Five College Risk Management

Travel Safety Tips

Before Leaving Home – Medical

  • Have complete medical exam (especially if traveling for 3 months or more).
  • Have a dental check-up and complete any needed repair work before you begin your travel.
  • Address immunization needs with a health care professional (6-10 weeks needed for some vaccines). Check the CDC web site and click on “Travelers Health” for any international travel.
  • Check your health insurance coverage for international benefits. If you do not have coverage, look for an travel insurance policy that will provide coverage. InsureMyTrip helps you compare policies and premiums.
  • All emergency contact information should be documented and secured on your person and in carry-on luggage when you are traveling. (Responsible adults traveling with minors should have all completed parental consents/information).
  • Take an extra pair of eyeglasses, contacts and sunglasses with you, or take a copy of your prescription with you.
  • Fill medical prescriptions prior to departure and carry duplicate prescriptions in case of loss. (Keep prescriptions and medication in carry-on luggage). Check with the locations you are traveling to if any medications are banned or illegal. If you will be overseas for three months or more, check to see if you can bring a 3-months supply of your prescriptions with you. 
  • If you have any physical condition that may require emergency care, purchase and carry some kind of identification: tag, bracelet, or card on you at all times indicating the specific nature of your problem and what should be done in the event you are unconscious or unable to communicate.
  • Carry sunscreen lotion with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or greater, an adequate supply of personal care/hygiene items and an insecticide lotion with DEET (10-35%). Permethrin is available for treatment of bedding, clothing and netting and is an effective deterrent to mosquitoes.
  • A first aid kit is a good idea and should contain: mild analgesics, anti-diarrheal medication, elastic wraps, scissors, tweezers, safety pins, antibiotic ointment, adhesive tape, 2” gauze and Band-Aids of assorted sizes. These are available over-the-counter.

While Traveling – Medical

  • Buy comfortable, closed and protective footwear to protect from fleas, ticks and various parasites, as well as other foot injury.
  • Wear protective clothing in mosquito or other insect ridden areas.
  • Wash your hands with soap before eating or preparing foods.
  • Learn key phrases in the local language (i.e., “Where is the doctor?”…”I need help.”)

Avoid:

  • Jetlag by drinking caffeine-free drinks, eating light meals and avoiding alcohol during the flight.

  • Over-exhaustion and heat illness by drinking plenty of fluids, adding salt and minerals to your diet and wearing loose-fitting, light-colored clothing made of natural fibers.

  • Motion sickness by sitting in the front window seat of a car or bus; sit over the wings or wheels on an airplane.

  • Tap water, ice cubes and local dairy products and eat only well-cooked foods that are still hot.

  • Salads, uncooked vegetables, raw seafood and food sold at roadside stands. Seek advice from your program director or on-site host for referrals to local restaurants offering safe local foods.

  • Walking barefoot or wading in fresh water streams and lakes. These are a common source of infection from worms, spirochetes, bacteria and other parasites.

Before Leaving Home – Security

  • Purchase a money belt or security pouch to carry valuables and passport. Carry important documents on your person. DO NOT use a “fanny pack” to carry any valuables or documents.
  • Provide your travel itinerary to your family/friends. Maintain regular contact while traveling.
  • Make a record of your passport, credit card and travelers check numbers and insurance papers, as well as plane, train, or bus ticket numbers. Give a copy of the list to a family member or friend for safekeeping. (Make a copy of the first pages of your passport and retain with your luggage.) Bring along 4 extra photos in the event you need to replace your passport or obtain visas.
  • Make a list of important telephone numbers and addresses of the locations you are to visit and the telephone number of your nearest embassy or consulate. Leave a copy with your contact and take a copy with you.
  • Use only your name and/or phone number on luggage tags. Do not display any unnecessary identification, as this could attract criminals. Use luggage tags that have a flap to cover the owner’s identity.
  • Pack your own suitcase and don’t pack more than you can easily carry. Often you’ll be carrying your suitcase through airports and to hotel rooms from the bus. Roller wheels often break.

