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5 Life Changing Tips When Traveling Abroad

Pickpocketing

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Let’s face it, planning to travel abroad can be stressful enough even if everything goes as expected. However, the mistake most people make is not paying attention to the small details, that if magnified, could make or break a trip. Items such as hedging your accommodation risks, evaluating your digital security, and having adequate cash on hand play a critical role in keeping you at peace during your time overseas.

Regardless if you are leaving for a short vacation with family or fleeing geopolitical persecution, there are trip strategies that you can follow that will increase the likelihood of a seamless experience, regardless of the unknown variables life may throw your direction.

In this article, we will dive into 5 life-changing tips when traveling abroad.

The inherent risks of traveling abroad

The world is a beautiful place filled with the scenic wonders of God from pristine white sand beaches to vast volcanic mountain ranges. If you are blessed enough to afford to visit foreign nations, then chances are you also value planning for a safe journey.

The problem is that oftentimes foreigners and ex-pats can find themselves in sticky and precarious situations, even at no fault of their own. The truth is that when you are not a citizen or resident of a country it puts you at a fundamental disadvantage in terms of banking, safety, and even within the legal system.

Due to this, you don’t want to get caught flat-footed when you are at your most vulnerable. Here are actionable items you can implement today as you prepare to embark and also upon arrival:

1) Purchase a small portable wifi camera

portable wifi camera
Small wifi cameras can be place in the open or in hidden locations in your private residence

Whether you are a business or leisure traveler, purchasing a small portable wifi camera with cloud monitoring is a must-have. Firstly, you can find models that are compact enough to fit in a carry-on or purse while only requiring a USB connection as a power source.

Secondly, most modern cameras come standard with High-Definition lenses, real-time motion tracking and notifications, two-way microphone communication, and can be accessed via phone app.

These are fantastic for concealing in small areas of a residence or out in the open to discourage anyone from entering the room that shouldn’t be there. He is an example of two folks who entered my Airbnb rental without notice or permission while we were away!

 

 

If this camera had not been installed we would not have known someone entered the rental. Because the phone app notified us of motion detection, we were able to confront the intruders and told them to leave immediately. As you can see, something as simple as an inexpensive camera could potentially save you time and headaches.

The truth is that in many countries, bad actors intentionally target foreigners for crime opportunities. To combat this threat try introducing a small wifi camera into your personal safety arsenal to even the playing field.

2) Bring your own VPN hotspot

VPN hotspot
VPN hotspots are a must have to secure your data transmissions from hackers

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) hotspot is a device, and security protocol, that sends internet traffic across a secured and encrypted network. In most scenarios when you are connecting to public wifi, including coffee shops, airports, hotels, and private vacation rentals those connections are unsecured.

This means that the owner of the internet router you are connecting to and the Internet Service Provider (ISP) both have the ability to see and document all the data you are transmitting.

Data such as credit card information and websites you visit are extremely vulnerable if you don’t have your own VPN hotspot, which secures your information by connecting your internet devices such as a laptop or smart TV directly to a trusted server across the internet, which will function as a body-guard on your behalf. In many countries, data secrecy laws are weak or non-existent, so you essentially are gifting your most personal information to anyone who wants to view it.

There have been situations in the past in which we have experienced a hacker stealing our credit card information within hours after using an unsecured public wifi hotspot. With a VPN, you will connect all of your personal devices directly to the hotspot like any other wifi network, and then connect the hotspot itself to the public wifi. This leaves your data cloaked as it’s transmitted from your device until it reaches the VPN server.

3) Set smaller limits on your credit cards

On many credit cards, you are able to set a pre-determined spending limit so as to not exceed a certain threshold. This self-enablement feature can be valuable in combatting credit card fraud abroad. 

For example, depending on your specific circumstance, it may be wise to set a spending limit of $300-500 on your cards to limit the damage a thief can inflict during their spending spree.

While most credit cards do have their own fraud prevention service and will reimburse if fraud is proven, this is not always foolproof and solves your problem. Here is why:

  • You are at the mercy of the credit card company’s review of your account and if they determine there was no fraud, you are sh*t out of luck.
  • Typically when a person experiences fraud the credit card company will put a freeze on the account, prohibiting any transactions. On top of that, they will send you a brand new card with a new account number to your home address, which doesn’t help you if you are out of the country.

