6 Ways to Keep Yourself Safe Abroad

Look, mom! A post on safety!
During our first trip to Southeast Asia, we had some concerns about our safety. We were headed to Cambodia and Thailand. While Thailand has come a long way, I had still read a lot about folks on mopeds stealing backpacks. Slashing backpacks. Pickpockets. Water potability. Child thieves. Scamming. So we took several precautions to protect ourselves in the event of anything happening.

1.The first thing we did was to go to a travel clinic and get all of the CDC’s recommended vaccinations. For Thailand it included Typhoid and Hepatitis A. Our travel clinic doctor also prescribed us malaria pills and Azithromycin in case we got travelers diarrhea. You can check http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/list/ to find the recommended vaccinations for your destination.



2. The second thing we did was to make sure we had several methods of water purification. It turns out that Thailand water was fine, but we didn’t take any chances in Cambodia, purifying all water that came out of the faucet just in case. We were also traveling to Khao Sok National Park in Thailand and going on a camping trip, and we didn’t know what to expect as far as potability. It’s always recommended to have several methods of water purification in case one fails. For us, we had iodine tablets, the LifeStraw, and our favorite – the Steripen. The Life Straw is just a filter that is attached to a giant straw, so you can just put it in a water source and drink. The problem with filters is that there are microorganisms that are so small they can fit through some filters (e.g. Leptospirosis). The Steripen takes care of all of that. It runs on 4 AA batteries. It’s a UV light that you put into a container of water, agitate, and then it’s magically potable. The UV light doesn’t kill the bacteria and viruses, but it scrambles the DNA so when you ingest it, it can’t replicate and make you sick. How cool is science?



3. Bug cream and sunscreen. It seems obvious, but if you’re traveling close to the equator to a place that has malaria and dengue fever, you want to protect yourself. We used a bug cream that slowly released DEET over 12 hours so you don’t have to reapply too much. Our travel doctor recommended the Ultrathon brand, specifically. It’s made by 3M. You know that sh*t is going to stay on.



4. After taking care of our body safety, we wanted to make sure our stuff was safe. I had heard a lot about slashing of backpacks and things like that, so I bought a slash-proof backpack. I think it’s pretty good, but like with most backpacks, I find it could be improved. For instance, it’s definitely a laptop bag. I would prefer more of an adventure pack with more pockets and outside straps. Maybe a hydration pocket. The cool thing is that it has an RFID blocker on the smaller pocket in the front to protect your credit cards. As added security, I also bought small bicycle locks and locked the zippers together.


5. Maybe this one is a little over the top. I had read about people stealing your stuff on the beach and I wanted to be able to swim with my husband and not worry about our valuables. I bought waterproof money belts (nerrrrrrdssss) so that we could put our stuff in there and still go in the water. We didn’t end up using them much. Just on boat excursions. But I can definitely see a use case. We also had a normal money belt, which we didn’t use much, but I can still see a case for it and I would bring it again.



6. Finally, my favorite all-purpose safety item: The PacSafe. I had been stalking this thing on Amazon for months and it was never available. Finally, the week before we left, it was back in stock, and I bought it. It’s a travel safe. There are not always safes in your rooms, and when there are, they can always be compromised by hotel staff (maybe I’m just paranoid?). The PacSafe is a nylon bag with steel mesh liner that you can chain to your sink. Most thieves are pretty opportunistic, so are just going to go for the low-hanging fruit. They’re not going to disassemble a sink or bring bolt cutters to your room (one would hope.) I like that it has a pretty low profile when packed down and can fit in my backpack. The 12L fit my laptop, DSLR camera and 3 lenses, medication, and passports.


So there you have it. I’m sure a lot of people think that this isn’t necessary. And honestly, it didn’t really feel necessary when we were there. But I would much rather have the peace of mind than have something bad happen to me or my things when I’m so far from home.

What methods do you use to keep yourself and your things safe?




One thought on “6 Ways to Keep Yourself Safe Abroad

  1. We always use moneybelts when abroad: passport, backup credit card, printed itinerary of hotels, and extra cash. I use a neck pouch and have it against my left side; Alyse uses a belt. If we leave our hotel room, we have them on us — it’s much easier to remember Always Have It than doing so conditionally.
    My wallet then goes in a zippered pocket that has main credit card and $50 or less (this is for Europe travel). Backpacks are for whatever: travel book, granola bars, fruit, water bottles.
    Then again, Europe is safe — main risk is pick pocketing.

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