Life in most European cities is as safe as, or much safer than, life in a large city in the U.S. Violent crime is relatively rare, although petty theft is quite common. It is important that you use common sense and observe reasonable safety precautions while you are abroad, as you would at home.
- Register your trip on-line with the U.S. Department of State STEP program (Smart Traveler Enrollment Program). This will enable Department of State officials to communicate with and assist you in an emergency. You can register at this on-line site as soon as you have your overseas address.
- Do not leave your bags or belongings unattended at any time. Security staff at airports and train stations are instructed to destroy any unattended luggage. Do not agree to carry or look after letters, packages, or suitcases for anyone.
- Never keep all of your documents and money in one place or one suitcase. Once you arrive, keep your passport in a safe place. Don't carry your passport with you unless you need it. A U.S. passport is an enticing target for thieves; thousands are reported stolen overseas every year and passports can no longer be replaced at U.S. embassies and consulates overseas except in emergencies and only for travel home.
- Don't ever keep all your money and credit cards with you. Just take what you need for each day and leave the rest in a safe place.
- Remember that, at least at first, you will be unfamiliar with your surroundings, local customs, behavior, and body language. You won't know whom to trust. Be more cautious than you would at home, where you are better able to "read" a given situation.
- Avoid walking alone in poorly lit or deserted streets, parks, and other areas.
- Even when accompanied by others, stay away from areas of a city reputed to be dangerous.
- If you find yourself in uncomfortable surroundings, act as though you know what you are doing and where you are going.
- Know how to use public phones and how to contact the police. Have necessary coins or phone cards with you.
- Areas around public telephones and the underground are common places for pickpocket activity. Keep backpacks and purses in hand. Safeguard calling card numbers.
- Do not leave money, credit cards, IDs or valuables in a backpack that you carry behind you.
- If you don't want to or can't afford to lose something, don't take it with you. When traveling, don't show off cash or expensive jewelry or watches in stores or on the street. Keep your money in a money belt or bag that fits across your chest when you are on the street, on public transportation, and in public buildings.
- Be aware of the dangerous effect that alcohol consumption can have on your ability to use common sense and make good judgments, especially in unfamiliar situations. Don't accept drinks from or get drunk with strangers.
- Stay away from illegal drugs entirely. Use of illegal drugs is grounds for immediate dismissal from the program. Most foreign countries have extremely strict laws regarding even small quantities of drugs and there is very little that program staff or U.S. officials can do to help you if you are caught with illegal drugs.
- Remember that you are subject to the laws of whatever country you are in, which may be much more restrictive than those in the U.S. U.S. standards of due process may not apply in overseas legal proceedings and Hollins cannot provide or pay for legal representation of program participants. Familiarize yourself with local laws and don't jeopardize your studies and your freedom by breaking them.
- Do not hitchhike or accept rides from strangers.
- Let your hosts, friends and/or the program director know of any travel plans and how they can reach you. Have the director's phone number with you at all times in case of emergency.
- When traveling, do not tell strangers where you are staying.
- Always have two sources of funds available to you - an ATM card and traveler's checks, for example. If for any reason you can't get money from one source, you'll still have access to cash.
- Go the opposite direction of any disturbance. Do not get involved. Avoid political demonstrations and protests. In the case of sudden political upheaval involving the U.S. or your host country, rely on instructions from the program director.
- Remember that any behavior that puts you or your fellow students in danger is grounds for dismissal from the program.
In the current world situation, some added precautions are advisable:
- Avoid places frequented by Americans--pubs, fast food restaurants, U.S. business and government offices.
- Avoid rowdy behavior in public.
- Avoid dressing in ways that readily identify you as an American.
- Be cautious about how much you tell strangers or people you don't know well about your program, its location, your residence, or any travel plans.
- Do not invite strangers or recent acquaintances to your program building.
- Report any suspicious people or packages to the front desk staff.
The website of the U.S. Department of State ( www.travel.state.gov ) provides a wealth of information on safety and security in overseas travel. The consular information sheets provide cultural, practical, and safety information on every country in the world. It is a good idea to read these information sheets before traveling to any country. Other worthwhile links can be found via the US State Department under Students Abroad.
We strongly recommend that you regularly monitor the Department of State's website for alerts issued for U.S. citizens abroad. There are two kinds of alerts issued by the State Department. The first is a "public announcement," which notifies Americans of a potential threat and suggests measures they should take when traveling in a particular country or region. The second is a higher level of alert, called a "travel warning," which is generally a recommendation that Americans not travel to a particular country or region. We suggest that you go to the website before departure and read examples of each of these types of warnings so you will be familiar with them and the reasons they are issued. While travel warnings are uncommon in Europe (except in the Balkan region), public announcements are sometimes issued, especially when a controversial international meeting is scheduled and large demonstrations are expected. The Hollins Abroad office receives these bulletins as they are issued and immediately forwards them to the program directors and all students if they cover countries or cities to which you might travel.
In the unlikely event that a travel warning is issued for the United Kingdom while Hollins Abroad is in session, we will consult with the U.S. Department of State here and our director will consult with the U.S. embassy in London to determine the safest course of action. Hollins Abroad has emergency plans ready for implementation should the need arise.
Hollins cannot assume responsibility for actions or for events that are not part of the program nor for those that are beyond our control or for situations that may arise due to the failure of a participant to disclose pertinent information.
Health and Safety Resources
International Emergency Contacts
A list of police, medical, embassy and consulate contact information organized by country.
U.S. Department of State – Information for Students Traveling Abroad
Here you will find safe travel suggestions, contact information for consulates, and information on their Smart Traveler Alert Program (STEP) which is free, and provides you with timely updates regarding any potential civil or weather related dangers.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Infectious Diseases: Travelers' Health
Includes vaccination recommendations and information on the latest outbreaks of diseases around the world, and provides health information on specific destinations.
Center for Global Education
Features a Study Abroad Safety Handbook which explains how foreign laws apply to American students and provides tips on dealing with cultural differences.
Mobility International USA (MIUSA) is a resource center for disability-related questions about your international study, work, volunteer, teaching or cultural program.