Travel Safety Tips


Winter break is here and you can’t wait for your trip abroad! You want to make it memorable, but remember that safety is your number one priority. Read on to learn more about ways to stay safe and sane on your excursion! However, please keep in mind that some countries are regarded as more safe than others and that threats and dangers prominent in one country may not be so much a problem in another.



The U.S. Department of State

  • Visit to register your trip with the U.S. Department of State and get updates about safety in the area you are travelling.

  • Know where you can/cannot go: the Department of State website also has information on specific areas within countries where you must exercise increased caution, and suggestions on how to do so.

Emergency Information and Contacts

  • Write down emergency info:

    • contact numbers for the ambulance and the police  

    • address and directions to a local U.S. embassy

  • Let family members staying behind know of your travel itinerary: Let them know the dates and lengths of stay for each place you will be going to; update them of any plan changes. If you have family and friends in your destination country, notify them also.

  • Consider travel insurance: It can cover cancellations or delays, medical emergencies, and loss of valuables; it may also provide a 24/7 assistance line you can call for emergency help. [1]

Disaster and Medical Help

  • Do some research about the natural disasters commonplace in your destination country, know the alerts used to signal the onset of these disasters, and understand how to follow the safety protocols during these times.

  • Pack a First Aid Kit:

    • Bandages for minor scrapes and cuts

    • Pain relievers like Ibuprofen for headache, dental pain, menstrual cramps, or muscle aches

    • Hydrocortisone creams for rashes

    • Antibacterial creams like Neosporin to prevent infection from cuts

    • Antiseptic wipes for cuts and scrapes

    • Loperamide tablets for diarrhea [3]

  • Hot Tip: Some countries may prohibit entry of certain medications, even over-the-counter medications, so do some research beforehand!


Banking Matters

  • Make sure to notify your banks of your travel plans prior to departure to prevent getting your cards locked down. Also, ask your bank about ATM machine use while abroad; you may be able to withdraw at certain ATMs with waived ATM fees. Some ATMs, however, may not recognize your card and even eat it.

  • Exchange some money prior to leaving. Avoid exchanging at airports as the exchange rates are typically not in your favor.


  • Purchase an adapter and/or a voltage converter:

    • Power outlets vary in the number of holes they have and the shapes of their holes; make sure that the plugs on your electrical appliances fit the power outlets of your destination country; if not, bring an adapter to make the connection.

    • Power outlets also produce varying voltages; U.S.outlets output 120 volts, but certain countries have outlets that output higher voltages. Check your devices to determine their range of input voltage; you may need to buy a converter if your device inputs less volts than your destination outlet outputs. [2]

  • Phones: Check with your carrier to determine the best plan to use while abroad. You may also consider purchasing a local SIM card, which allows users to call and access internet locally.



Money Matters

Carrying Cash

  • Carry emergency cash: This can be extremely useful in case your money bag gets stolen. In countries with high rates of theft, you may even consider hiding cash in shoes, a hidden inner pocket, or in an inner compartment of your backpack. You can also hide a backup credit card. By all means, do not place cash in an outer zipper pocket or your back pants pocket.

  • At ATM machines: Try to take out cash with a buddy and only use ATM machines in safe places during the daytime. Cover your pin as you key it in and be wary of people around you who may snatch the cash once it is out.

Carrying Valuables

  • Bring your own locker padlock while staying at hostels as you never know if other locks have been toyed with.  [1]

  • Use your backpack as a pillow on overnight trains/buses. [1]

  • Use a cable to lock in your bag to a seat and use slash proof backpacks. [1]

  • Project self-awareness: Do not look absent-minded or distracted, and pay attention to your surroundings. In other words, do not be fixated on your phone and stay alert in public places, especially those considered theft hotspots. The safest way to travel is to act like a local; you should therefore do research on how to reach your destination beforehand. This deters you from constantly checking a map or your phone.  [1]

  • Leave your passport at home but bring a copy of it on you; you may need to carry your ID if you plan on buying alcohol or going to a bar. Taking your passport out in public increases the chances of it being stolen or getting lost.


