Smart Travel 101, tips from the U.S. Department of State
Everyday Safety Tips
While you are abroad, exercise the same safety precautions that you would at home.
- Always be aware of your surroundings. Stay in populated, well-lit areas.
- Be a smart and careful pedestrian. Be mindful about which way traffic circulates in countries where drivers stay to the left.
- Leave your passport in a secure place when you are not traveling and carry a photocopy of it with you at all times.
- Walk confidently as if you know where you are (even when you don’t).
- Always travel with a companion at night.
- Keep your belongings close to you; use a money belt or a pouch that hangs around your neck or purse with a zipper.
- Do not leave your bags or belongings unattended at any time.
- Don’t keep all your documents and money in any one place.
- Use caution when traveling alone. Women especially should not be out alone at night. Be responsible for your safety and well-being. Learn from locals what behavior might put you at risk or call attention to you.
- Keep the on-site program director(s) informed of your whereabouts and any health problems. When you travel, be sure that the program director knows where you are and how to reach you.
- Have cash and credit/ATM card ready for emergencies like illness or an unanticipated need to get home via taxi.
- Be alert to your surroundings and the people with whom you have contact. Be wary of people who seem overly friendly or interested in you. Be cautious with new acquaintances – don’t give out your address or phone number, and always meet in public places. Be discreet in giving out information about other students or group events. Report unusual activity near your classes or home to the program director.
- Don’t hitchhike, even if the locals do, and even if the alternative is staying put.
- Do not wear expensive clothes or jewelry or carry expensive luggage.
- When you go out, bring no more money or credit/ATM cards than you will need.
- Always show respect for the culture and laws of other countries.
- Get to know your city and/or campus and avoid areas that are potentially unsafe.
- Dress conservatively, especially when traveling to new and unfamiliar areas. Shorts and tank tops are not considered appropriate dress in many parts of the world.
- Understand and comply with your program’s guidance relating to safety, health, legal, environmental, political, cultural, and religious conditions in the host country and follow emergency procedures.
- Try to avoid arriving late at night in cities with which you are not familiar, and take along a reliable guidebook that lists resources and hotels/hostels.
- Take off your luggage tags after arrival.
- Travel light!
- Whenever possible, speak in the local language.
- Avoid impairing your judgment due to excessive consumption of alcohol.
- Be aware of groups of people (even children) who work together to distract or confuse travelers in order to rob them.
- Become familiar with the local emergency number (comparable to 911) and the procedures for obtaining emergency health and law enforcement services in the host country.
- If you have been a victim of a crime, report this immediately to your program leader or resident director.
In times of political conflict involving the United States or the host country, take these additional precautions:
- Stay apprised of the current political situation by listening daily to local television or radio news; this is also a good way to learn more about your host country. Stay in contact with the on-site program staff, who then can contact authorities locally and at home, as well as parents.
- Keep away from political demonstrations, particularly those directed toward (well, against) the US.
- In large cities or popular tourist destinations, avoid possible target areas, especially places frequented by Americans. Avoid using U.S. logos on your belongings or clothing, especially athletic and collegiate wear.
- spend as little time as possible at potential targets for terrorist activities, especially places frequented by Americans: bars, discos, fast-food restaurants, and stores associated with the US, branches of US banks, American Express, and US consulates and embassies.
- Keep away from areas known to have concentrations of residents aligned with interests unfriendly to the US and its allies. Always consult the program director or other local staff before making travel plans.
- Be inconspicuous in dress and demeanor. Avoid American logos and name brands on clothing and belongings. Avoid large or noisy groups. Do not flash money or bring out documents (especially your passport) in public places. Keep small bills in your pockets to pay for purchases.
- Make a personal communication plan with your family and decide on methods of contact should an emergency arise. Ask your on-site program director about program emergency/contingency plans.
See CROSS CULTURE for special notes on:
- Women Regarding Harassment
- The Potential for Ethnic Issues Abroad
- The Potential for LGBTQ Issues Abroad
Advice on Alcohol and Drugs
Colby’s policy is to respect the laws of the host countries of its programs. Where it is not legal to use drugs, including marijuana, do not do so. Most programs have a zero tolerance policy concerning drugs. If a student is caught using illegal drugs, either by the police or by the resident director, that student may be sent home immediately, without prior notice, and with no credit or refund of fees. Students caught selling illegal drugs may be dismissed from the program and from Colby College.