While Traveling – Security

  • Carefully obey all local laws and customs. Your civil rights will vary greatly once outside of the United States. The College will not serve as or pay for legal representation if you are arrested.
  • Use the “buddy system” – try to travel in groups consisting of locals/classmates from the country. Never hitchhike.
  • Organize your funds into two separate packs each consisting of a credit card and currency. When in-country, one of these packs should always be left at your residence as a back-up. Keep the cash you need separate from the rest of your money.
  • Always notify your local contact of your intended schedule and social plans.
  • Stay away from illegal drugs entirely. Most foreign countries have extremely strict laws regarding even small quantities of drugs. In certain countries there is an automatic death sentence for possession of drugs no matter what the amount!
  • Drinking age varies greatly depending on where you are and is illegal in some mid-eastern countries. Keep in mind that while under the influence your natural awareness is diminished and you stand out by the very fact that you are a foreigner. 
  • Women from more liberated cultures may be perceived as sexually promiscuous. Adopt a modest dress code and modify your social behavior in accordance especially when dealing with locals of the opposite sex.
  • Learn about your surroundings. Avoid problem and unlighted areas, especially alleys and parks.
  • Do not carry luggage or packages for others.
  • Know how to use public telephones and how to contact the police. Have necessary coins or phone cards available.
  • Be wary of pickpockets. Use a shoulder strap across your body if possible when using a purse. Carry your wallet in an inside coat or front trouser pocket.
  • Take credit cards to make sure you get the most favorable exchange rates, know your credit limits in advance of leaving the U.S.; cards recognized internationally include: Visa, AMEX, MasterCard, and Diners Club. ATM’s may also provide good rates.
  • Don’t leave your luggage or handbag unattended anywhere. Should you put a backpack down, place it on the floor between your legs or wrap a strap around a fixed object.
  • Travel with a small, high-powered flashlight in your back-pack, purse or pouch when out and on your bedside at night for emergencies.
  • When riding in a cab, keep all the doors locked and the windows rolled up to within two inches of the top.
  • Don’t resist an armed theft. If robbed, never pursue on foot.

General Advice

  • Be aware of the cultural differences and abide by the local customs. You are a guest in a foreign country and are expected to behave as such. Refrain from discussing politics or criticizing the lifestyles.
  • Review pre-trip information including booklets from the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs and check relevant sites on the web.
  • If you are staying for an extended period of time, register immediately upon arrival with the Consular section of your embassy.
  • Report a lost or stolen passport to your embassy or nearest consulate, and cancel lost or stolen credit cards or travelers checks as soon as possible. Report stolen items to the police and get a copy of the theft report to include with your insurance claim.
  • Don’t become an easy target. Remain alert, maintain a low profile and trust your instincts.
  • Do not wear ostentatious necklaces or other jewelry of real or apparent value, bring expensive cameras, or overburden yourself with packages.
  • A cellular telephone can be very useful and can save a great deal of trouble.
  • Avoid black market transactions of all types.

Driving Abroad

Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke and Smith students may not drive any vehicle on College business while on a study abroad program. If you drive for personal convenience:

  • Before driving, be certain of your responsibilities and the status of your insurance. Familiarize yourself with the rules of the road for the location in which you will be using an automobile. Make sure that you know how to read and understand all traffic signs of the country you are in.
  • Be certain that your automobile always contains at least a half tank of fuel. Make sure your lights, signals, horn and brakes are in proper order.
  • Avoid traveling by road after dark (especially in rural areas). Park in a well lighted place.
  • Avoid riding motorcycles – if you do, wear a helmet.
  • Always lock your car and use seat belts, even for short trips.

Vehicular accidents are the most common cause of injury or death for international travelers.

Pay particular attention to all of the following, which are common on the roads of many countries:

  • Passing on the right and cutting in front of other vehicles from the right side.
  • Unexpected stops or turns without signaling for no apparent reason.
  • Stopping in unexpected locations to pick up or let off passengers by cars, buses, and trucks, including main highway entrance ramps, intersections and along major highways.
  • Trucks parked at night without lights on the highway rather than on the side of the road.
  • Disabled vehicles parked without warning signs.
  • Many countries also require that all vehicles have certain equipment available, check local laws.
  • Frequent mandatory items:
    • First aid kit
    • Reflective warning triangle
    • Spare fuses and light bulbs
    • Fire extinguisher

Parent Suggestions

  • Have contact name and number of University/tour group/travel agency organizing trip. If student is taking a credit card, ensure existing limits are adequate.
  • Request an itinerary from your student and keep it readily available.
  • Have contact names of professors/advisors accompanying student on the trip.
  • If trip is being organized by a tour group, obtain names, addresses, phone and fax numbers of all hotels where your student will be staying. Be aware of any time differences relevant to your time zone.
  • Parents should discuss sexually transmitted diseases and risk taking behaviors with their children. Parents and teens should be aware that high quality latex condoms are not always available in other countries. Abstinence and consistent use of condoms must be stressed.

In the Hotel

  • Select a room between the third and sixth floors. Locate exits and familiarize yourself with the surroundings.
  • Always check the window and door locks. Lock doors when in or out of the room, including terrace doors even when on an upper floor. 
  • Do not admit someone to your room until you are satisfied as to their identity and purpose. Remain alert and cautious, particularly if unusual activity is noted in or near the hotel.
  • Put “Do Not Disturb” sign on door and leave TV or radio on when you are out of the room at night. Check your belongings regularly.
  • Use authorized transportation to and from the airport or rail station, and when possible, let the hotel provide this for you.

In the Event Something Happens

  • The College has arranged for Travel Assist Services and Travel Accident Insurance on all students and employees traveling on sponsored programs or on College business. Be sure to contact the risk manager if you need medical evacuation services. 
  • Follow the program’s direction on dealing with an accident.
Five Colleges, Inc. thanks International SOS for permission to quote its brochures for some of the information provided above.