Transportation and Navigation

  • Ride with a friend whenever you can in every mode of transportation, especially in cars. Use and be knowledgeable of reliable transportation services and companies (be wary of fake ones).

  • Travel in numbers: Doing so deters thieves, who can more easily target the unsuspecting solo traveler. If you are solo backpacking and living at hostels, consider making a new friend out of a fellow traveller to later explore together. However, it is important to be wary of new people you meet. Always trust your instincts!

  • Use Google Maps with earphones: Plug in one earbud to listen to the directions as you walk but leave the other ear unplugged so that you can still hear your surroundings.

  • Avoid putting yourself in dangerous situations: Know your limit on alcohol, who you can count on, and how to get home. Excessive drinking can make you defenseless and an easy target to many dangers.

  • Hot Tip: Regulations on drug and alcohol use differ from country to country. Be aware of the do’s and don’ts in yours.

Food and Drink Safety

  • Allergies: If you have allergies, write this fact down on a card in the language of your destination country to show when needed. This method prevents misinterpretations that may jeopardize your health. [1]

  • Food: When going for street food, stalls with long lines are a safer bet than those with shorter ones. There may be a number of reasons why a line may be longer including bargain prices, but one reason may be that the hawker is reputable for serving delicious, well-prepared food. If you are not sure where you should eat, ask the locals for suggestions. [1]

  • Water: Be knowledgeable of where you can get clean water. Most countries have undrinkable tap water, so you may want to bring your own water to restaurants. You can even invest in a reusable water bottle and fill it with water boiled from home.  [1]

Socializing Safely

  • Asking for help: In terms of where you can get the most trustworthy help, front desk workers, your hosts, and institutions at which you study or work are the best bet. Next in line are locals. Taxi drivers, however, can be a hit or miss. Some drivers may not be from the area. [1]

  • Divulging information: It is important to not give too much away. When talking to strangers, and asked about the location of your stay, provide only the general area of residence or create a harmless lie by giving another area. Additionally, if you ever feel uncomfortable with the new people you’ve met, do not divulge that you are a first time traveller to the country if you are. Doing so may make you an easier target for scams and unwanted losses. [1]

  • Dressing and behaving appropriately: It goes without saying that when you are in a country, following rules and showing proper etiquette is a sign of respect; keep in mind that as a foreigner, you may be perceived as representing the country you are from.

Personally, I have been asked about my specific travel plans for the day by a very eager stranger who wished to join me. This occurred in a dining hall at a hotel where I stayed. Please lie if you feel that you need to and do not feel bad if you think your lie was easily detectable. Your safety matters most!



Don’t let your travel experiences be ruined by mishaps or put your health, or worse, your life, on the line. Instead, take the reigns and be the master creator of your travel experiences! Being prepared gives you more confidence, mitigates worry, and reduces possible anxiety of your safety from family and friends. Always remember that different countries have dangers more commonplace than others. It is your responsibility to do some research on your destination country!


  1. “25 Important Travel Safety Tips Everyone Should Know.” (2018).

  2. “Plug, socket & voltage by country.” (2018)

  3. “How To Pack a Professional Travel First Aid Kit.” (n.d.)

Ready, Guard, and Apply: Basics of Sun Protection


Many people believe that sun protection is only for the summer. In fact, fewer than 15% of men and 30% of women in the United States apply sunscreen on a daily basis. This, however, may be a reason why 5 million Americans are still treated for skin cancer every year. [1] Skin cancer is highly correlated with prolonged, intense exposure to the UV rays, but with daily sun protection, the risk of the disease can be significantly reduced. Hence, it is important to use sun protection regardless of the time of the year. There are many different methods of sun protection, from sunscreen and sunglasses, to parasols and sun hats. How, then, do we know which one most effectively protects us from the sun? Read on to find out!


