General Safety Tips

A little common sense goes a long way
 
Is it safe to live abroad? 
  • Living abroad can be very safe
  • You will be as safe as you are smart
  • Be aware of your surroundings 
  • Tourists naturally attract petty thieves, but if you're wise, you can avoid them
  • Listen to your host parents about what places to avoid
Be Aware of Pickpockets 
  • Keep personal belongings close to your body, especially when you're in public areas
  • If you're in a crowded area (especially on public transportation) have your backpack or purses on in a way that no one can open it or take it without you noticing
  • If you do get ripped off, remember this advice by Rick Steves: 
    • "It’s best to get over it. You’re rich and thieves aren’t. You let your guard down and they grab your camera. It ruins your day and you have to buy a new one, while they sell it for a week’s wages on their scale. And the score’s one to nothing. It’s wise to keep a material loss in perspective."
  • ​Remember that the large majority of crimes suffered by tourists are nonviolent and avoidable
  • Stay away from dark or deserted places, especially at night
Be Prepared Before You Go
  • Make 2photocopies of your passport, any medical/eyesight prescriptions, and flight itinerary
    • Leave one copy of your passport with a family member or trusted friend back home 
    • While you travel, leave one copy in your luggage
    • When you get to your host's home, leave your passport there (unless traveling abroad)
    • Carry the copy with you and use as ID when needed (i.e. buying a SIM card)
    • Your driver's license may suffice as ID (when going to a bar, etc. but it's good to have the passport copy just in case)​
  • Back up your photos frequently as you travel 
  • Leave your expensive jewelry at home — even if a thief doesn't go for your jewelry specifically, it's a signal to them
  • Consider wearing a money belt
    • It's a small, pouch with a zipper that you wear around your waist underneath your clothes​
    • Very handy and gives you the freedom of being hands-free while still carrying your important items safely
Be Prepared When You're Out and About
  • Leave expensive gear such as a laptop in your host family's home (it's safer there than with you in a backpack on the streets)
  • The likelihood of losing something is much greater than having something stolen
    • Always look behind you before leaving any place or form of transportation​
    • Go through a mental list when packing and unpacking if you're traveling
  • Always be in physical contact with your things
    • Don't set down small valuable items when you're out such as your phone, camera, or wallet
    • If you're eating out, don't place your phone on the table where it's easy to be snatched away
  • Secure your bag when you're not moving
    • Loop a strap around your leg or leg of a chair
  • Use lockable zippers, twist-ties, paper clips, or key rings to keep your bag harder for pickpockets
  • Be instantly alert anytime there's a commotion — it might be a ruse for thieves to distract tourists
  • Also be alert whenever you're in a crowd, especially flea markets and train stations -- places like these are a pickpocket's playground because they are full of opportunities and easy escape exits
Be Wary of Scams
  • There are many subtle ways to be scammed — someone might charge you triple what a good normally costs or they might offer you a deal that sounds too good to be true (hint: it is!)
  • NEVER get in an unmarked cab or taxi
  • If you use Uber/Lyft, make sure everything matches up before getting in the vehicle
Money, Money, Money
  • Be alert whenever money changes hands, even when you withdraw from ATMs
  • Cash is safer
  • Always know what you are paying for before handing over money
  • Be sure to count your change
  • Pickpockets can be very clever — don't be fooled by sob stories or official-looking uniforms

 

Drinking Guidelines
  • If you plan on drinking, don't overdo it
  • Drinking too much puts you at risk of making bad choices that may cost you later
  • NEVER let your drink out of your sight
  • ALWAYS be aware of where your drinks come from
  • NEVER drink and drive

  • Watch your drinks from the bar until they get to you
  • Be aware of your surroundings
  • Be upfront if someone is buying you drinks or hitting on you and you don't want their attention
  • Set limits and stick to them
  • Drink slowly
  • Alternate alcoholic and nonalcoholic drinks
  • Eat before and while drinking
  • Drink plenty of water

Other Precautions
  • Log your travel plans with the State Department
    • This allows the government to send you email alerts about potential problems abroad (i.e. demonstrations, etc.)
  • Know how to contact the nearest American Embassy to your city
    • U.S. Embassy in Spain
      • ​Calle de Serrano, 75
        28006 Madrid, Spain
        Phone: (+34) 91-587-2200
    • U.S. Con​sulate in Barcelona
      • Paseo Reina Elisenda de Montcada, 23
        08034 Barcelona, España
        Phone: (+34) 93-280-2227 
  • Save the emergency numbers for local authorities in your phone
    • Spain 112
  • There are Facebook Groups to meet others outside the Rome Abroad program

    • Always be cautious meeting people from internet connections

    • If you don’t feel good about meeting someone, don’t

    • ALWAYS meet in public, safe areas

    • ALWAYS tell your host mom where you’ll be, with whom, and when you'll be back​

 

*Note: if your host family is a client of one of our collaborative agencies, you'll probably have additional ​​ways to meet more people

Got a question? Ask away!