Best Practices for Traveler Safety

Research Your Destination

Customs and norms in other countries can be very different from those in the United States. Check out our Country Information pages to find specific information for every country in the world. You'll get info on visa requirements, safety and security conditions, crime, health and medical considerations, local laws, areas to avoid, and more. Enroll in our Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to get information about health and safety in your destination country. Enrolling in STEP also allows the U.S. embassy and/or consulate to contact you in an emergency.

Be Aware of Local Customs and Norms

Some countries have rules or norms that differ from the United States. For example, in some countries, tight-fitting clothes, sleeveless shirts, and shorts are not acceptable. Pack essential items that will help you blend in with the local culture. Review our Country Information pages to learn about norms and customs in your destination.

Freedom of Speech

Some countries have laws protecting free speech and peaceful assembly, including protesting, in a way that is similar to the United States. But other countries have more restrictive laws. In some countries, talking openly or posting on social media about sensitive subjects can lead to fines or arrest. For more information, check out the State Department's Human Rights reports for specific country information.

Prohibited Items

Review our Customs and Import Restrictions page to find out what items may not be allowed into or out of your destination country. These restrictions may include items such as over-the-counter medications, drugs, alcohol, contraceptives, religious items, and literature. Items allowed in the United States might not be permitted in other countries.

Public Transport

The safety of public transportation varies from country to country. In many places, informal taxis or minibuses can be dangerous. This may especially affect those traveling alone. Find out what is and is not safe from reliable sources, such as local authorities or tourism officials.

Consider these transport tips:

  • Arrange transport to and from the airport before you arrive, from a licensed and reputable company.
  • Do not hitchhike.
  • Research taxi and other ride share companies before you go. Make sure they are licensed and reputable.
  • Consider using app-based transportation companies, which offer a record of your ride. This is unlike hailing a ride on the street. Some companies also allow a rider to share their real-time ride record to another phone. This record is useful to identify the vehicle and driver later.
  • Avoid traveling in busy sections of train cars or on crowded buses. Public transportation can make pickpocketing easier.

Travel Accommodations

Review our Lodging Safety page and do the following:

  • Research accommodations carefully and read their reviews for safety concerns. Additionally, have backup accommodations.
  • Arrange your accommodation before you travel. You are more likely to be vulnerable when you first land in a country with unfamiliar surroundings.
  • Don't tell strangers where you are staying.
  • Secure room keys, IDs, and other personal items.
  • Lock windows and doors when inside your room.
  • Bring a door wedge or portable door jammer to use at night.

Be Aware of Risks

  • To prevent theft, avoid carrying or wearing anything expensive.
  • Use your best judgement to avoid unsafe situations. Think ahead and come up with a safety plan to deal with unsafe situations, in the event you end up in one. Consider bringing personal safety whistles/alarms and taking self-defense courses before you travel.
  • Find out where emergency services like police stations and hospitals are located nearby in case of an emergency.
  • Don't share detailed travel information on social media until you return.
  • Make sure your phone and other personal devices have a "find my phone" or similar GPS tracker for emergencies. Consider sharing your location with a trusted contact back home in case of an emergency.
  • Download map applications that work with GPS instead of data to ensure you have access to local maps and routes. Keep your mobile device charged.
  • Tell someone you trust back home about your travel plans. Include where you'll stay, any far-away destinations from your accommodation, and an emergency contact.

Watch Your Drink

U.S. citizens can be targeted by criminals who seek to drug them in order to sexually assault or steal from them. Typically, the drugs are added to the victim's drink without their knowledge. Victims usually cannot tell that their drink has been drugged, and substances like Rohypnol, ketamine, and scopolamine can make a person unconscious and defenseless. Always watch your drink, and physically cover it with your hand if you can.

  • If meeting with a stranger, you should strongly consider meeting only in public places and avoiding isolated locations, such as residences or hotel rooms, where crimes are most likely to occur.
  • Do not accept drinks from strangers.
  • Be aware of how much alcohol you are drinking. Notice any unusual physical symptoms outside of intoxication.
  • If you start to feel strange or sick, tell a trusted friend if you can, and call emergency authorities right away. You can call the local police or the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. If you are assaulted, get medical care and resources from the nearest hospital or medical center. Contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate for information on getting help and medical care in the country you are in.

Other Useful inks

If you have safety and security concerns, contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. Reach out to the American Citizens Services unit.

You can also reach out to the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs in Washington, D.C. at 888-407-4747 or 202-501-4444. Officers are available to help you in an emergency.


This site is managed by the U.S. Department of State. External links to other Internet sites and listings of private entities on this page are provided as a convenience and should not be construed as the U.S. Department of State or U.S. government endorsement of the entity, its views, the products, or services it provides, or the accuracy of information contained therein. The order in which names appear has no significance, and the listings or links may be removed at any time at the discretion of the Department.

Last Updated: February 29, 2024