Travel Safety 1

Safety & Security

Notre Dame travelers are advised to review travel safety and security information from the U.S. Department of State and other resources prior to traveling abroad. Having good awareness of threats will help you mitigate your risk of becoming a target of criminal elements abroad and knowing how to react and who to call in an emergency before arrival will give you peace of mind throughout your trip.

U.S. D.O.S. Travel Advisories   General Safety Advice   Female Travelers  LGBT+ Travelers   Situational Awareness   Cultural Awareness   Communication   Local & Breaking News   Air Travel & On Arrival   Vehicular Transportation   Public Transportation   Pedestrian Safety   Accommodations   Information Security   Socializing   Water Safety   Extracurricular Activities & Insurance   Personal Travel   Crimes Abroad & Theft Prevention   Sexual Assault   Protests & Demonstrations   Terrorism   Natural Disasters

U.S. Department of State Travel Advisories

Notre Dame International encourages all Notre Dame travelers to check the U.S. Department of State's Travel Advisories page when planning international trips.

All countries will have a designated travel advisory level ranging from one to four, with some countries having a higher level advisory assigned to specific areas within. For those countries and areas that have an advisory level of three or four, you should consider very carefully whether or not to travel there at all since those advisory levels are issued for such reasons as unstable government, civil war, ongoing intense crime or violence, or frequent terrorist attacks.

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IMPORTANT: Undergraduate students planning Notre Dame-sponsored travel to any countries and/or areas ranked at Level 3 or 4 will have their travel registration reviewed by the International Travel Review Committee.

Please also be sure to review the U.S. Department of State's Worldwide Caution information.

Other government travel information and advice on transportation can be found in the Resources section.

General Safety Advice

  • Basic travel safety tips for every time you travel:
  • Blend in. Dress inconspicuously and avoid displaying jewelry or valuables, such as expensive electronics.
  • Do not carry large sums of cash.
  • Familiarize yourself with your destination(s), including the layout and important roads.
  • Always be vigilant.
  • Always carry a charged mobile phone programed with important phone numbers and addresses - your lodging, local colleagues, police, or embassy.
  • Avoid large crowds and commotions on the street.
  • Do not give out personal information or discuss your plans with strangers.
  • Memorize useful phrases in the local language (i.e. please, thank you, yes, no, how much, stop here, etc.).
  • Do not drink to excess: it is likely to reduce your level of awareness and judgment.
  • Do not accept food or drinks from strangers: keep your food and drink in sight when socializing.
  • Carry cash in more than one pocket, and keep a small amount in a top pocket to hand over to a criminal who confronts you.
  • If walking in public, carry small denominations of currency and keep the bulk of cash and cards in a zippered pocket or money belt, which should only be accessed in private places.
  • If you suspect that you are being followed, enter a busy public place and call for help.

Female Travelers

Many women travel safely each year without incident. However, when it comes to safety and security, female travelers are more likely to face additional risks in some destinations. The truth is that women face greater obstacles, especially when traveling alone.

Safety tips for female travelers
  • Review specific precautions advised for women travelers at your destination(s) on the relevant U.S. Department of State country information page.
  • Try to understand the cultural norms of the country you will be visiting before departure.
  • Observe and respect local clothing customs. Dress modestly to avoid drawing attention. Also, consider packing a hat and scarf in your day pack in event you need to layer up on the go. 
  • In some countries, a lone female traveler is a source of curiosity: you may be stared at if traveling alone. As a precaution, avoid eye contact with strangers, especially on the street and on public transport. Pack a pair of sunglasses to wear when out and about at your destination.
  • Decline politely but firmly any invitations which make you feel uncomfortable, even if faced by amicable pressure to accept. 
  • Ignore suggestive comments.
  • A door wedge and/or portable alarm are useful items for extra security in some destinations. 
  • In some destinations, women-only floors are available and provide additional reassurance; ask about them when you book your room.
  • If traveling alone, restrict after-dark entertainment to popular establishments and safe areas of the city.
  • Check safe transport options at your destination.

If you have any questions, please email travelregistry@nd.edu.

LGBT+ Travelers

LGBT+ travelers can face unique challenges when traveling abroad. Laws and attitudes in some countries may affect safety and ease of travel. Legal protections vary from country to country. Many countries do not legally recognize same-sex marriage. More than seventy countries consider consensual same-sex sexual relations a crime, sometimes carrying severe punishment.

Moreover, social attitudes in many countries can result in harassment of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender groups; harassment is also frequently reported in countries where same-sex relationships are legal.

