Safety Tips for Traveling to a Developing Country

Whether you’re going on vacation or your first voluntourism trip, traveling to a developing country requires a lot of extra preparation. Not only will you need to pack additional items, but you’ll also need to do some research and mentally prepare yourself for your destination—especially if you’ve never been there before writes

While immersing yourself into different cultures and lifestyles can be a truly rewarding experience, it’s still important to follow standard safety practices. Here are some ways to have a great, healthy trip:

Before Your Trip

  • Research: In addition to learning more about the local culture, customs and taboos, you’ll also want to look into any recent events or news going on in the area. If there’s any civil unrest, you should know about it beforehand and check to see if your government has posted any travel warnings. Also, if you plan on bringing any type of rechargeable electronics, find out in advance what the voltage and plug configurations are in the area—you might need to purchase an adapter.
  • Get Necessary Vaccines/Medications: Many places around the world won’t even let you into the country without proper proof of vaccinations. Find out if the place you’re traveling to requires any, and plan to get them within two months of your trip. In some countries, you may need to bring certain medication(s) to prevent diseases, such as malaria.
  • Learn Local Phrases: Your native language may not be spoken in these countries, so be sure to learn some important phrases in advance. You should also bring a translation dictionary, if possible.
  • Pack Smart: In addition to your standard luggage items, you may need the following: a luggage lock, flashlight, map, toilet paper, snacks, bed sheet, towel, padlock, mosquito net, multivitamins, bottled water, anti-diarrheal medicine and a first aid kit. Also, also consider leaving valuables, such as a cameras, at home unless they are absolutely necessary.

When You Arrive

  • Have a Plan: Tourists visiting underdeveloped countries are often swarmed by locals with offers for hotel rooms or taxi services, especially if they see you looking through guidebooks and pamphlets. Having a game plan in advance helps you appear as though you know what you’re doing. If you need a ride to your hotel from an airport, opt for an airport bus or a taxi with a license and meter.

During Your Trip

  • Eat and Drink Cautiously: Water quality may not be up to par with what you have at home. Only drink water from bottles that are sealed, unless you’ve confirmed that the water is safe to drink. Don’t eat fresh produce, such as salads, at local restaurants since they are probably washed in unclean water. Have protein bars on hand as a back up.
  • Be Prepared: As a general rule of thumb, avoid giving money to strangers or items to children, such as candy or clothing. If you’d like to donate something, give items directly to the parents, teachers, schools, or community leaders. Also, be ready to practice fair bargaining. Although many taxi drivers and market vendors will be aggressive with their sales tactics, they expect you to negotiate fairly.
  • Transportation: Since the transportation infrastructure in most of these countries is often weak, they can be very dangerous. The Association for Safe Internal Road Travel (ASIRT) offers these tips to help you travel safely around your destination.