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East Carolina University
Office of International Affairs

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Safety Tips for Traveling Abroad

Prior to traveling, we recommend that all students visit the US State Department’s study abroad website at

Money and Valuables
Do not carry large amounts of cash around with you; carry traveler's checks and major credit cards instead. Keep your passport and money safe in a money belt or small purse that can be worn underneath your clothing. Wearing a purse on the outside highlights where you keep money and valuables; moreover, it can easily be cut or ripped from your shoulder. Many thieves will simply grab the bag and run, sometimes breaking arms in the process. If possible, don't carry a handbag at all. Wrapping rubber bands around your wallet can make it difficult for a pickpocket to remove.

Do not take valuable items on your trip. Guard carefully at all times your passport, visas, and other documents that you carry with you, and do not leave them in the outer flaps of your bags. Before leaving, make a copy of the identification page of your passport. Keep this copy separate from your passport and carry it with you at all times. If local law does not require you to keep your passport with you, carry only the photocopy of your passport when you are out and about.

Personal Safety
While abroad, you should use the same common-sense that you would at home: be aware of your surroundings and keep your valuables concealed. Many travelers fall victim to crimes because it is assumed they are carrying cash, and in a foreign environment, they are often easy to distract. Be prudent when meeting strangers, and listen to safety advice from your ECU coordinator and local residents. Remember, most incidents happen when you are careless.

If you should fall victim to crime, remember that your embassy is there to help you. Every embassy and consulate has a duty officer on-call around the clock to assist in an emergency.


Make sure someone else knows your itinerary.

 - Keep your eyes and hands on your bags at all times. When you're distracted,

   you're an easy target for thieves. Do not leave your bags unattended.

 - While traveling, do not call attention to yourself by acting or dressing like an


 - Do not hitchhike.

 - Never attempt to exchange money illegally. 

 - Know the emergency response telephone number in the country you are visiting. 

   You should also know the telephone numbers for the fire department, your

   roommate, and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. 

 - Be especially alert in area where you are likely to be victimized including,

   crowded train stations, shopping areas and tourist spots. Any place with a crowd

   is likely to be a place for thieves and muggers.

 - Be careful to whom you give your luggage. Sometimes thieves pose as porters

   or taxi drivers.

 - Plan your trip so that you do not arrive at an unknown town late at night without

   having made arrangements for spending the night.

 - When traveling, always sleep with your money belt or necksafe hidden under

   your clothing.

 - When you stay at a hotel, make use of the safety deposit boxes that many hotels

   have. Leave your passport and any money you don't expect to need that day

   safely locked away.

 - If driving, keep your car doors locked and suitcases out of sight.

 - Do not leave valuables in parked cars. Thieves target rental cars and cars with

   out-of-town or foreign license plates.


Out on the town

 - Avoid forming large groups of foreigners. Smaller groups attract less attention.

 - At the same time, two are safer than one. Do NOT go with any strangers if you

   are alone.

 - Dress to blend in with the local population.

 - Find out which parts of town are considered risky by the locals. As at home,

   always stay in well-lit and well-traveled areas. Don't take short cuts through

   alleys or unsafe areas.


In the United States, the official legal drinking age is 21; higher than it is in other countries. Attitudes towards alcohol consumption vary greatly from country to country. Whatever the local rules and customs, use moderation and good judgment, and remember that drinking may place you at risk because it reduces your awareness and ability to judge potential dangers. Excessive consumption of alcohol has been identified as the single greatest risk factor for study abroad participants.

At home

 - Always keep windows and doors locked. Never prop open doors or windows.

 - Don't let strangers into your room or apartment.

 - If you observe a suspicious person, notify the police immediately.

 - At night, close drapes, shades, or blinds.

 - Never give your home address to a stranger on the phone or over the Internet.

 - Be cautious about posting personal information on the Internet.

While walking

 - Use a steady, confident pace.

 - Practice being aware of your surroundings.

 - Lower the volume or remove your headphones, so you can hear what is

   happening around you.

 - Carry your keys in your hand, so you can get into your car or home quickly. Keys

   can also serve as a defense weapon if you are attacked.

 - Wear comfortable shoes, and don't overload yourself with books or bags.

Source:  This information has been adapted from the International Student Exchange Program (ISEP).