The following steps can be taken to minimize the likelihood of encountering social, legal or physical consequences arising from your sexual orientation:

  • Review specific precautions advised for LGBT+ travelers: This information can be found on the U.S. Department of State LGBT Travelers page and country information page for your destination(s).
  • Follow the law: Travelers should always comply with local laws, including in countries where LGBT activity is illegal. 
  • Keep a low profile: LGBT travelers generally face harassment or legal censure only if they draw attention to their sexuality. In higher risk locations, LGBT travelers should avoid drawing attention to themselves through public displays of affection or expressing opinions on LGBT issues in public.
  • Be vigilant: LGBT travelers should exercise higher levels of vigilance in areas with a higher likelihood of physical assault. They should remain alert to their surroundings and check for signs of being followed.

If you have any questions, please email travelregistry@nd.edu.

Situational Awareness

In preparation for your trip, ask yourself the following questions:

Do you… 

  • Look both ways before crossing the street? 
  • Have your earbuds in when you’re out and about?
  • Know unsafe areas in your hometown?
  • Wear clothes displaying university or luxury brand logos?
  • Wear/carry with you valuable items (watch, electronics, purse)?
  • Look down at our phone while walking?
  • Observe other people’s body language?
  • Confirm the identity of your driver before you stepping into your Uber? 
  • Ask your friend to text you when they get home?

If you answered yes to the majority of these questions, chances are you are generally alert of your surroundings and conscious of hazards when out and about in familiar surroundings.

However, when traveling to often unfamiliar areas, it is important to remember the following:

  • Review threats at your destination(s) on the relevant U.S. Department of State country information page before travel.
  • Understand the orientation of your destination and plan how to get around using safe modes of transport before travel.
  • Understand the culture and local attitudes towards your country/nationality, ethnicity, gender, and certain brands and logos you tend to wear. Should you behave or dress differently to avoid unwanted attention?
  • Consider how you are viewed by locals. You may be perceived as wealthy because you are a foreigner and own an iPhone, watch, and laptop - even if you are not.
  • Avoid distractions, like wearing your headphones, listening to music, making phone calls or staring at your phone, when on the street. Instead, find a safe location inside a store, bank, restaurant or hotel to stop off at if you need to.
  • Be observant by looking beyond just the person in front of you. Do you have good visibility of your surrounding area and is it well lit?
  • Consider your exit strategy and alternate routes.
  • Always be mindful of safe locations along your route as you are moving. Where is there help nearby if you need it?

Cultural Awareness

CULTURAL INTEGRATION IS THE MOST IMPORTANT DIFFERENTIATOR BETWEEN BEING ON THE GROUND AND READING ABOUT A PLACE.

Being well versed in the local laws and customs for your destination(s) is essential. Along with the U.S. Department of State’s country-specific information, other governments provide complementary overviews. Please see the Resources section for more information.

Cultural Immersion
  • Read about your host culture before arriving so you can engage with locals on various topics.
  • Immerse yourself in your country’s culture.
  • Observe the locals, get involved with your university and meet students from your host country.
  • Share your own culture; locals will be curious to hear about your home country.
Respect Your Host Country
  • Learn the language, even if it's only a "hello" and "thank you" in your host country's language.
  • Learn the history to understand the country more deeply.
  • Try local food and converse with locals.
  • Watch, learn, and listen.

Communication

Before departure, consider how you will communicate regularly to friends and family back home, as well as in an emergency.

  • Contact your mobile carrier to understand your options at your destination(s).
  • Establish a communication plan with friends and family before you depart on your trip. Also, consider who your emergency contact will be during your time abroad. Keep them up-to-date on where you will be and how to contact you in an emergency.
  • Research ND alumni in the area and the nearest NDI gateways and centers. Reach out to them, and let them know you will be in the area.
  • Research the in-country 911 equivalent at your destination(s).
  • Collect all important phone numbers and addresses and (1) store in your mobile phone, (2) write them on your emergency contact card (student card, faculty/staff card) and (3) share with your emergency contact.
  • Subscribe to your country’s U.S. embassy or consulate’s social media account.
  • Check email regularly and read all notifications from STEP.
  • Respond to all Notre Dame requests for safety confirmation immediately.
  • Download a communication app (i.e. WhatsApp, WeChat, Viber, Skype) to stay in contact with friends and family back home. IMPORTANT: Test before you leave the U.S.
Important Contacts
  • Notre Dame program leader/local contact
  • NDPD 24/7 Emergency Line (+1 574-631-5555)
  • Health Insurance Provider
  • Lodging (# and address)
  • Embassy/Consulate (# and address)
  • Emergency contact

Local & Breaking News

Research and subscribe to trusted local news sources via email and on your mobile phone.

