10 Business Travel Safety Tips

Every year, hundreds of thousands of business travelers go to all points of the globe. A business traveler’s personal safety is always potentially at risk – even if their destination is just a short distance away.

Below are some basic safety tips that when followed, can help make you less vulnerable when on the road.

1. Don’t Go Solo – If possible don’t travel alone. If you do have to travel alone, set up scheduled times to check in with someone at home. If you don’t check in, they will immediately know that something is wrong.

2. Be Aware – Being aware of your surroundings is one of the most important things you can do to keep yourself safe. If something seems unusual or out of place – it probably is. Trust your instincts.

3. Don’t Stand Out – Avoid behavior or dress that will make you stand out from the crowds – especially when traveling overseas.

4. Know the Area – It is important to be up to date on the area that you are traveling to. This includes any travel warnings and any regional/local issues, especially political. You should also be familiar with where you will be staying and the places you will need to visit while you are there.

Visit the State Department’s website (travel.state.gov) for information about the country you will be visiting. They will also post any travel warnings or alerts. For additional information, call the U.S. Department of Transportation Travel Advisory and Airport Safety Hotline (800-221-0673).

5. Have a Code Word – The number one way that people are kidnapped in foreign countries is by reading your name off of a sign that a driver is holding at the airport, duplicating the sign and standing in front of the real driver. To avoid this, have a code word that you can ask from the driver.

6. Your Hotel – Avoid hotels with rooms that open to the outside and rooms on the first floor. Be sure to use the extra lock on your door and to secure all valuables. Know where the emergency exits and stairwells are. In the event of an emergency, you want to know exactly where to go.

7. Meet in Public Areas – Never use your hotel room for meetings. Treat it as you would your bedroom at home – as a personal space for sleeping.

8. Know What You Have – Make photocopies of your driver license, credit cards (front and back) and passport. In case they are lost or stolen, you will know exactly what you had and for your credit cards, you can easily call the customer service numbers to cancel them. Keep the photocopies in a safe place or scan them and e-mail them to yourself. If you use a web-based e-mail service, you will be able to get to the documents anywhere you have internet access.

9. For Female Travelers – Female business travelers are at a greater risk when traveling, especially overseas. Wear a wedding ring – even if you are single. A cheap, fake ring can go a long way in deterring criminals. Also, wearing your hair down or in a pony tail should be avoided; this makes an easy way for someone to grab you.

10. Have a Plan – In case something does happen it is important to have a plan and a good support system. Discuss with your family/friends what to do in case of an emergency. The U.S. Department of State has a Citizen’s Emergency center that you can contact for assistance in case of an emergency situation abroad – 202-647-0900.

Government Travel Advisories and Travel Insurance

Most seasoned travellers are aware that it is wise to check the current situation in their destination country before booking any trips. Once plans are in place it is a good idea to purchase travel insurance – with immediate effect so that it includes protection for Cancellation and Curtailment.

Travel plans may be affected by weather events such as hurricanes, earthquakes, heavy snow, flooding, and tropical storms. Other travel problems include disease outbreaks or pandemics, volcanic eruptions, political unrest, civil war and terrorist attacks. Information of this type is normally easily picked up through the media via newspapers, television, radio, and the internet.

The internet is, without question, the most useful tool available to travellers in today’s world as it is so quick and easy to do a search for your destination country, resort, and hotel and find any relevant and updated information. Social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook have also made it much easier to communicate information – good and bad. Hotel review sites tend to be controversial but many travellers still rely on them before booking their hotel or accommodation.

To find the very latest travel updates and to check whether any advisories against travel are in effect, it is wise to check the government website of your country of residence. This is a good habit to get into and it should be at the top of your travel checklist along with checking your passport expiration, visa requirements, taking out travel insurance, and checking with your doctor regarding any needed vaccinations..

Before planning any travel or holidays visit the Department of Foreign Affairs, or similar government agency for your country, to check if there are any potential problems brewing in your destination country. For example:

  • Australia: Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (smartraveller.gov.au)
  • Canada: Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (voyage.gc.ca)
  • Ireland (Eire): Department of Foreign Affairs (dfa.ie)
  • New Zealand: Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (safetravel.govt.nz)
  • UK: Foreign and Commonwealth Office (fco.gov.uk)
  • USA: Department of State (travel.state.gov)

In the case of the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, they provide extensive and updated travel advice and information on their website as part of their ”Know Before You Go’ campaign, which is aimed to assist travellers and help them avoid inadvertently getting into trouble overseas. The wealth of important information includes local laws and customs, visa and passport requirements, driving advice, the political situation, transportation advice, street crime and scams to watch for, emergency contact information, healthcare, travel insurance, and much more.

As an example, let’s imagine that you decide to treat your family to a sunshine holiday at a Red Sea resort in Egypt. You find a great package deal and go ahead and book. You check the family passports to make sure they have not expired, book the airport long-stay parking and purchase travel insurance. You arrive at your destination and the next day discover that there are protests and demonstrations in the streets of Cairo – and they are turning violent. You discover that your home country’s government has issued an advisory for its citizens against all non-essential travel to Egypt. You are worried and wonder if this will affect you – or your travel insurance. Fortunately, because the trouble did not occur until after you had booked the holiday you could not have reasonably foreseen the problem and your insurance should still cover any valid claims.

The difference is that If you book a trip to a trouble spot after a serious problem has arisen and it has been covered in the media most insurers will view this as having taken an unnecessary risk because it is reasonable to assume that you should have been aware.

Travel Insurance policies vary in their terms and conditions and what is and is not included. Play it safe and, at a minimum, always check to make sure that the policy covers all your planned activities, has adequate medical insurance, and includes medical repatriation. A cheap policy may be perfectly adequate for your needs but sometimes it is worth paying a little extra – just in case.