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5 Tips For Staying Safe When You Travel Out Of The Country

Nami Quenby
flkr/Creative Commons

Sheryl Hill is Founder ofDepart Smart, a Minnesota-based non-profit  focused on safety and travel. Her personal passion is making study abroad programs more accountable. Her son, Tyler, died while on a study program in Japan. But she says she wants to make travel safer for everyone. Here are five of her safe travel tips that you may not have thought of.

Sign Up With The State Department

Hill said you should always register your trip in the U.S. State Department's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program.  That applies even if you’re going to a seemingly safe country.  In the event of a natural disaster or civil unrest, the U.S. embassy will be able to quickly contact you and help you get home.

Carry Your Own Smoke Detector

Hill said a lot of people wrongly assume fire codes are just as stringent  in other countries as they are in the United States. As a KNKX reported in 2013, oneUniversity of Washington student on a study abroad program nearly died in a deadly fire in a Paris building with no smoke detectors.  Hill said she also travels with her own door lock, to prevent intruders.

Stay On The Second Or Third Floor Of A Hotel

This is a tip Hill says she got from talking with people who travel for the State Department.  Being on the first floor makes you too vulnerable to break-ins. But if you are above the third floor, a fire ladder may not be able to reach you.

Know The Emergency Digits To Dial In An Emergency

Chances are good the emergency number is not 9-1-1. Hill says when her son became ill in Japan, he called 9-1-1, not knowing the number there was 1-1-9.

Have All Of Your Medical Information Translated Into The Language Of The Country

Again, Hill speaks from firsthand knowledge. Before her son died in a hospital in Japan, she was asked to send his medical records, which she did. But, the doctor couldn’t read them because they were in English.

She says, if you have an iPhone, you can use the health app to enter your critical health information including prior procedures, blood type and who your doctor is.

“It’s a part of the app almost no one uses,” Hill said.

She says you can then easily use a translation app to make sure the health information is in the local language.

Paula is a former host, reporter and producer who retired from KNKX in 2021. She joined the station in 1989 as All Things Considered host and covered the Law and Justice beat for 15 years. Paula grew up in Idaho and, prior to KNKX, worked in public radio and television in Boise, San Francisco and upstate New York.