Read as much as possible about the countries in which you plan to travel. Informing yourself about a nation's history, culture, customs and politics will make your stay more meaningful. Such information can be found in most libraries, bookstores and tourist bureaus. Although English is spoken in many countries, it is a good idea to learn what you can of the language of the country in which you will be traveling.
To avoid being a target, dress conservatively. A flashy wardrobe or one that is too casual can mark you as a tourist. As much as possible, avoid the appearance of affluence.
Always try to travel light. If you do, you can move more quickly and will be more likely to have a free hand. You will also be less tired and less likely to set your luggage down, leaving it unattended.
Carry the minimum amount of valuables necessary for your trip and plan a place or places to conceal them.
Your passport, cash and credit cards are most secure when locked in a hotel safe.
Bring travelers checks and one or two major credit cards instead of cash.
Put your name, address and telephone numbers inside and outside of each piece of luggage. Use covered luggage tags to avoid casual observation of your identity or nationality and if possible, lock your luggage.
Consider getting a telephone calling card. It is a convenient way of keeping in touch.
Don't bring anything you would hate to lose (jewelry, irreplaceable family objects, all unnecessary credit cards).
Leave a copy of your itinerary with family or friends at home.
If you lose your passport, a consul can issue you a replacement, often within 24 hours. If you believe your passport has been stolen, first report the theft to the local police and get a police declaration.
If you get sick, you can contact a consular officer for a list of local doctors, dentists, and medical specialists, along with other medical information. If you are injured or become seriously ill, a consul will help you find medical assistance and, at your request, inform your family or friends. (Consider getting private medical insurance before you travel, to cover the high cost of getting you back to the U.S. for hospital care in the event of a medical emergency.)
Your family may need to reach you because of an emergency at home or because they are worried about your welfare. They should call the State Department's Overseas Citizens Services at (202) 647-5225. The State Department will relay the message to the consular officers in the country in which you are traveling. Consular officers will attempt to locate you, pass on urgent messages, and, consistent with the Privacy Act, report back to your family.
Consular Information Sheets, Travel Warnings and Public Announcements may be heard at any time by dialing the Office of Overseas Citizens Services, American Citizens Services and Crisis Management, Bureau of Consular Affairs, at (202) 647-5225 from a touch-tone phone. The recording is updated as new information becomes available. Consular Information Sheets, Travel Warnings and Public Announcements may also be obtained from any regional passport agency, from most airline computer reservation systems, from U.S. embassies or consulates abroad, or by sending your request, (indicating the desired country on the lower left corner of the envelope), in a self-addressed, stamped envelope to the Office of Overseas Citizens Services, Bureau of Consular Affairs, Room 4811, U.S. Department of State, Washington, D.C. 20520-4818. Please view www.state.gov on the internet for more travel information and updates.
You should leave a detailed itinerary (with names, addresses, and phone numbers of persons and places to be visited) with relatives or friends in the United States so that you can be reached in an emergency. Also, include a photocopy of your passport information page.
If you change your travel plans, miss your return flight, or extend your trip, be sure to notify relatives or friends at home. Should you find yourself in an area of civil unrest or natural disaster, please let your relatives or friends at home know as soon as you can that you are safe. Furthermore, upon arrival in a foreign country, you should contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate to register your presence and to keep the U.S. consul informed of your whereabouts.
When you are in a foreign country, you are subject to its laws. It helps to learn about local laws and regulations and to obey them. Do not deliver a package for anyone, unless you know the person well and you are certain that the package does not contain drugs or other contraband.
About 3,000 Americans are arrested abroad each year. Of these, approximately one-third are held on drug charges. Many countries have stiff penalties for drug violations and strictly enforce drug laws. If you are caught buying, selling, carrying or using any type of drug, you will be arrested. You are subject to foreign laws overseas, not U.S. laws, and, if arrested, you will find that:
Because you are subject to local laws abroad, there is little that a U.S. consular officer can do for you, if you encounter legal difficulties. A consular officer cannot get you out of jail. They can provide a list of local attorneys and help you find adequate legal representation. If you are arrested, you should ask the authorities to notify a consular officer at the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. Under international agreements and practice, you have the right to talk to the U.S. consul. If you are denied this right, try to have someone get in touch with the U.S. consular officer for you.
When alerted, U.S. officials will visit you, advise you of your rights according to local laws, and contact your family and friends, if you wish. They will do whatever they can to protect your legitimate interests and to ensure that you are not discriminated against under local law. U.S. consuls can transfer money, food, and clothing to the prison authorities from your family or friends. They will try to get relief, if you are held under inhumane or unhealthy conditions or treated less favorably than others in the same situation.