By setting a smaller limit on your cards, you limit your risk exposure from fraud in the event something bad happens, regardless if the credit card company does the right thing or not. In addition, we would recommend using a single credit card for most of your transactions, if not all transactions. This keeps potential fraud limited to a single credit line and company.

4) Always keep enough cash-on-hand

Argentine pesos
While this may seem like a lot of cash its only a few hundred dollars in exchange rate in USD terms

Many folks would be shocked to find out that while many places in the world accept credit cards purchasing in local currency (cash) still dominates the majority of commerce globally. A significant portion of the world’s small businesses are unbanked, have a lack of immediate access to banking, or have inconsistent digital transactions. Also, many small global businesses, prefer cash because payment is immediate and they don’t have to wait for transactions to settle.

We could not stress how many situations in which we went to a local restaurant and their credit card machine was not working or it was working but they added a 20% surcharge for digital transactions. Another scenario is with countries that experience hyperinflation in which by the time the credit card transaction settles with the merchant’s bank, the value of the currency could have fallen significantly.

Some countries also routinely experience power outages or systematic banking challenges. At other times, your own credit card company may randomly freeze your account. You do not want to find yourself without the ability to pay for goods or services that you have already consumed, particularly as a foreigner. At minimum, it’s a very uncomfortable and embarrassing experience you should avoid at all costs. We recommend keeping $500 cash on hand, in a hidden spot, at your rental.

4) Keep some cash and a credit card in your shoe

Many people may think this sounds like an odd recommendation, but it is perhaps one of the more nifty ideas to protect against pick-pockets. In some countries, the pick-pocketing industry affects both foreigners and citizens alike most commonly in known tourist destinations.

A pickpocket will usually target the pockets, purses, or backpacks of an unsuspecting victim. However, most would never consider that the truly valuable goods are stashed in the bottom of your shoe. If you are wearing closed-toe shoes, you can slip a credit card and fold a small amount of cash in a plastic baggy and put it at the bottom of the shoe. Another option is wearing a double pair of socks and slipping the goods in between the pairs of socks.

We have been using this tactic for years and has come in handy in many situations, including having a tiny emergency fund on hand in case of unforeseen issues.

5) Book airfare beforehand and accommodations last minute

We have been burned time again by being placed at the mercy of hotel managers, booking website cancellation policies, and vacation rental owners begging for a refund due to various circumstances. Over time, a painful lesson learned was that booking accommodations in advance is rarely necessary. The reason is that if you decide, for whatever reason, you want to change or cancel your reservation after booking, you often will be required to pay a fee or unable to cancel altogether.

There have even been situations in which a reservation was made, and literally 5 minutes later we asked to cancel due to accidentally overlooking an aspect of the property we didn’t like. The rental owner refused to refund us due to their no-cancellation policy. Unfortunately, situations like this are the result of booking too far in advance, particularly if there isn’t a way to cancel for a full refund after the reservation is made.

To combat this, we recommend having multiple properties of interest in the queue and waiting until the 48-hour mark before you are scheduled to arrive. If you are applying for a tourist visa, then this strategy will not work because it is often a condition of the visa to provide the location of your accommodations while visiting the country.

In this case, we recommend booking a shorter duration-stay, maybe 1-2 days, upfront to keep your risks low. If you enjoy the property extend the booking once you are onsite. Even after you arrive at the property and enjoy it, it can be a good idea to limit your duration to 1-2 weeks at a time if there is no way to cancel for a full refund.

How do you secure yourself while traveling abroad?

Life tends to work against you when you are least prepared to handle it. Whether you are connecting to the wifi in a 5-star hotel lobby, or taking a train with the family to the next destination, trouble is always waiting around the corner.

While no security strategy is a sure bet, you can be confident that if you implement these recommendations in your international travel plan the chances of getting there and back unscathed will undoubtedly be enhanced. Don’t just take our word for it, try it yourself.

The name Rugged Man was born out of a bet gone horribly wrong, however, the name stuck. Technology nerd by day, and survival enthusiast by night, he is committed to helping thousands of everyday people become more educated about topics such as Prepping, Survival, and Bug Out Strategies.

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