Safety Tips for Seniors Traveling Abroad

Mike Olmos by Mike Olmos | Licensed since 2010
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This article was updated on: 09/16/2018

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When you travel abroad, there a few safety considerations you might not think about when you travel in the United States. Here are some international travel tips that may help you have a safe trip.

Travel abroad: diseases and vaccines

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), you may want to ask your doctor if you need a vaccine (a shot) before traveling to a foreign country. For example, if you’re going somewhere malaria is present, your doctor might recommend malaria pills. Although malaria pills might be cheaper in the country you’re visiting, the CDC says you should start taking them before leaving on your trip, so you’ll be protected. The CDC also warns that you can’t necessarily trust that pills sold in the foreign country are genuine.

Travel abroad: insect bites

As you may already know, insects and ticks can spread disease. When you travel abroad, there may be insect-borne diseases that can’t be prevented or treated, notes the CDC. Depending on where you’re traveling, bugs might carry diseases such as dengue fever, the Zika virus, or Lyme disease.

If you travel abroad to an area where there’s a substantial risk of bug bites or diseases, the CDC recommends using insect repellant that contains at least 20% DEET. Some international travel tips from the CDC:

  • You may want to use insect repellants approved by the Environmental Protection Agency.
  • Don’t spray repellant under your clothing.
  • If you use sunscreen, put that on first. When it’s dry, apply the insect repellant. Don’t use one product that includes both.

Links at the end of this article can help you find what diseases you might expect when you travel abroad to specific countries, and more.

Travel abroad: protect your money and passport

It’s always a good idea to be aware of your surroundings and try to protect your money and passport. But you may want to take special precautions when you travel abroad and might not know what to expect. For example, a travel forum on Rick Steves’s (travel writer) website points out that a common tactic in some places is for thieves to approach you in groups. While someone’s distracting you, another might be skillfully taking your wallet without your even feeling it. Before you travel abroad, you might want to buy a money belt so you can keep your wallet and passport more secure.

Be especially careful when withdrawing money from an ATM, notes the British newspaper Daily Mail. You might want to avoid outdoor ATMs altogether when you travel abroad. 

Travel abroad: avoiding terrorism

The State Department reports that terrorists often look for “soft” targets, such as shopping malls, markets, and houses of worship. You may want to limit your time in these areas, or avoid them. Keep your cell phone charged and with you at all times, and avoid places that especially cater to Westerners. Be aware of where the nearest police station, hospital, and hotel are in case you need to seek a safe place when you travel abroad. 

Travel abroad: some useful government websites

  • The State Department website has links to current travel advisories and other safety information. It also has information about U.S. embassies and consulates. These agencies which may help issue travel visas or provide certain other help to U.S. citizens who travel abroad, according to the United States Diplomacy Center.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website has up-to-date information for travel abroad. It includes links to vaccine information, as well as advisories about natural disasters and other information.
  • The CDC also provides a web page that lets you click on your destination country and view any disease or other precautions.
  • Visit the Environmental Protection Agency’s website for a list of approved bug repellants.

Did you know that some Medicare Supplement plans might give you limited coverage when you travel abroad? I can explain how Medicare Supplement works, or tell you about other Medicare plan options. You can use the links below to arrange a time to talk with me by phone, or to have me email you customized information about Medicare plan options. To compare Medicare plan options right away, just click the Find Plans or Compare Plans buttons on this page. .

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