The safety and well being of students traveling abroad for University purposes is of the utmost importance to the Learning Abroad Center. However, there is always risk in international travel, and the University cannot guarantee the safety of students abroad. In addition to reviewing the materials within these health and safety pages, take a moment to review University-wide resources on Safety & Education Abroad, including incident data.
When traveling overseas, there are a number of precautions that you should follow in order to travel safely. Consult the US State Department's Students Abroad: While Abroad and the Country Information for up-to-date information on travel precautions for the country where you will be studying or traveling. Refer to your program specific handbook or sponsoring institution for more detailed information on health and safety issues as they pertain to your particular program and destination. General tips include:
- Know your limits and don't drink too much. Students' with impaired judgment are more likely to be victims of a crime or injury. Review the Alcohol and Drug Policy.
- Do not leave your bags or belongings unattended at any time.
- Avoid traveling in poorly maintained vehicles. Inquire about the safety records of different bus companies. When taking a taxi, Lyft, Uber etc. ask local contacts what is the safest transportation option.
- Never keep all of your documents and money in one place or one suitcase.
- If you find yourself in uncomfortable surroundings, try to act like you know what you are doing and where you are going.
- Exercise good judgment about traveling alone, especially at night.
- Keep the on-site program coordinators informed of your whereabouts and leave your independent travel form with them prior to out-of-town travel. You should let the on-site coordinators, your host family, or your roommates know of any traveling that you plan to do.
- Have sufficient funds or a credit card on hand to purchase emergency items such as an airline ticket.
- Be alert to your surroundings and the people with whom you have contact. Be wary of people who seem over friendly or overly interested in you. Be cautious when you meet new people, and do not give out your address or phone number. Be careful with information about other students or group events. Be alert to anyone who might appear to be following you, and to any unusual activity around your place of residence or classroom. Report any unusual people or activities to on-site staff immediately.
- Do not flash cell phones, money or documents in public places. Be discrete in displaying your passport.
Safety Precautions for Times of Political/Social Unrest or Conflict
In times of political or social unrest in the host country or region, or when the United States becomes a party to a political conflict anywhere in the world, additional precautions are advisable:
- Keep in touch with the current political situations. In the event of an emergency, adviseries may be made to the general public through the media. In case of an emergency, remain in contact with the on-site staff.
- Enroll in the US State Department's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to help the closest American Embassy or Consulate stay in contact with you.
- When in large cities and other popular tourist destinations, avoid places frequented by North Americans: bars, discos, and fast food restaurants associated with the US, branches of US banks, American churches, US businesses and offices, US consulates or embassies.
- Keep away from areas known to have large concentrations of residents aligned with interests unfriendly to the US and its allies. Always consult with the on-site officials before undertaking travel to neighboring cities or popular tourist destinations.
- Be as inconspicuous in dress and demeanor as possible. Wear moderate colors and conservative clothing. Avoid American logos on your belongings and clothing. Avoid large, loud groups.
- Keep away from political demonstrations, particularly those directed toward the United States. If you see a situation developing, resist the temptation to satisfy your curiosity and investigate what is happening. Walk the other way.
- Do not agree to newspaper or other media interviews regarding political conflicts. It is important to remain as inconspicuous as possible. Do not make reference to your program group. In such cases, always say “no comment” and hang up or walk the other way.
Traffic related accidents are the leading cause of student injuries and deaths while abroad. Learn about overseas road conditions from the US State Department's Road Safety Overseas and by reviewing the Country Information for your host country. Heed the advice of your program staff and obey all local pedestrian laws. The University of Minnesota prohibits student driving on University programs abroad and strongly discourages student driving on personal travel.