  • Subscribe to a daily morning and evening news summary of headlines.
  • Download trusted news source apps, like BBC, France24, Reuters, The Guardian, or others from the local area.
  • Follow breaking news sources on Twitter, like BBC Breaking News, Sky News Breaking, Telegraph Breaking News, CNN Breaking News, or others from the local area.

Air Travel & On Arrival

Research arrival procedures at your destination airport before travel so you know what to expect.

On Arrival Checklist
  • Fill out the arrival card given to you on the plane
  • Select the correct immigration line
  • Have travel documents ready
  • Be discreet with plans and information
  • Always be polite with officials
  • Collect your luggage
  • Look for transportation signs
  • If you are being picked up from the airport, remain inside the terminal building until your local contact arrives.

Vehicular Transportation

TRANSPORTATION-RELATED INCIDENTS ARE THE NUMBER ONE CAUSE OF DEATH FOR AMERICANS ABROAD.

To ensure that your plans for transportation (Uber, public transportation, etc.) are realistic and safe at your destination, be sure to do your research well in advance of travel.

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IMPORTANT:

  • Use reputable, licensed car companies.
  • Quickly inspect the vehicle. It should look well maintained.
  • Check that the seatbelts, locks and windows work.
  • If traveling by taxi, check the meter and license.
  • If there is a language barrier, ask a local to write down your destination in the local language.
Safe Rider Checklist
  • Verify there are no other passengers in the vehicle and that no other passengers will be picked up
  • Sit in the rear
  • Wear your seatbelt
  • Lock the door
  • Keep the window up
  • Keep your bag at your feet
  • Pay attention
  • Pay the driver inside the taxi
  • Don’t leave anything behind
Car Rental Policy

Notre Dame does not permit undergraduate students to own, rent, or operate motor vehicles while abroad, including motorcycles. Hitchhiking and long-distance bicycle riding are strongly discouraged.

Faculty and Staff: When considering transportation options for your travel locations, please be sure to review the Risk Management & Safety's - Vehicle Use Abroad On University Business document.

App-Based Ride Sharing Services

Research ride-sharing services at your destination before travel.

While app-based ride-sharing services are available in many countries around the world and are generally considered safe, they are not advised in certain locations due to security concerns. In some locations, their legal status is often unclear, and in other locations, taxi drivers have held demonstrations against app-based services.

  • Confirm the services are legal at your destination.
  • Research if there have been recent protests or controversy over app-based ride sharing services at your destination(s).
  • Always confirm the driver’s identity before getting in.
  • Refrain from using the ‘pool’ option and confirm no other passengers will be picked up.

Public Transportation

Before using public transport, check if it is recommended and safe to do so. Research your transport options and journey plan.

  • Avoid sitting in empty carriages. Move to where other people are.
  • Stay alert throughout the journey.
  • Keep your valuables secured with luggage in sight.
  • If you are worried about your safety or are uneasy, move seats and/or ask for help.
  • Enter/exit buses, trains, subways quickly – do not loiter.

Pedestrian Safety

Research if it is safe to walk around at your destination at all times of day. Keep the following considerations in mind:

  • Avoid walking alone, especially after dark.
  • Use pedestrian crosswalks and look both ways.
  • Stick to main streets and avoid alleyways and shortcuts.
  • Walk facing oncoming traffic.
  • Identify safe locations along your route, such as banks, hotels, or restaurants. Use these locations to stop and make phone calls or look up directions on your mobile phone, as opposed to performing these actions on the street.
  • Keep valuable items in secure in a zipped compartment or front pocket. Consider wearing a money belt/chest pouch under your clothes. Carry your bag on the side of your body away from the street.

