep your passport as close to you as possible, and keep other valuables like your camera in a zipped bag. Remove financial information from your devices and know how to remotely wipe your device in case it gets into the wrong hands.
- Know the Nearest Consulate: In case of an emergency, you'll want the phone numbers and addresses of the nearest U.S. consulate or embassy. The Department of State can help you in an emergency, including if your passport is lost or stolen.
- Avoid Wi-Fi: In our always-connected world, it's easy to hop on to free public Wi-Fi when traveling. However, when you access Wi-Fi in your hotel, a café, the airport, or any other location, you're putting yourself and your information at risk. Until Wi-Fi standards are improved, it's best to find other ways to connect, such as unlimited data plans or simply disconnecting and enjoying your travels.
When You Return
- Check Your Bank Statements: If you used a credit or debit card during your international travel, check your accounts to ensure that all of the charges are ones you authorized.
- Update Passwords: Concerned someone got a hold of your password or PIN number? Update them.
International travel is expensive enough without security mishaps, so take steps to protect yourself, your finances, and your belongings.