Know Before You Go – Resources for Traveling and Working Safely Abroad

One of the most rewarding perks of working in or with the U.S. Military is the amount of travel that’s involved, both short and long-term. I’ve spent five years stationed abroad, and I’ve had my fair share of interesting incidents while working overseas; this includes everything from being scammed by a taxi driver in Bucharest to dealing with a drunk intruder in my apartment in Belgium. Thankfully, these events are few and far between, but the mandatory training and security briefings rarely cover enough to mitigate the risks that come with being in unfamiliar territory. Keeping you and your belongings safe starts well before the airport terminal.

The most important tool in preparedness is knowledge. Despite all the talk of gutting the State Department, their Country Information Page is still one of the most important resources before going to a new country. The travel advisories there are compiled from reports regarding US tourists and workers and provide valuable insight into potential threats. Most of it is standard: be wary of pickpockets, avoid places associated with crime, and cultural risks stemming from differences in other countries’ legal system. This last one is particularly important; many countries have vastly different penal codes that could turn what would a non-issue in the states into an arrest abroad. Always check what your destination’s US Embassy has to say before stepping on that plane.

For more emergency-related information, the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) is particularly effective; it notifies your destination’s US Embassy that you’ll be present in that country and sends out alerts and important information to your email or phone. I was traveling through Germany during one of the terrorist attacks in 2015. I was alerted to the situation before I saw it on the news and before I attempted to travel through that area. This worked not only for things like terrorist attacks and natural disasters but also for things like protests or other events that you’d have no way of knowing about if you’re unfamiliar with the country.

Where the state department falls short, specific information about your destination, a site called Wikitravel kicks in. Wikitravel is Wikipedia for those traveling abroad and has a ton of important information to save money, keep you safe, and make the most out of your trip. I mentioned earlier that I was scammed by a taxi driver coming out of the Bucharest train station. Had I read a bit more into the “Getting Around” section of the Wikitravel article, I would’ve known that my hotel would’ve sent a taxi to come get me and saved me about $75.00. Every popular destination has a page that is worth your time and interest.

Lastly, make sure to ask around your office and peers for any tips for specific countries they’ve visited. It sounds like a no-brainer but, it’s easy to get caught up in getting ready for your trip, especially if it’s on short notice, or focusing on what sights there are to see. Getting the chance to see other places during your off time at work is important, rewarding, and can be done safely with the right knowledge. Below are a few of the links I talked about and feel free to share your travel information sites in the comments!

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Garrett Ferrara

Garrett is a writer, perpetual student, and seven-year Army veteran. Currently studying Anthropology and Writing & Rhetoric at the University of Central Florida, he's hoping to stretch the G.I. Bill all the way to a PhD. Bilbo Baggins is his favorite literary character; a character that traveled, fought battles, and finally settled into a simple life. He's looking forward to squaring away that last phase.
Garrett Ferrara

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