Travel safety tips to take note of when you’re overseas

With holiday plans being inextricably woven into recent lunchtime chatter, you might already have entire itineraries planned in your head. However, it’s important to stay vigilant during our travels especially given that we’re in a foreign environment. This means dialling our common sense and awareness up a notch while having a whale of a time overseas. 

Before you lock in your flight tickets and accommodations, here are some travel safety tips to keep in mind. Being a tad kia si doesn’t hurt, especially when you’re stumbling headlong into a foreign environment.

1. Educate yourself on common tourist scams

Cash In Hand

More often than not, you’ll bump into a swindling cheat or two regardless of where your travels might take you. A quick Google search will lay bare all the typical travel scams they’ll employ to get their grubby hands on your money.

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The scam in action. If you’re thick-skinned enough like this traveller, you might be able to out-hustle the conman.

One that’s popular in Europe will see a street peddler offering you free hand-crafted souvenirs, in the form of a bracelet or necklace. Once they’ve draped it on your body, they’ll then demand money for it. Refusal to fork up the cash will result in the hustler causing a big scene. Our advice? Just turn them away; nothing’s truly free in this world.

Imposter Police In Indonesia - Travel Safety Tips
What a legit police officer looks like in Bali. Take note of the “Polisi” decals; imposters will have “Police” written in English all over their vehicles instead.
Image credit: The Bali Sun

Other scams to be aware of include money changers who’ll pocket extra notes with sleight of hand, and charlatans “cosplaying” as local law enforcement, demanding that you fork over your passports. These ploys are just some of the infamous Bali travel scams to take note of, but a watchful eye and prior research will see through their ruse in no time.

2. Protect yourself from pickpockets with anti-theft products

Pickpocketing is one of the most common forms of thievery tourists will face on vacation. Proficient criminals need just the slightest contact to be well on their way with your wallets.

Empty Bag - Travel Safety Tips

For starters, avoid using the back pockets of your pants, and sling your bags across the body to make things difficult for pickpockets. Also, don’t stray too close to the road, unless you want to be a victim of a drive-by robbery. 

Top tip: On top of protecting your cash and belongings, you can safeguard your finances digitally by making use of bank app functions. For instance, DBS/POSB Cardmembers can use their digibank app to instantly lock their card with a tap via Payment Controls. It comes in handy when you accidentally misplace your card while abroad.

Metal Carabiners - Travel Safety Tips

You can also make small purchases to further thieve-proof your stuff. Use metal carabiners to tether your bags to your belt loops as an added security measure, or opt for “invisible” money belts that are worn under your clothes to stash your valuables. 

3. Only eat freshly cooked street food when unsure of cleanliness

Roadside Restaurant In Thailand - Travel Safety Tips

It’s only customary to indulge in the local cuisine while travelling, but having to hit the loo every 10 minutes because of food poisoning is no fun. One way to know for sure if your street grub will rest easy in the stomach is to ensure that it is freshly prepared.

Roadside Stall In China - Travel Safety Tips
You can cherry-pick stalls which allow you to have an honest look at how the food is being prepared.
Image credit: @guillaume_sergent8 via Instagram

A piping hot dish or drink means that it’s right out of the kitchen; lingering bacteria would have been killed off in the cooking process, and it also means it hasn’t been sitting out in the open for goodness knows how long. 

You’ll want to avoid ice cubes from roadside stalls too. Ask for vendors not to add ice into your drinks, as those could’ve been made from contaminated water sources. 

4. Have a print-out copy of nearby embassies & hotlines

Writing Hotlines Down - Travel Safety Tips

It’s always good to have a contingency plan that you can fall on when, touch wood, disaster strikes during your supposed time-off. That’s why embassies exist, to help expats and holiday-goers alike when things go awry in unfamiliar territory. 

We recommend carrying along a print-out of important addresses of nearby embassies, police stations, and hospitals so you’ll know where to head for help in dire situations. You should also note down local emergency hotlines, as dialling 999 or 911 might not connect you to the relevant authorities when you’re in a different country. 

5. Carry legal self-defence tools in areas of high crime rates

You can never err too much on the side of caution when you’re overseas. When you’ve no choice but to pass through sketchy areas of town, having a trusty self-defence tool can really set your mind at ease.

Tactical Flashlights - Travel Safety Tips
Image credit: @nitecoresg via Instagram

No, we’re not talking about arming yourself to the teeth with firearms to deter trouble. Instead, carry something small, and most importantly, legal, such as a personal attack alarm that gives off a blaring sound when activated to draw attention to yourself.

Other tools that won’t get you in trouble with the law include tactical flashlights with a high enough lumen output. Some even come with strobe light settings to further disorientate assailants, and they’re often hefty enough to give bad guys a good bop when they get close.

