- Do your research. Before you go overseas, go to the State Department’s or Minister of Foreign Affairs Or Ministry of External Affairs website and look up what it has to say about your intended destination. If they advise you not to go, don’t go. And don’t let anyone in your family go either. Check the latest travel advisories regularly and follow them.
- Connect with the Embassy. Before you get on the plane, register for the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program if applicable in your country or any other program. In the event of a threat, the Embassy will be able to alert you. In the aftermath of a terrorist event or a natural disaster, you’ll want the Embassy to know you’re in-country so they can provide aid or help you get out if necessary.
- Get local. Watch the local news in-country, or find an English language local source. Monitor Twitter and other social media sites. They won’t always have accurate information, but they’ll alert you to activity in areas you need to avoid. And you do need to avoid large crowds, political gatherings, protests and riots. This should be obvious, no? But all too often, curious onlookers are injured because they followed a crowd and found themselves in a dangerous situation.
- All individuals planning travel should seek advice on the potential hazards in their chosen destinations and understand how best to protect their health and minimize the risk of acquiring disease. Forward planning, appropriate preparation and careful precautions can protect their health and minimize the risks of accident and of acquiring disease.
- Prep the kids. My family practices for specific scenarios—everything from a fire or a bomb (follow police evacuation instructions) to a missed metro stop (go one more stop, get off and don’t move; we’ll come to you). We can’t know what scenario, if any, they’ll face, but we want our children to know that they need to avoid large crowds, pay attention to their surroundings and trust their instincts—if they see something or someone that seems strange, they need to tell an adult and get away from the situation. Will all of this talk scare them? Probably, yes. But do it anyway. You don’t want your child to freeze in an emergency.
- Test the kids. When you’re out in the city, have one of your children lead you back to your hotel or house. They need to know how to get back where they started if they lose sight of you.
- Keep your phones charged. You and your children should have fully-charged cell phones with all important numbers plugged in. By all means, invest in some portable chargers. But you need to remember that the phone system could be overloaded in a true emergency. They need to have your phone number and address memorized, and they need to know what to do if the phones stop working. (Older kids can find their way home without; younger kids can look for a mom with a baby or a policeman and ask for help.)
- Organise your finances to cover your planned travel. Consider what’s in your wallet. You and your children should each carry identification and cash in the local currency at all times. Tuck a hotel card in each child’s pocket when you go out, or print up cards with your home address. Make sure your credit card has a low balance, in case you need to buy a plane ticket, or several, out of the country in an emergency.
- Obey the laws of the country you’re visiting (even if these appear harsh or unfair by Indian standards). Don’t expect to be treated differently from the locals.
- Snap a photo. Take a picture of each child on your phone before you go out touring in a crowded location—it will be a lot easier for local police to find your child if they have a current picture that shows what they were wearing when you saw them last.
- Forewarned is forearmed. Thinking about everything that could possibly go wrong can be overwhelming. But knowing that you have thought ahead and prepared as best as you could will give you and your children a sense of power. Talking to your children in an age-appropriate way about the plans you’ve made, will help the whole family sleep better at night.
- Don’t forget the big things. These days, everyone worries about terrorists and bombs on planes. But, despite what you may think after reading the news, those aren’t the real threats to families overseas. If you really want to keep your family safe, you’re better off worrying about whether you have the required vaccinations for your destination. Buckle your seatbelts.
- Make sure your medical insurance includes medical evacuation insurance. Take appropriate travel and comprehensive medical insurance that covers you for any unexpected costs; make sure you have sought medical advice for health concerns, have up to date vaccinations and, if you’re carrying pharmaceutical products or medicines from India, make sure they are allowed in the country you are visiting.
- Make sure your passport is valid (with at least six months validity from your planned date of return to India) and will not expire when you are overseas.
Protect your passport and report it promptly if it is lost, stolen or damaged.
- Carry extra passport photos in case your passport is lost or stolen and you need to replace it while you’re away.
Make copies of your passport (including visa pages), insurance policy, traveller’s cheques, visas and credit card numbers. Carry one copy in a separate place away from the originals and also leave a copy with someone at home.
- Pay attention to your surroundings. And don’t drink the water unless you’re absolutely certain it’s safe.
- Familiarise yourself with the countries you are visiting.Take personal responsibility for your travel choices, your safety, finances and behaviour overseas, including obeying the laws of the country you are visiting.
Make sure you have the right visas for the countries you are visiting or transiting and check any other entry or exit requirements.
- Keep in contact with friends and family back home and leave a copy of your insurance policy details and your overseas itinerary with them.
- In case your stay in a foreign country is for a reasonable length of time, register with the local Indian Embassy/Consulate before leaving India or soon after arrival, to get better access to consular assistance and updates. (Students can register on the Students’ Module of MADAD – under construction)
- Treat consular staff with respect and be honest in providing the Embassy/Consulate with all relevant information when seeking our assistance.
- If you get arrested or detained for some reason, insist on Consular access (under the Vienna Convention) to a representative from the nearest Indian Embassy/Consulate.
References: mea.gov.in, who.int, travelandleisure.com