General Rule - Use common sense
Keep up with the news
Handle Money Safely
Avoid illegal drugs
Safety on the Street
Safety on Public Transport
At all times be aware, be careful, and use common sense. No matter how safe you feel and how trusting you are, you must always stay mentally alert so that you make wise decisions. Don’t go out alone. The most important safety tip is to always go out with at least one other person, and more is better. Be especially cautious at night. Realize that you are easily identified as an American in large groups and might be targeted for that reason. You can minimize risks and avoid obvious dangers by keeping a low profile, and not identifying yourself as American by dress, speech, or behavior.
Keep Up with the News
Stay informed of any political unrest that may take place in your city or country. Avoid participating in demonstrations and other political activities. There may be an increased risk of anti-American activity during periods of political conflict. Even demonstrations that are intended to be peaceful can sometimes turn violent, and you don’t want to be arrested for involvement even if you just happen to be there.
Be aware of your surroundings, including unknown individuals hanging around your residence. Be suspicious of unexpected packages, letters with no return addresses and/or letters that appear to contain more than just paper. Visitors should be screened and delivery persons should be asked for identification. Make sure to always lock your doors. Take the same precautions as you would in any large city. Do not give out your name or address and do not share program information with strangers. Know where the nearest police stations and hospitals are, and keep emergency numbers handy. Do not go into unsafe or unknown areas.
How to Handle Money Safely
- Withdraw cash from ATMs and change your traveler’s check only as you need money.
- Do not carry much cash, and try to keep smaller bills available.
- Countersign traveler’s checks only in front of the person who will cash them.
- Do not flash large amounts of money when paying a bill.
- Make sure your credit card is returned to you after each transaction.
- Deal only with authorized agents when you exchange money or buy tickets.
- If your possessions are lost or stolen, report the loss immediately to the local police. Keep a copy of the police report for insurance claims and as an explanation of your plight.
- If something is stolen, contact:
- Travelers’ checks - the nearest agent of the issuing company;
- Credit cards - the issuing company
- Passport - the nearest US Embassy or Consulate
Avoid Illegal Drugs
Tufts University can assume no responsibility for you if you are arrested for drug use. Something that might be considered a misdemeanor in the US could be seen as a felony in another country. Do not put yourself or others at risk. Laws concerning drugs may be much more stringent, and penalties, more severe, in countries other than in the United States. Being a citizen of the United States does not matter. You are subject to the laws of the country you are in. The US Consulate cannot get you released if you are arrested. They can only help notify family and arrange a lawyer.
Drinking ages vary from country to country, but excessive drinking is inappropriate in all countries. Excessive drinking can lead to serious consequences, including dismissal from the program. Moreover, all cultures consider drunkenness as socially unacceptable. If you do drink, do so in moderation.
You MUST obey the local laws of the host country in which you’re studying. An arrest or accident during a term abroad can result in a difficult and expensive legal situation. It makes no difference if you did not know the law. Your US citizenship does not protect you from full prosecution. Many countries impose harsh penalties for violations that would be considered minor in the US, and you may be considered guilty until proven innocent.
Feel free to take pictures, but only if you know it’s okay. In many countries, you can be detained for photographing security-related institutions, such as police and military installations, government buildings, airports, border areas and transportation facilities. If you are in doubt, ask permission before taking photographs. You should also ask permission before taking photographs of local people. This shows respect and is polite.
Don’t accept packages from anyone, regardless of what may be offered or what story you are told. You could miss your flight, your exams, or several years of your life behind bars.
If you find yourself in a legal jam, contact the closest US Embassy or Consulate for assistance. US Consular employees cannot arrange for local officials to release detained American citizens. Don’t get yourself in trouble and stay away from others engaged in questionable behavior.
Safety on the Street
Be especially cautious in or avoid areas where you may be more easily victimized. These include crowded subways, train stations, elevators, tourist sites, market places, festivals and crime-ridden neighborhoods. Don’t use short cuts, narrow alleys or poorly lit streets.Keep a low profile and avoid loud conversations or arguments.
- Do not discuss travel plans or other personal matters with strangers.
- Avoid scam artists by being wary of strangers who approach you and offer to be your guide or sell something at bargain prices.
- Beware of pickpockets. They often have an accomplice who will: jostle you, distract you, or create a disturbance. Beware of groups of children who create a distraction while picking your pocket.
- Wear the shoulder strap of your bag across your chest and walk with the bag away from the curb to avoid drive-by purse-snatchers.
- Try to seem purposeful when you move about. Even if you are lost, act as if you know where you are going. Try to ask for directions only from individuals in authority or store employees.
- Know how to use a pay telephone and have the proper change or token on hand.
- Learn a few phrases in the local language or have them handy in written form so that you can signal your need for police or medical help.
- Make a note of emergency telephone numbers you may need: police, fire, your hotel, and the nearest US Embassy or Consulate.
- If you are confronted, don’t fight back – give up your valuables.
- Avoid participating in demonstrations and other political activities. Demonstrations that are intended to be peaceful can turn violent, and you could be arrested for involvement even if you just happen to be there.
Safety in Your Hotel and/or Housing
- Keep your door locked at all times. Meet visitors in the lobby.
- Do not leave money and other valuables exposed in your room while you are out. Use a safe if one is available.
- If you are out late at night, let someone know when you expect to return.
- Do not get on an elevator if there is a suspicious-looking person inside.
- Read the fire safety instructions in your room. Know how to report a fire, and be sure you know where the nearest fire exits and alternate exits are located.
Safety on Public Transportation
If a country has a pattern of tourists being targeted by criminals on public transport, that information is mentioned in the Country Specific Information published by the US Department of State in the section about crime. Please visit travel.state.gov for more information.
- Only take taxis clearly identified with official markings.
- Beware of unmarked cabs. If they have a meter, make sure they turn it on. If they do not have a meter, ask in advance how much the journey will cost.
- Well-organized, systematic robbery of passengers on trains along popular tourist routes is a problem. It is more common at night and especially overnight.
- If you see your way being blocked by a stranger and another person is very close to you from behind, move away. If necessary, be loud!
- Do not accept food or drink from strangers. Where possible, lock your compartment. If it cannot be locked securely, take turns sleeping in shifts with your traveling companions. If that is not possible, stay awake. If you must sleep unprotected, tie down your luggage and secure your valuables.
- Do not be afraid to alert authorities if you feel threatened in any way.
- Be aware that the same type of criminal activity found on a train can be found on a public bus on a popular tourist route.