Accommodations

  • Always use lodging with high guest ratings and quality (recent) reviews.
  • Maintain a high level of personal identifiable information (PII) security.
  • Secure your belongings.
  • Read the fire plan and walk the route to the exit.
  • Unless you are expecting someone, do not open your door.
  • At night, keep your grab bag/backpack ready to go.
Safe Room Checklist
  • Deadbolt
  • Peephole
  • Smoke detector
  • Check your windows lock
  • No adjoining doors
  • No connected balconies

Information Security

Basic information security tips to consider every time you travel:

Before travel
  • Research any cyber threats specific to your destination and implement mitigation strategies.
  • Review the University’s IT Security for International Travel Standard.
  • Review Traveling with Two Step Login on the OIT webpage.
  • Always maintain a high-level of Personal Identifiable Information (PII) security. Avoid advertising online the exact location/purpose of your trip.
  • Ensure all software on your devices is up-to-date.
During travel
  • Avoid connecting to non-secure networks (public WiFi hotspots).
  • Maintain control of your devices and sensitive information at all times.
  • Keep your laptop with you as carry-on luggage and do not lend it to anyone you do not know.
After travel
  • If you believe your devices were accessed inappropriately or compromised in any way, ask the IT service desk to check for signs of cyber-attack.

Socializing

ALCOHOL AND DRUG CONSUMPTION LOWERS INHIBITIONS AND MAKES RISK-TAKING AND ACCIDENTS MORE LIKELY.

Drinking

Educate yourself about alcohol consumption abroad and why it can be particularly dangerous. Also, try to understand how alcohol is consumed locally. Certain drinking behaviors may identify you as an outsider, making you a target for crime.

Illegal Drugs

Illegal drug use brings severe consequences in many international locations. Know the consequences and review the US. Department of State’s country-specific information for your destination(s).

Remember the following
  • Be aware of local laws and customs and respect them.
  • Stay in small groups and keep an eye out for each other.
  • Be aware of your surroundings and trust your instincts.
  • Be aware of alcohol content and serving size (it differs).
  • Pace your drinks; pay attention to your body. Eat before and while drinking.
  • Watch your food and drinks; do not let them out of your sight.
  • Know how you plan to get home.

Water Safety

Water safety abroad can be very different than what we are used to in the U.S. For instance, there may be no lifeguards on duty or warning signs on beaches.

Before participating in water activities, please review the following beach and water safety tips from the United States Lifesaving Association (USLA):

  • Learn to Swim
  • Swim Near a Lifeguard
  • Swim with a Buddy
  • Check with the Lifeguards
  • Use Sunscreen and Drink Water
  • Obey Posted Signs and Flags
  • Learn Rip Current Safety
  • Enter Water Feet First
  • Wear a Life Jacket

Extracurricular Activities & Insurance

If you choose to participate in inherently risky activities, such as jet skiing, boating, skiing, scuba diving, or hang gliding, be aware that you do so at your own risk and University insurance does not cover issues related to these activities.

Consider buying supplemental insurance, as treatment for accidents can cost millions of dollars.

Personal Travel

  • Always register any personal travel and confirm health insurance coverage.
  • Always tell your emergency contact.
  • Always tell someone locally where you are going and when you will be back. Leave a contact phone number and address.
  • Don’t travel alone.
  • Read the fine print with budget airlines and check airline safety records.
  • Always use lodging with high guest ratings and quality (recent) reviews.
  • Always review U.S. Department of State and CDC warnings prior to booking travel.
  • Don’t cut corners (or costs) when it comes to your personal safety.

Contact NDI (travelregistry@nd.edu) with any questions or concerns about destinations.

Crimes Abroad & Theft Prevention

ONE IN SIX STUDENTS HAS SOMETHING LOST OR STOLEN DURING THEIR INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL.

Travelers are often targeted by criminals because foreigners do not stick around long enough to assist police in an investigation.

Protect Yourself Against Theft
  • Cash: Bring with you out and about only the amount of money you want to spend. Leave the rest in a secure place (locked away or hidden in your room).
  • Valuables: Divide up your valuables; have only one credit card with you at a time. Consider buying a neck pouch, a fanny pack or a money belt to secure your valuables on the go. Leave unneeded valuables in a secure area when possible, including your passport and copies of all credit cards.
  • Passport: Do not carry your original passport with you unless mandated by your circumstances (i.e. no safe place to leave it traveling internationally or when in a country like Israel that requires you to carry it at all times).
  • Property Insurance: Obtain property insurance coverage (optional) through ND Risk Management. Some individual homeowner or rental insurance policies may assist with the replacement of lost or stolen items. Contact them directly. Typically, the company will require a police report to file a claim.
  • Do not use unsecured internet connection for private matters like banking and paying bills.
Armed robbery

If you find yourself in this type of situation, try to remember to following:

  • Stay calm.
  • Comply with all demands – even if it means handing over your wallet or handbag.
  • Don't make sudden moves – tell the attacker/s what you are doing.
  • Don't resist, fight or challenge the attacker/s.
If you become a victim of a crime abroad
  • Seek safety.
  • Assess the situation and report the crime to:

Sexual Assault

Unfortunately, sexual harassment and assault happen to college students abroad just like it happens here in the U.S. Reporting is even less common when it comes to incidents abroad.

