Frequently-Asked Travel Safety Questions

Here are some common questions along with the answers that tourism safety specialists are often asked.

1. Question: How safe are in-room safes?

The answer: The good news is that placing valuables in an in-room safe is better than leaving them on the bed or dresser. Remember however that hotel staff members have access to your in-room safe and can open it at will. So if you trust the staff not to rob your safe, then leave documents and materials in the safe. If not, the best thing is to ask for a safe deposit box in the hotel lobby. These are like leaving your belongings in a bank vault. But be careful not to lose the key or you may be paying a stiff fine to get the box open. If traveling in the less-developed world, ask when you can have access to your box and think about how safe the lobby is after you remove your belongings.

2. Question: Is my personal information safe, especially when using wireless internet while on the road?

The answer: Most wireless networks can be easily tapped into. No hotel cable or wireless network is safe and if you are worried about cookies, viruses or other invasive computer species, then make sure to clean your computer cache etc after almost every use. A number of travelers bring their own hotspot with them. If traveling in the US this is an affordable option, but if traveling outside of the US, expect major roaming charges. The best protection is to keep careful records of when and where you may have used personal data on the internet and assume that if you wrote it, then someone else for whom you did not intend the data may be seeing it.

3. Question: What are some of the key precautions that I should take when traveling abroad?

The answer to this question begins with the question, where are you going and do you have to go there? If you are traveling for pleasure your options are a lot greater than if you are forced to go somewhere for business or other non-personal reasons. Before you travel the best defense is know the place. Another easy and cost-free precaution is following the locale’s news on the internet. If you do not read the local language, then go to an internet search engine and seek English language newspapers for that location. If you do read the local language then follow the news in that language. You do not need to be an expert on the locale, but scanning the headlines will tell you for which security and safety challenges you should prepare. Check both local weather sites and ask the local airline about dress codes. For example, there are places where a man ought not to wear short pants or where a woman may need to wear a dress. Remember that you are a guest in their country. Finally check the medical precautions page of the CDC (center for disease control) website. The CDC lists medical precautions that you need to take not only for countries, but also for regions in a country.

4. Question: How do I keep from being a victim of an assault?

Answer: The first rule of thumb is try to blend in as much as possible with the local population. Make sure that you have a smattering of the local language and use precautions. Do not carry a map plus camera in the open, try not to draw attention to yourself, and think before you act. If the situation does not feel right then do not go there, or leave.

5. Question: How safe am I in a crowd, at a stadium or at a performance?

Answer: There is no simple answer to this question. Crowds can be dangerous for a number of reasons. These include the chance of a stampede, issues of being robbed, issues of being assaulted. The best precaution is: if you cannot afford to lose it, then do not take it!! Loss refers not only to something of monetary value but also to articles of sentimental value. Have an exit strategy. Especially if you do not speak the local language, know where the exits are and how you would get there. Do not sit in a place where the exists are blocked or can be blocked, either by debris or by people who may not be able to exit quickly. Finally, make sure that you know how to get back to your hotel should the crowd become unruly or you need to change course.


Peter Tarlow
Dr. Peter Tarlow is the president of Tourism & More Consulting Services, College Station, Texas. His email is He offers an online video course on travel safety when going abroad: He also publishes the online journal Tourism Tidbits.