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Safety While Abroad

Preparation and situational awareness are key

Studying abroad will expose you to all kinds of new and exciting experiences. Though this is a time of broadening your horizons, we ask that you exercise caution in order to be as safe as possible while overseas. If you have any questions concerning safety abroad, please ask the staff of the Global Education Office at the Reves Center before departing.

Before you travel
safety while abroad
U.S. State Department Travel Information & Registry

The Department of State Travel Page, has important important information on health and safety abroad, including current travel warnings and alerts, country-specific information and emergency updates. You should also visit these sections of the site:  

Get your documents and important information in order

Before you leave home, you should make copies of your passport, driver's license, ISIC card, traveler's checks, and credit cards, making note especially of their customer service numbers, including the number to call from abroad. Keep the copies and information separate from your wallet.

Also, be sure to leave copies of all documents at home with family. It is also a good idea to scan your passport and email it to yourself and your family.

Leave a detailed itinerary with family or friends in the U.S., so they can contact you if necessary.

Memorize the phone numbers of your trusted friend, an attorney, W&M police or your study abroad program contacts (if applicable), in the event you are held for secondary inspection at the airport.

Do not bring unnecessary valuables with you abroad, but if you do, be sure to pack them in your carry-on bag.

William & Mary is not responsible or liable for any loss or damage to property resulting from fire, theft, or casualty while studying abroad. It is strongly recommended that personal property insurance be obtained by each student  for his or her belongings.  You can find more information about travel insurance here

W&M Policy for Travel to Travel Advisory Countries

The university strongly supports internationalization initiatives including international travel by students. The university also recognizes the risks to the safety and security of students engaging in such travel, particularly the risks outlined by the U.S. Department of State when it issues a higher level Travel Alert. The Policy for Student Travel to Travel Advisory Countries applies to all undergraduate student travel sponsored, organized, supported or recognized by William & Mary, including the Virginia Institute of Marine Science. This policy establishes the circumstances under which student travel to countries subject to higher risk travel advisories is permitted. Learn more here

While you are traveling
preparation before traveling
Register with your Embassy or Consulate

It is recommended that once you arrive in your host country, you register with your embassy or consulate. 

The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) is a free service for U.S. citizens and nationals traveling abroad to enroll their trip with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Registration makes your presence known, and enables a consular official to contact you in case of an emergency. Registration is especially important for those who are staying in a country longer than one month, and/or who will be traveling to a country that is experiencing civil unrest, has an unstable political climate, or may experience a natural disaster such as an earthquake or hurricane. Your whereabouts will not be released to inquirers without your written authorization.

Situational Awareness 

When traveling to, around, or outside your host country, please remember the following tips:

  • Do not leave luggage unattended.
  • Do not accept packages from strangers.
  • Airline regulations require that checked luggage must remain unlocked, or be locked with a universal lock that can be opened by airport security. Before checking and after picking up your luggage, keep it locked, and have your name and address clearly labeled on each piece. Place labels on the interior and exterior of your bag.
  • Know at least key phrases in the local language, so that you can ask for help or assistance when you need it.
  • Carry a bank debit card instead of cash.
  • Carry essential documents and money in a neck pouch or money belt worn on the inside of your clothes.
  • Always be aware of your surroundings and avoid areas that may be particularly unsafe.
  • Try to blend in. Foreigners are favorite targets of pickpockets; the less conspicuous you make yourself, the less attractive they will find you. In particular, t-shirts, shorts, baseball caps, and loud English can act as markers that you are a student from the U.S.
  • Do not make a habit of carrying extra money and cards with you. If you are not planning to use them, leave them in a secure place. The same holds true for your personal documents: IDs, driver's license, passport, etc. Always have a copy of your passport with you, but the passport itself should stay safe at home unless you anticipate needing it (to change traveler's checks, or check into a hotel, for instance.) Some countries do require visitors to carry their passport with them at all times.  Know the laws before you go abroad.
  • Never keep all your funds and/or valuables together in one place.
  • Carry your valuables inside your clothes. Particularly when you are in a crowd, purses can be snatched by thieves on mopeds, purse and camera straps are easily cut, and backpacks can be slit and emptied without your even noticing.
  • Do not leave your bags unattended. When you are seated at outdoor tables, keep purse or pack straps looped around an arm or an ankle to keep them from being an easy snatch.
  • Be on guard if groups of people act strangely around you. Thieves often work together and try to confuse or distract their target. Don't be fooled by appearances. Some professional thieves look quite respectable, and some are children!
  • Keep in mind that thieves often wait near night clubs and bars popular with foreigners, particularly Americans, and target individuals who've had too much to drink.
  • When residing in a hotel, always keep your door locked. When residing in a hostel with multiple beds in one room, keep your valuables under your pillow when sleeping, not on the floor beside your bed.

Be aware that loss of property, whether through negligence or theft, is your own responsibility. William & Mary cannot replace lost or stolen money or goods.

Alcohol and Drug Use

While you are studying abroad, you must still abide by the W&M Alcohol and Drug Policy.

Resources