7 Things to Do to Stay Safe When Traveling Abroad

You may not own a $5 million diamond ring — but if you're ever shared an Instagram snap of your boarding pass, you'll want to read on.

Kim Kardashian got the scare of her life when she was robbed at gunpoint in Paris during fashion week. After the violent crime, critics were quick to condemn the reality star for bringing the drama on herself by flaunting her jewels so flagrantly on social media, especially in tandem with the fact that her precise location is frequently much publicized.

“Kim Kardashian has made millions using social media, however [as a result of the robbery] she lost millions in part because of it too," says safety and security expert Bill Stanton. "Kim Kardashian showed the world where she was, and what valuables she had. She gave a blueprint to the bad guys."

Kim may be one of the few people in the world with more than $10 million in jewels in her hotel suite, but anyone who travels with or without valuables should follow certain protocols to safeguard themselves and their belongings.

1.  Know your driver.

Whether you're traveling solo or with a group, travelers always need to remember to keep their wits about them the second they step off an airplane: Travelers are often targeted because they are less likely to be aware of their whereabouts, so be sure to always travel prepared," says Lindsey Epperly of Epperly Travel. "Know exactly where you're going versus winging it — I recommend private, pre-arranged transfers to avoid the potential dangers of having to hail your own taxi, which might or might not be legitimate, depending on where you are."

2.  Don't assume that high-traffic areas are safe.

Many travelers know to avoid dark alleys in unfamiliar places at night. But don't be lulled into a false sense of security: High-traffic or high-profile areas can be a criminal's dream. “Many people are surprised to find out that a place as seemingly safe as the Vatican, for example, is riddled with pickpockets — so flashy jewelry is also discouraged for this reason,” says Epperly.

3.  Protect your device.

In the digital space, it’s all about keeping a password, PIN, or biometric screen lock — so if you do lose a phone or mobile device, your data is not easily exposed. “It’s also real important for iOS and Android to enable 'Find My Phone'," says Jason Chaikin, president of Vkansee, a biometric verification developer for mobile phone and device safety. "Never mind tracking your phone, which you can [do using this tool], but you can [also] quickly erase all the contents, keeping your private data private. The faster you do this, the less time a would-be hacker has to get in."

4.  Don't over-share on social.

Consider carefully the details you share on social media. When you share an Instagram snap of your boarding pass, for instance — a popular choice for travel pics — you put tons of personal and highly specific location information online — and that can make you a target. Go with your gut. If you want to post, but feel a little funny about it, then scale back a step. “For example, don’t post all of your boarding pass, just show the destination details — not the barcode or other data," Chaikin says. "Most phone image editors let you obscure the parts of an image you want to hide. With boarding passes, specifically, there isn’t too much private info really and it’s encoded, but each airline will have its own standard and may keep more than others. So, just use an image editor and put a sticker on it or anything to help you scale back — and feel better."

5.  Safeguard your home.

Travel is exciting and people want to share their experiences with their friends — but remember that when you post from a place 5,000 miles from your house, it's clear to would-be thieves that you're not there. "Posting pictures while traveling lets criminals know your home is currently empty. Limit your social media audience to your friends and family while traveling," says Bruce Snell, Intel Security’s cybersecurity and privacy director. Or if that's not your bag, make sure your home is secure, alarmed, or frequently monitored by loved ones or trusted neighbors.

6.  Watch out for free Wi-Fi.

When traveling in a foreign country, you want to stay connected but also don’t want to rack up huge data charges for your smartphone. This can lead to you to connect to any free Wi-Fi network you can find. "Connecting to strange networks can leave you open to cybercriminals sniffing all of the data you send back and forth across that network. There are many affordable VPN services you can use when traveling to keep your information safe from prying eyes," Snell says. "Before you leave for your trip, find a good VPN service and walk through their instructions on how to install and activate it on your phone."

7.  Buy insurance.

Most travelers know that various insurance policies are available to protect their financial investment and insure medical care abroad. But there are niche policies that might be useful to people traveling to high-risk places: A kidnap and ransom travel insurance policy offers an added layer of security and protection when traveling abroad. 

A Cancel for Any Reason (CFAR) policy covers any and all unforeseen events and unique issues that are not already covered by your existing travel insurance, should you need to cancel your trip. For example, travel insurance packages do not always cover terrorist attacks if you want to cancel your trip, or if covered, it is within specific parameters only. "CFAR guards you against these unique situations, allowing you to cancel your trip up to 48 hours prior to departure and receive at least 75 percent of your nonrefundable trip cost back. CFAR policy can be added to your existing trip cancellation policy within 10 to 20 days of your initial insurance deposit depending on which policy you purchased," says Jim Krampen, co-founder of Seven Corners Insurance.

Travel medical insurance pricing varies widely and depends on age, medical max level, and deductible level. For a daily rate, you're protected you during your trip. "Some policies cover dental expenses and emergency medical evacuation if needed," Krampen says. "Some cover local ambulance fees and will even cover the transportation costs of sending a minor home or transporting someone to your hospital bedside."

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