Travelling gives us great memories and amazing photos. Unfortunately, we sometimes forget about our surroundings and fall victim to scams and thieves. Try these eight international travel safety tips to become a smart traveller.
Watch out for travel scams
Scam artists are everywhere and they’ll try their best to get you to part with your hard-earned money. Whenever you book anything travel related, whether it’s tours, flights or hotels, be sure to do your due diligence. Travel scams aren’t always obvious; if you’re unfamiliar with a company, check travel reviews before making any purchases.
Protect yourself from identity theft
Have you ever wondered how to protect yourself from identity theft while travelling? It’s simple; only carry things you’ll need. That means leave your social insurance number card and birth certificate at home. Despite popular belief, you don’t need to carry your passport at all times unless the country you’re visiting requires it.
Cheques are another thing you can do without. They’re not widely accepted and list your banking information, so be a smart traveller and leave them at home.
Credit cards are a must when travelling since they can offer you benefits like travel baggage insurance and chargeback. Travel baggage insurance covers theft of personal items while travelling. Having the right travel medical insurance is a must, so check whether your credit card travel insurance coverage is enough. If not, purchase some additional coverage.
Be warned that not all travel insurance policies are created equal—read up on coverage and exclusions to determine which policy you should go with. Another benefit of using a credit card is chargeback. This protects you in case you’re a victim of fraud, or didn’t receive the product or service you purchased.
I suggest bringing two credit cards on different accounts e.g., one VISA, one MasterCard in case you have any issues with one of them. Keep one in your wallet and the other in your hotel safe; this protects you if your wallet gets lost or stolen.
Credit card providers know your spending patterns, so an unexpected foreign purchase may trigger a block on your account. To avoid this, call your credit card provider to let them know when and where you’re travelling to.
Be cautious of ATMs
ATMs are the easiest and cheapest way to get foreign currency. You can find ATM’s everywhere and they usually charge much lower rates compared to if you exchanged money back home at your bank or foreign exchange. To prevent fraud, avoid independent ATMs and try to use only ATMs associated with your provider’s network. Both VISA and MasterCard have worldwide ATM locators which makes finding a trustworthy ATM easy.
Just like credit cards, you need to let your bank know that you’ll be travelling so your debit card doesn’t get blocked. Be aware that in most foreign countries only 4 digit pin codes are allowed, so change it prior to travelling if you are using anything different.
Carrying too much cash on you is never a good idea, so try to head back to your hotel after withdrawals cash from an ATM.
Watch out when using Wi-Fi
Free Wi-Fi is practically a gold mine for travellers, but before you start posting pictures to Instagram and responding to tweets, make sure you’re joining a secure network. Look for the word “secure” beside any network you’re about to join (find this in your Wi-Fi settings) to ensure it has security enabled.
A smart traveller doesn’t forget to read the privacy statements before joining any networks; you’d be surprised what information you’re agreeing to give up.
Here’s a list of smart travel apps you should download before leaving for your trip.
Don’t forget about home
This should be obvious, but arrange for someone you trust to pick up your mail when you’re away on vacation. An overflowing mailbox is practically an invitation for thieves to come check out your place. If you don’t want to inconvenience your friends, you can always purchase hold mail service directly from Canada Post.
This may sound old school, but leave at least one light on at home when you’re away. It’ll make thieves second guess if your home really is empty.
Digitize your documents
Pretty much all trip itineraries come via e-mail these days, so why not digitize your other documents as well? Your passport, travel medical insurance, driver’s license, credit cards (scan both sides so you have the emergency numbers), debit card and health card are just a few things you want to make sure you have scanned. In the event you lose the physical documents, it’ll be much easier to get replacements with your digital copies as proof.
When I travel I keep these documents on my tablet and in my-email, but I also send them to someone I trust back home just in case I am unable to access the files.
Keep yourself updated
The Government of Canada recommends that Canadians travelling sign up for the Registration of Canadians Abroad service. To be realistic, if you’re heading south to Florida you won’t need to register, but if you’re the adventurous type who likes to travel off the beaten path, it definitely doesn’t hurt to be a smart traveller and register.
Before visiting any country it’s worth checking out the current travel advisories from the Government of Canada. Isolated incidents of violence in remote places shouldn’t affect your travel plans too much, but you definitely want to know what the current advisories are since they could affect your travel insurance coverage.
Once you’re home from your trip, here’s a list of travel documents you need to keep in case you need to file for a travel insurance claim.