Educate and Protect Yourself
  • Research cultural and social norms before you go and respect the local customs.
  • Remember that you are a visitor in another country.
  • Walk with a purpose.
  • Always try to stay with a group when exploring and avoid walking alone, especially at night.
  • Be aware of your surroundings.
  • Create boundaries even if it may seem rude or unfriendly; protecting yourself is important.
  • Be mindful of your alcohol intake.
  • Trust your instincts.
  • Don’t allow yourself to be isolated with someone you don’t trust or someone you don’t know.
Reporting a Sexual Assault
  • Speak up! Review your options and receive guidance.
  • Work with your passport-affiliated embassy to learn more about reporting to local law enforcement while abroad; laws are different and the consequences of reporting can be severe.
Confidential Resources
  • GeoBlue Insurance offers 24/7 confidential assistance for both physical and mental health needs.
  • Sexual Assault Support and Help for Americans Abroad (SASHAA) offers 24/7 confidential assistance.
  • Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) has an online chat for support (however, RAINN is not able to provide information about local resources abroad).

Protests & Demonstrations

Because the U.S. Department of State may not issue warning notifications on smaller demonstrations, be sure to follow local and breaking news sources for your area to stay informed of events potentially disruptive to your travel plans.

  • Avoid all protests and demonstrations as a routine security precaution.
  • In areas where protests and demonstrations are common, ask your local contact at least 24 hours in advance of any known events and possible disruptions.
  • Follow local news sources to stay abreast of protests or demonstrations in your area.

If you find yourself in the midst of a violent protest or gathering: 

  • Identify the source of the disturbance.
  • Look for an escape route.
  • Find a safe location and communicate.
  • Be wary of the security forces as much as protesters.

Terrorism

As terrorist attacks and other violence often take place without any warning, Notre Dame travelers should maintain a high level of vigilance and take appropriate, proactive steps to increase their situational awareness when traveling.

Terrorist groups, their associates, and those inspired by such organizations are intent on attacking U.S. and Western citizens around the world. Extremists may use conventional or non-conventional weapons to strike U.S. interests, but many are increasingly using less sophisticated methods of attack to more effectively target crowds, including the use of edged weapons, pistols, and vehicles.

Extremists are increasingly assaulting “soft” targets, such as:

  • high-profile public events (sporting contests, political rallies, demonstrations, holiday events, celebratory gatherings, etc.)
  • hotels, clubs, and restaurants 
  • places of worship
  • schools 
  • parks
  • shopping malls and markets
  • tourism infrastructure
  • public transportation systems
  • airports

The following recommendations may help you when responding to an incident: 

  • Immediately depart the scene by a direct route in the opposite direction of any threat.
  • Find a safe location. Move only if necessary to gain a more secure location.
  • Try to communicate out as soon it is safe to do so. SMS texts have a longer latency and stand a better chance of reaching any recipient in an affected area. However mobile (cellular) communications networks might be unworkable, either as the volume of traffic increases, or as emergency responders reserve the network for their own purposes. Landline services are an alternative.
  • Seek medical assistance, if necessary.
  • Continue to try to communicate in a safe place.
  • Do not leave the secure location without notifying someone of your plans.

Explosions or likely terrorist attacks:

  • Find solid cover and get behind it.
  • Look for an escape route.
  • Move in short bursts, from cover to cover.
  • Find a safe location and communicate.

Natural Disasters

Before Travel
  • Research the natural hazard risks at your destination(s). Ensure you know what to do in the event of an emergency.
  • Familiarize yourself with the community's disaster warning system and know the location of, and how to reach, any designated emergency shelters.
  • Sign up for STEP or your government’s relative warden network.
  • On arrival, prepare a grab bag to take with you should a move at short notice be required. The bag should be light enough carry easily and should contain the following at a minimum:
    • Travel-sized first aid kit
    • Prescription medicines
    • A small amount of cash (small denomination bills)
    • Photocopies of essential documents in a zip-lock bag (passport, visa, driver's license, list of important phone numbers and addresses)
During Travel
  • Monitor the local and breaking news to stay informed about watches, warnings and associated restrictions.