In Los Angeles, where the sun shines nearly everyday of the year, sun exposure is an inseparable element of our daily lives. While some amounts of time spent in the sun is healthy, overexposure to sunlight can harm our skin, eyes, and even our immune system. There are two UV rays that represent major risk factors for skin cancer specifically: UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays damage and cause aging in skin cells, whereas UVB rays cause direct damage to the DNA of the skin cells and induce sunburns. These UV rays are merciless towards unprotected skin. Thus, by educating ourselves about the different forms of sun protection, we can then make informed decisions regarding what kind of sun protection to choose under a given circumstance.



Chemical sunscreen

Chemical sunscreen is composed of organic compounds like oxybenzone, octinoxate, and avobenzone. They interact with one another to break down the sun’s UV rays into heat, and then to release the heat from the skin.


  1. Chemical sunscreen tends to be thinner and easier to spread on skin. It is especially compatible when worn together with makeup because of its moist and easily applicable formula.

  2. Compared to physical sunscreen, less chemical sunscreen is needed for the same effect. This is because chemical sunscreen can be thoroughly applied to the skin, thereby preventing spaces from forming between sunscreen molecules.   


  1. Chemical sunscreen may lead to a higher internal skin temperature because it absorbs heat before releasing it from the skin. [2] This can increase the risk of skin discoloration and brown spots, or even worsen already existing brown spots.

  2. It must be applied at least 20 minutes prior to sun exposure in order for the sunscreen to be fully absorbed, and thus provide effective sun protection.  

  3. It requires more frequent reapplication because its effectiveness in sun protection gradually diminishes in the presence of direct UV rays.

  4. It may lead to irritation and stinging, especially for people with sensitive skin or dry skin with a damaged moisture barrier, due to its complex mixture of chemical ingredients. It is also more likely to clog pores among people with oily skin.

Physical sunscreen

Physical sunscreen is made of active mineral ingredients such as titanium oxide and zinc oxide that physically deflect and scatter damaging UV rays from the skin. Simply put, this type of sunscreen blocks the sun by sitting on top of the skin.


  1. Physical sunscreen offers protection from both UVA and UVB rays because it contains a broad electromagnetic spectrum.

  2. Unlike chemical sunscreen, physical sunscreen does not have to be absorbed into the skin for it to be effective, making its application quicker.

  3. Its effectiveness against direct UV rays lasts longer as long as it is not exposed to excessive moisture from sweating or getting wet.

  4. In comparison to chemical sunscreen, the more simple components of physical sunscreen such as titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are less likely to cause irritations for sensitive skin and skin easily activated by heat. These components deflect the heat and energy exerted by the sun to prevent them from irritating the skin. Physical sunscreen is also less likely to clog pores, even for people with oily skin.

  5. It generally has a longer shelf life.


  1. Physical sunscreen often leaves a chalky white cast on top of the skin because its thicker formula makes it difficult to blend. Therefore, it is less compatible with makeup.

  2. Even though it has a longer-lasting formula, physical sunscreen can still rub off, sweat off, and rinse off.

  3. If not applied generously and accurately, it is less protective because the sun’s UV rays can easily penetrate through unprotected areas.



Although nearly three-quarter of Americans are concerned about the potential eye damage that sun exposure can change, only 31% have reported that they use sunglasses to protect their eyes every time they go outside. [3] Moreover, majority of American consumers base their sunglass purchase solely on style and comfort rather than checking that the lenses are UVA and UVB protective. [3] Prolonged exposure to UV rays can lead to a wide range of symptoms, from as minor as mild irritation in the eyes to as severe as cataracts. [3] However, just by wearing sunglasses, we can block 99 to 100 percent of UVA and UVB rays, and can even screen out 75 to 90 percent of visible light. [4] The extent to which a pair of sunglasses can effectively protect our eyes from the sun is, of course, largely dependent on the lenses themselves.