If you choose to drink alcoholic beverages, be aware that you must know your limits and be moderate in your use of alcohol. Not only will you heap embarrassment on yourself and your country if you consume excessively, but you will also jeopardize your health and physical safety. Most student incidents that occur are usually alcohol-related. The director of your program will usually have the authority to dismiss students from the program for violation of the alcohol and drug policy. If a student is expelled from the program, the student may be sent home with no credit and no refund of fees. Colby takes the alcohol policy very seriously, and asks students to take it seriously as well.
Alcohol Policy – Colby Programs Abroad
All students studying on Colby programs abroad are subject to the laws of the host country, including those pertaining to alcohol and/or drug purchase and/or consumption. Additionally, Colby College responds to the Drug Free Schools and Campuses Act (DFSCA) by implementing measures to prevent the unlawful possession, use or distribution of illicit drugs by students, faculty, and staff, on campus as well as on College sponsored programs abroad. The following has been excerpted from the Colby College student handbook and clearly states the College’s position on alcohol abuse:
“Students are adults and are thus expected to obey the law and to take personal responsibility for their conduct. Colby does not police students’ personal lives on or off the campus, but disciplinary action will result if a students’ use of alcohol creates disorder, public disturbances, danger to himself or herself and others, or property damage. Similarly, hosts of parties or sponsoring organizations may be held accountable for violations by the College and by civil authorities under Maine law.”
Please refer to the Colby College student handbook for complete details of U.S. laws and applicable legal sanctions.
While participating on Colby sponsored programs abroad, adherence to the U.S. and Maine laws shall be interpreted in the following manner:
- Colby programs abroad will not tolerate abuse of alcohol or drugs. Abusive behavior may be defined as, but not limited to:
- Excessive consumption of alcohol
- Any use of illegal drugs
- Destruction of property (private or public)
- Disruptive behavior
- Endangerment of self or others
- Public intoxication
- Intoxication will not be accepted as a defense or an excuse for disorderly conduct and such conduct will be subject to disciplinary action.
- Students, faculty, and staff who violate Colby programs abroad policy will be subject to disciplinary action by the College. The severity of the imposed sanctions will be appropriate to the violation. Violations of Colby policies concerning illegal drugs and alcohol will result in the imposition of one or more of the following sanctions in accord with established College policies insuring due process:
- Expulsion from the program (and possible expulsion from Colby College)
- Official censure or reprimand
- Participation in a rehabilitation program
- Referral for prosecution
- Termination of employment
- Other actions the Resident Director, Office of Off-Campus Study, and/or College deem appropriate.
- Given that students on Colby programs overseas are legally able to consume alcohol at the age of eighteen, Colby’s policy with respect to program-sponsored activities at the Colby Centers, faculty apartments, public restaurants, student housing, or university facilities, is as follows:
- Non-alcoholic beverages and food will be available, visible and readily accessible, in quantity appropriate to the number of people attending.
- Any alcohol will be limited to beer and wine in quantity appropriate to the number of individuals attending the event.
- Any advertising or gatherings must not emphasize the presence of alcohol.
- Alcohol cannot be used as a prize for any event, contest or game.
- Drinking games and/or the active encouragement of people to drink is prohibited.
- If an event participant becomes visibly intoxicated it is expected that all attendees, including students and staff, will acknowledge responsibility to ensure that the individual stops drinking and arrives home safely.
- Event sponsors and/or hosts may be held responsible for damages and/or medical expenses should an intoxicated attendee cause damages or injury to a third party, property, or to him/herself, either on the premises or after having left the premises.
- The Resident Director or program staff on-site must remain sober and in attendance at any Colby sponsored events until the event has ended and all attendees have departed.
- If a student or staff member becomes intoxicated and non-responsive to physical or verbal stimuli, emergency medical services will be sought immediately.
- Events should preferably be scheduled on evenings preceding non-class days.