Essential Safety Tips For Americans Living Abroad


How To Stay Safe In A Strange New Land

Whether you’re taking a semester abroad, working overseas for a few years, or relocating permanently, there are a lot of different risks involved when living in a different country. Unless you have friends or family already living there, you will essentially be on your own in unfamiliar territory, so being concerned for you safety is natural.

Remember, all countries carry their own dangers and threats, so it’s important that you know what you are getting yourself into before you even start packing your bags. Here are some tips that will help you stay safe when living abroad:

SEE ALSO: Top 5 Safest Countries In The World

1. Know The Country You Are Going To Call Home

Every country has its own culture and set of rules. It’s very important to be aware and respectful of these differences any time you visit another country. It is especially imperative you know their laws. Just because you are from a different country does not mean you are exempt from following their rules. Reading up on the country’s laws, customs, and general ways of life before you leave will help you prevent any problems from occurring.

2. Get In Contact With The Embassy

U.S. Embassies and Consulates are located in most countries and can assist you if you encounter serious legal, medical, or financial difficulties while abroad. Take advantage of the “Smart Traveler Enrollment Program” (STEP), a free service that allows you to enroll your trip with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. After enrolling in STEP, the Embassy will:

  • Update you on information about safety conditions, travel alerts, and other warnings of the country where you will be living
  • Know how to contact you in any type of emergency, be it a lost passport, natural disaster, or civil unrest
  • Help your family and friends get in touch with you if there is an emergency back in the U.S. and they are unable to reach you

Your nearest Embassy can also provide: a loan if you become destitute, the names of local English-speaking doctors or attorneys, and the closest hospitals.

3. Avoid Being a Victim Of Crime

Find out the crime rate of the country before you leave. Learn whether you are more likely to be robbed or assaulted, and what parts of town are safer than others. Read tourist guide for the area, and know what you’re getting yourself into. Remember to always take precautions, use common sense, and be aware of your surroundings.

4. Try To Blend In

Adapting to your environment is a great safety precaution to take on when living in a different country, since sticking out as a foreigner can put you at risk. Even if your physical appearance is different than the locals, adapting the country’s general attitude toward life is a good way of showing respect to their customs, illustrating to your host country that you are getting to know their culture on a deeper level. It’s also important to look confident. Walking around like you have no clue where you are will bring attention to yourself and make you an easy target for thieves and pickpockets.

5. Be Prepared For The Worst

An emergency is traumatic no matter where you are, and even more so when you are away from family and friends. With many parts of the world in turmoil, having an emergency evacuation plan in place before you leave will help alleviate some of the stress. Here are some steps you can take to be prepared in case something happens:

  • Make a list of important information, like your passport, driver’s license, and bank information, and give the list to a relative or friend in back in the U.S.
  • Deposit a copy of a similar list in a safe deposit box in an American bank.
  • Take steps enabling a spouse or other close contact to conduct business in your name in the event of an emergency: power of attorney, shared bank accounts, and the like.
  • Discuss evacuation plans with family members and have a “get out” bag packed and ready to go.

Most of all, no matter what country you go to, don’t be lulled into thinking, “it can’t happen here.” Political or natural emergencies can happen anywhere, and when they do you should have a plan for how to get back to the United States.

6. Consider Getting Insurance

Even if your medical insurance covers you overseas, it’s most likely very limited and will not cover medical evacuation back to the U.S., which can cost as much as $100,000. Luckily, some insurance companies offer affordable, short-term international health insurance or travel health insurance, which might be better suited for you. There are also some travel insurance policies that offer coverage for items that are lost, damaged or stolen while you are abroad.

SEE ALSO: 4 Factors To Consider For Travel Health Insurance

Taking any kind of trip takes careful planning, especially if you intend on staying for a while. It doesn’t matter if you’re going to a thriving cosmopolitan city or a poverty stricken town way up in the mountains. Each country has its risks, and it’s important for you to be aware of them so you can take the necessary steps to keep yourself safe.

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