6. Avoid partying alone by joining community events online

Enjoying Drinks With Friends - Travel Safety Tips

The saying “safety in numbers” rings especially true for those going on a solo sojourn. It’s always nice knowing that someone has your back, since nights tend to get a little crazy as soon as alcohol is involved. If you plan on making a beeline for the clubs and bars, try looking online for like-minded party lovers to link up with.

For some direction on where to look, perusing Facebook groups is a good start to find fellow backpackers. Search strings like “travel buddies/expats in [insert destination]” will pull up countless options, so pick a motley crew that you think you can vibe with. is also another helpful resource to find gatherings hosted within the countries of your travels. Feel free to join one of them for a day, and you’ll find an eclectic mix of locals who know their stuff, and other travellers with stories of their own to share. 

7. Be wary of dubious free Wi-Fi hotspots

Hacker - Travel Safety Tips

Having a connection to the internet is invaluable on your trips; how else are your followers going to know you’ve touched down on Hokkaido’s snow-capped mountains? Before you update your IG stories, be careful when it comes to picking which Wi-Fi to connect to.

Hackers have been reported to set up “free” Wi-Fi spots to lure the unsuspecting to connect to them. Passwords saved in browsers are at risk of being stolen when you use these innocuous hotspots, so only connect to Wi-Fi from trusted sources, like your hotel. You can also opt to use travel eSIMs with data roaming, to eliminate the risk of compromising your personal data.

8. Always go for licensed taxis or ride hailing apps

When you’re traversing countries which are many times the size of our Little Red Dot, sometimes the only feasible way to get to your destination is to flag down a private hire cab. However, you also have to stay vigilant when you hop into a taxi, as scheming drivers are known to scam unsuspecting travellers of their cash.

Grab App

Consider only getting into cabs with meters, so that fares will be explicitly stated in black and white. You can also choose to ride with only official taxis. Get your hotel to call one for you, or spot them by their vehicle’s colour code; for example, Bangkok’s ones are a vibrant pink.

Using ride-hailing apps like Grab or Uber is also recommended, as the fees are predetermined, and the drivers on these platforms are vetted thoroughly. Being able to fall back on customer service is also a major plus.

9. Avoid “shady” neighbourhoods when booking accommodation

Shady Neighbourhood
Image credit: @maki_deep via Instagram

Like doing research in order to combat conmen, you’ll want to do your homework when it comes to booking your accommodations. While Singaporeans often joke about Yishun’s fair share of quirky incidents, it doesn’t hold a candle when compared to some of the more seedier neighbourhoods overseas.

Do a quick lookup on the internet and try to avoid arranging for stays near areas rife with felonious goings-on. Even tourist-filled cities like New York and London will have patches here and there that you wouldn’t want to find yourself in when the sun’s down.

Protect your finances while on holiday with DBS Payment Controls

After a year’s worth of toil, we most definitely deserve that dreamy EOY retreat. However, we’ve got to follow some travel safety guidelines to ensure that the holiday high doesn’t peter out prematurely.

Rather than wagering against Murphy’s Law, travel with peace of mind with the DBS Payment Controls functions on their digibank app. By tapping “More” under the “Home” tab, scroll down to “Manage Cards & Loans” in DBS digibank app, you’ll find Payment Controls functions, and be able to easily temporarily lock or unlock your cards.

DBS Payment ControlsTo access it, tap on “More” under the “Home” tab, and scroll down to “Manage Cards & Loans”.

Firstly, you’ll be able to secure your cards by temporarily locking and unlocking them as you see fit. This feature is particularly handy when you’ve clicked on a phish-y link and want to play it safe, or if you’re looking for a misplaced card and don’t want to outright cancel it just yet.

DBS Payment Controls Setting Spending LimitsFor the most fervent of shoppers, you can even set spending limits to ensure that you don’t have to start incorporating grass into your post-vacation diet. 

There are also a slew of other options available at your fingertips. For example, you can disable transactions that are made in-store overseas; helpful when you’re already back in Singapore and want an added layer of protection against fraud abroad. 

Another top tip is to utilise the nifty Security Checkup feature – accessible via the homepage of the digibank app – to view and track your key security settings. From there, you’ll be presented with recommended actions to take to strengthen your security and minimise your chances of falling prey to scams. 

Enjoying Overseas Trip

Money-related mishaps are an absolute killjoy, whether we’re living our best lives partying at lively beach clubs in Phuket, or conquering the alps of Harbin. That’s why we have to cover our backsides with measures like digibank app’s payment controls.

Make sure to turn on your digibank notification alerts and, if all else fails, tackle frauds head-on by ringing the DBS Fraud Reporting hotline ASAP at 1800 339 6963. By keeping our finances in check, we can eschew all worries during offshore respites and truly kick back with the fam.

Find out more about DBS Payment Controls

This post was brought to you by DBS.
Photography by Sherlyn Lee Si Hui.
Cover image adapted from: @guillaume_sergent8 via Instagram

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