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Health & Safety

When traveling outside of your home country, it’s important to prioritize your safety. By staying alert, respecting local driving laws and norms, and being prepared, you can navigate foreign roads safely and enjoy your journey! 

Some advice to consider…

  • If you are renting a vehicle, purchase comprehensive insurance that covers collision and loss.
  • Familiarize yourself with the local traffic rules and road signs before hitting the road.
  • Adjust to the driving customs of the region and be cautious of any unique road conditions. 
  • Always wear your seatbelt and ensure all passengers do the same. 
  • Avoid distractions, such as using your phone, and stay focused on the road. 
  • Adhere to speed limits and exercise patience, as driving styles may differ from what you're accustomed to. 
  • If you're not confident driving in unfamiliar areas, consider using public transportation or hiring a reputable local driver. 
  • Have your important documents, including your driver's license and any required permits, readily accessible.

For remote travel…

  • Be familiar with your route, and plan an alternate path in case your main route becomes blocked.
  • Plan your road travel for daylight hours so that you reach your destination before sunset.
  • Check the weather forecast for your route(s) and destination(s). Don’t drive when visibility is poor.
  • Identify places where you can safely seek assistance along your route. Examples include police stations, hospitals, and Peace Corps offices.
  • Be sure that your vehicle is well-maintained and road worthy.
  • Avoid driving high-profile vehicles, i.e. vehicles that can be perceived as projecting wealth or might be otherwise controversial.
  • Check in with a trusted contact before you depart and after you arrive, and pre-arrange check-in times. Share an emergency response plan with the contact(s) to be initiated should you miss a check-in.

Transportation and Road Safety Research Resources:

The Association of Safe International Road Travel (ASIRT) provides country-specific reports on road conditions, public transit, walking, biking, and driving. You can access road reports from destinations commonly frequented by UMD travelers here. To request a road report, email Leanne Johnson at

Review the list of left- and right-driving countries compiled by WorldStandards.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides international road safety guidance.

The U.S. Department of State provides driving and road safety abroad guidance.

Having a communication plan while traveling is an important part of your pre-departure planning. In unfamiliar environments, reliable communication can help you stay connected with loved ones, access emergency assistance when needed, and navigate unforeseen situations effectively. A well-thought-out communication strategy helps mitigate risks, provides peace of mind, and enhances your ability to respond to any challenges that may arise during your journey.

Elements of a well-structured communications plan include:

  • Emergency contacts. This is a list of important contacts such as the local 911 equivalent, your country’s embassy or consulate, trusted friends or family members.
  • Mobile devices and SIM cards. Consider purchasing a local SIM card or have an international roaming plan to ensure access to phone calls, text messages and data.
  • Messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Signal or Messenger.
  • Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. This is a service of the U.S. Department of State that sends safety and security alerts to you that are specific to your travel itinerary.
  • Offline maps and navigation apps. These can help you find your way even when you’re not connected to the internet.
  • Backup chargers and power banks to ensure your devices stay charged.
  • Scheduled check-ins. These are especially important if you are traveling in remote areas.  Establish a routine for scheduled check-ins with colleagues, friends or family members. This helps them know you're safe and provides a regular opportunity to share updates.
  • Use a virtual private network (VPN) to encrypt your internet connection. Be cautious using public WiFi networks.
  • Store digital copies of important documents like your passport, visa, travel insurance and medical records, in secure cloud storage for easy access.
  • Keep local phone numbers saved in your contacts for quick access to services like taxis, medical facilities, and tourist information.
  • Agree on meeting points or landmarks with your travel companions in case you get separated, especially in crowded or unfamiliar areas.

Communication Research Resources:

An individual travel safety consultation with Leanne Johnson, director of international risk management (

While high-profile global events related to terrorism, crime and natural disasters may get a lot of media coverage, the most common challenges faced by UMD travelers are health-related. Be proactive about maintaining your health and well-being while traveling.  

It is particularly important if you are taking prescription medications or are currently in a treatment regimen for conditions such as anxiety, depression, diabetes, or disordered eating to prepare ahead of your travel so that you can avoid disruptions to your important treatment routines.

Time zones, air quality, weather, temperature, elevation, diet and culture can all exacerbate health conditions. Conversations with your medical providers ahead of your travel can be critical to maintaining your well-being for the duration of your time abroad. 

Resources to Help You Prepare:

  • UMD’s Travel Clinic
  • The Centers for Disease Prevention and Control Travelers’ Health section.
  • Cultural Insurance Services Abroad (CISI)’s Team Assist – You can call them for help with accessing medications, making appointments with medical and mental health providers, or checking whether your medication is legal in your travel destination(s).
    • Call Team Assist at (312) 935-1703
    • Email Team Assist at
  • Schedule an individual travel safety consultation with Leanne Johnson, director of international risk management (

Before traveling outside of your home country, research the ways in which communities in your destination(s) perceive and interact with your identities, attitudes, values and physical appearance. These can all have an impact on your safety and well-being.

Here are some questions you can ask and answer about yourself before you travel:

  • How might my appearance be perceived in the destination country? Consider whether your clothing, hairstyle and overall look could attract attention or have cultural significance in the place you're visiting.
  • How do I typically express my identities?
  • How might my appearance be perceived in the destination country? 
  • Are there any cultural norms or customs related to my identities that I should be aware of? 
  • Are there any challenges or prejudices related to my identities that I should be prepared to address? 
  • How does the legal system in the destination country treat my identities? 
  • Are there safety concerns related to my identities in the destination? 
  • Do I have a support system in place if I encounter challenges? 
  • Am I comfortable discussing my identities with others? 
  • Have I researched local customs and etiquette? 
  • Have I considered potential misconceptions or stereotypes about my identities?
  • Do I have a plan for staying informed about local news and developments that could impact my safety?

Personal Identity Research Resources:

The U.S. Department of State’s traveler information site.

Mobility International USA (MIUSA) –  a resource center for mobility-related questions about study or work abroad.

Human Rights Watch – a resource for country-specific information on many topics including women’s rights and LGBTQI+ rights.

Diversity Abroad – a resource intended mainly for students, but applicable to all travelers, providing articles on a variety of personal identity topics and destination guides.

Verge Magazine articles on travel and privilege and having uncomfortable conversations while traveling.

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