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Safety While Traveling Abroad 

Millions of Americans travel abroad each year. Safety should be a top concern for anyone traveling outside the U.S. There are some things you can do to improve your safety while abroad.

Motor vehicle safety while traveling

Injuries from motor vehicle crashes pose the greatest risk of injury to international travelers, says the CDC. The risk of death from motor vehicle crashes is many times higher in other countries than in the U.S. Poor roadway design and unskilled drivers are among the reasons for this. Another reason is not being familiar with the roads, conditions, and vehicles, along with distracted driving while touring.

Important safety steps you can take include the following:

  • Ask for a car with seat belts and use them.

  • Check cars and trucks to make sure that tires, windshield wipers, brakes, and headlights are in good condition.

  • Ask for a car with air bags, where available.

  • Don't drive at night if possible. Don't drink alcohol when driving. And don't ride with anyone else who has been drinking.

  • Sit in the back seat when you can. This cuts the risk of death in an accident.

  • Bring a car safety seat when traveling with young children.

  • Use a safety helmet when riding a bike or motorcycle.

  • If you're the driver, keep your eyes on the road. Don't get distracted by the sights around you.

Animal or insect hazards

In areas where rabies is present, don't pet domestic dogs, cats, or other animals. Stay away from wild animals, especially monkeys, rodents, and bats.

Bites and stings from insects can cause unpleasant reactions. Get medical attention right away for any bite or sting that causes redness, swelling, bruising, or persistent pain. Take extra care when camping or staying in rustic or remote areas. Use insect repellents, protective clothing, and mosquito netting.

Poisonous snakes are another hazard in certain parts of the world, although deaths from snake bites are rare. Never attempt to handle, harass, or kill a snake because bites often happen as a snake's defensive reaction.

Swimming hazards

To prevent infectious disease, only swim in pools with chlorinated water. Swimming in contaminated water can cause skin, eye, ear, and certain intestinal infections. In certain areas, a fatal form of encephalitis has happened after swimming in warm, dirty water. Other infectious diseases can develop from swimming in freshwater streams, canals, and lakes. To prevent drowning accidents, don't swim alone or in unfamiliar waters. And ask if stingrays or stinging jellyfish may be in the area before going in the ocean. Stay away from them as much as possible.

Violence-related hazards

Travel in areas where there is poverty or civil unrest may put you at risk for violence. So may using alcohol or drugs, and traveling in unfamiliar places at night. The CDC advises travelers not to travel alone. Also, vary your routine, limit travel at night, and don't wear expensive clothing or jewelry. If you are the victim of a crime, contact the nearest U.S. Embassy, Consulate, or consular agency for help. The U.S. Department of State website provides international travel alerts and warnings by country. The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program is a free service provided by the U.S. government to its citizens and nationals who are traveling to, or living in, a foreign country. Enrollment lets the Department of State better help travelers in an emergency while abroad. 

To learn more

For more information on safety at your travel destination, visit the U.S. Department of State travel section.

Online Medical Reviewer: Marianne Fraser MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Rita Sather RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Stacey Wojcik MBA BSN RN
Date Last Reviewed: 9/1/2023
© 2000-2024 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.