Are you ready for anything when you travel abroad? It’s difficult to predict when a predicament will derail the best laid plans.

Fortunately, the United States Department of State (USDOS) website is a great resource for practically any surprise American travelers encounter. The USDOS country-specific pages include information on every country destination.  Cautiously read the “Safety and Security” tab on a country specific page to find out risks. (See this information on Haiti, for example.) There is a wealth of specific advice and forewarnings to help you avoid stepping into precarious situations and dangerous areas.

Think you are a savvy traveler? Test your mettle:

SCENARIO 1: You are in Spain.  A man approaches you proclaiming he is a police officer. He is wearing plain clothes. What do you do?

Smart option: Ask for a uniformed law officer. The Department of State warns travelers about criminal schemes:

  • Be alert to criminal schemes.  Thieves who work in teams may distract your attention, while an accomplice makes off with your valuables. If you are stopped by a plainclothes policeman while walking or driving, ask for a uniformed law enforcement officer.

If a person who doesn’t look like an officer approaches you, you may be duped into believing them.

SCENARIO 2: You are on a trip to India during September.  Your friend wants to go swimming. What do you do?

Smart option: Avoid coastal waters. September falls at the end of India’s monsoon season. Around this time every year, swimmers drown in Goa, Mumbai, Puri and other areas due to strong undercurrents. Heed all warning signs at beaches, and stay out of the ocean. USDOS issues this warning to keep you informed:

Swimming in India: You should exercise caution if you intend to swim in open waters along the Indian coastline, particularly during the monsoon season. Every year, several people in Goa, Mumbai, Puri (Odisha), off the Eastern Coast in the Bay of Bengal, and other areas drown due to strong undertows. It is important to heed warnings posted at beaches and to avoid swimming in the ocean during the monsoon season. Trained lifeguards are very rare along beaches.

If you visit the Andaman Islands, be aware that there have been reports of crocodile attacks in salt water in recent decades. Four have resulted in fatalities, including a U.S. citizen tourist in April 2010. Ask local residents about dangerous sea life before swimming and keep a safe distance from animals at all times.

SCENARIO 3: You are having a great time in Russia.  A pedestrian drops some money near your feet.  What do you do?

Smart option: Don’t pick it up – just walk away quickly. It could be a “turkey drop” scheme. USDOS has this to say:

Turkey Drop Scams are a street scam “in which an individual ‘accidentally’ drops money on the ground in front of an intended victim, while an accomplice either waits for the money to be picked up, or picks up the money him/herself and offers to split it with the pedestrian. Then the victim is accused of stealing the money. Do not get trapped into picking up the money, and walk quickly away from the scene.”

Want to drill down even further on safety or security risks and scams even savvy travelers can become tripped up in?  Do an Internet search for OSAC (type in the year) Crime and Safety Report (type in country name).  Example:  OSAC 2016 Crime and Safety Report Costa Rica.
For even more practical knowledge sign up for the Depart Smart newsletter.