Different types of lens

In comparison to non-polarized sunglasses, polarized sunglasses eliminate the glare that bounces off water or any other surface. For example, when you are out at the beach, polarized sunglasses protect your eyes from the glare bouncing off the water which can cause blurry vision. They even boost depth and color perception, enabling people to minimize eye strain while enhancing visual clarity and reducing glare. [5] However, polarized lenses do not offer adequate protection against the sun’s UV rays, unless they are treated with a special UV protection-coated film like the sunglasses with UV protection. [5] Only when the sunglasses have UV protection can they provide protection from the dangerous UV rays reflecting off of surfaces we encounter in daily life such as buildings and snow. To maximize protection from exposure to UV rays, it is best to look for sunglasses with lenses of 400 UV protection with wraparound frames that can limit sunlight from irritating the eyes. [5]

Different prices of lens

Although price alone does not determine the quality of a pair of sunglasses, its effectiveness depends heavily on the quality of the lenses. Generally speaking, cheap lenses are not coated with UV protection film, and thus cannot provide adequate protection against the sun’s UV rays. Lenses with poor optical clarity or those made from easily damageable material can even be a potential threat to the eyes. Although there is no definite relationship between the price and the quality of the sunglasses, it is crucial to pay attention to the materials used to make the sunglass lenses rather than the trendiness of the design alone.  



There are other methods of sun protection in addition to sunscreen and sunglasses. Umbrellas, for example, are no longer only meant for rainy days. Parasols, or sun umbrellas, are designed to provide protection from the sun by blocking 98 percent or more of direct UV rays when the Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) is beyond 50+. [6] Although it may seem silly carrying around parasols at first, they are one of the most practical ways to protect the skin from sun damage and to provide cool shade when in the outdoors.

Similarly, sun hats can provide direct protection from the stinging rays of the sun. Because skin cancer occurs most commonly on the head, areas such as the face, neck, and ear require extra protection. [6] Hats with large brims, especially those with brims facing downward, offer the greatest amount of UV protection. [6] Baseball hats, on the other hand, do not provide adequate protection, thereby leaving the cheeks and chins unprotected and exposed. In fact, the amount of shade provided by a baseball hat is essentially the same as the amount when we use our hands to create temporary shade. Thus, wider hats are clearly a smarter choice when it comes to protecting our skin against the sun, or perhaps experimenting with a new fashion trend.


We often mistake sun protection to be a subject only applicable to the blazing sun of summer. Protection against the sun is an everyday task to keep in mind, whether it is a sunny day in July or a cloudy day in January. No one is immune to the dangers of overexposure to the sun. Therefore, finding the right pair of sunglasses and tube of sunscreen, not to mention a go-to sun hat or parasol, can take us one step away from the damages of the sun.


Check the UV Index

Using simple weather applications on our phones, we can easily check the daily UV index. The UV index can range from as low as 1 or as high as 11 and above. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, depending on the level of UV index, people should provide different levels of protection against the sun. For example, when the UV index is between 3-5, it is considered moderate and applying generous amounts of sunscreen every couple hours and wearing UV protected sunglasses provides adequate protection. [6] However, when the UV index is between 8 and 10, it is considered very high. [6] Therefore, when outside, people are advised to wear wide brimmed hats and minimize activity between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. [6]


1. “Sunscreen use among adults in the United States.” (2015).

2. “Chemical vs. physical sunscreens: Pros and cons.” (2014).

3. “Spare your sight: Using shades for protection and style.” (2016).

4. “When you're choosing sunglasses, does UV protection matter?” (2016).

5. “Polarized sunglasses vs. UV protection sunglasses.” (2016).

6. “If you can see the sunlight, seek the shade.” (2012).

A Short Guide to Long-Distance Travelling

A Short Guide to Long-Distance Travelling

Spending more than half a day in a stuffy aircraft cabin can seem intimidating. If you think about it, that’s a lot of time spent trying to drown out screaming children, battling the cramped conditions in coach, and struggling to find the best position for sleeping upright. And, of course, topping it all off is the jet lag that delightedly awaits you at your destination. Luckily, though, there are ways to make your long-haul flight more endurable. Whether you are a plane virgin or a seasoned jet-setter, here is your guide to flying like a pro.