You don’t have to be scared if you’re about to travel abroad to teach English. You’ve done your TEFL course and gotten your certificate and now you’re itching to get going. Travelling is a fantastic way of pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and finding out more about yourself. You will probably be hearing horror stories from your nervous family and friends as they try and dissuade you from your travel aspirations. Reassure them that you have done your research and that you will be perfectly fine, but make sure you do your research.
Here are our list of top tips to take with you on your travels that will help you stay safe while teaching English abroad.
Where’s Your Embassy
Before you go to any destination, make a note of where your nearest embassy is and mark it down in Google Maps or know how to reach it if you ever need to.
Know Your Destination
Every country and city has certain areas where you should stay clear of. Learn where the crime hotspots are and avoid them. Some countries in South East Asia are notorious for motorcyclists snatching bags from unaware pedestrians. Community pages and the Foreign Office is a good source of information on official travel advice.
Your passport and driving license are your most important documents that you will be travelling with. You should make photocopies of both and store them in separate places to your official documents. Take photos of them so that if you decide to go on a staycation, rather than risk bringing your passport with you, you can send the check-in desk the soft copy version.
Keep Little Cash On You
Try to travel with only the cash that you actually need on you. Sign up for bank cards, like Revolut, which doesn’t charge transaction fees, so that you can keep most of your money in your bank card and use it when you need without suffering from huge bank fees.
Invest in a money belt before you travel that can be attached to your waist and hidden underneath your clothing. Pickpocketing is notorious in highly populated cities where people are forced into tight spaces. Criminals target these types of situations to lift your wallet or purse, so be aware at all times.
Notify Your Bank
Let your bank know of your travel plans and have the bank’s emergency number. The last thing you want to happen while you’re abroad is for something to happen to your bank card. This could be anything from being sucked up by an ATM machine, blocked or copied for fraud. These situations can be a nightmare to deal with on the spot due to different time zones and various bank policies.
Financial Management Apps
Have the relevant apps of your bank accounts and cards on your phone. Make it a habit to check regularly your transaction history to make sure that your card number hasn’t been lifted and you are a victim of fraud. If you do notice anything unusual, contact your bank immediately. By keeping a regular eye on your bank accounts through your phone apps, you can lessen any potential losses by catching it early.
A safety fund is not one that you dip into to pay for groceries or to treat yourself to a nice meal. It is a hidden bundle of emergency cash for if the worst should happen and your bank cards are stolen, or you’ve had to cancel them for fraud. This stash will help you to stay safe so you can continue teaching abroad with minimum disruption to your life until you’re able to get your new bank cards issued. It’s also a good idea to keep emergency phone numbers in your safety fund’s hiding place.
Be Aware of Scams and Fraud
Always keep your card in your sight. Some places, when it comes to paying, might want to bring your card with them. It could be harmless, but ask that they bring the portable machine down to you. Always remember to shield your pin and never write it down. Be aware of tampering or people loitering around ATM machines.
There are foreign exchange counters who will try to give you less than what you’re actually owed. To make sure that this doesn’t happen to you, try keeping any exchanges of your money at reputable places such as banks. Always count your cash carefully before leaving the counter. Check the exchange rate online and have an idea of what you’ll be owed before you go.
Learn to Ask for Help
If you’re in any sort of trouble, it is useful if you know some of the basics of the country’s language that you’re teaching English in. Just some words and phrases can help someone understand what type of assistance you need.
It’s also useful to write down the address you’re staying at in both languages. Some hotel chains may have several hotels within the area and you could be brought to the wrong one if you don’t know the right address.
Download Google Offline Maps of your area so that you always have a working map. If you use any sort of taxi service and you feel uncomfortable, keep an eye on the direction you’re going using the map. If you’re getting around via scooter, travel via the directions given by car and not motorbike. The directions by motorbike can bring you along unsafe dirt paths and sometimes these off-road routes are ambush points for waiting gangs.
Bring Little Valuables
Flashy jewellery and anything of high value is going to make you stand out and a target. Especially if you’re alone. One of the key bits of advice to stay safe while you are abroad is to not attract unwanted attention. If you’re backpacking while teaching English online or are teaching English as a foreign language in a school for only a year, you can leave those valuables back at home safe with your family. The items of value that you do choose to travel with, keep them discreet when you’re out. Best thing is to store them somewhere safe in your accommodation and take a picture of each item. If the worst should happen and they’re stolen, these records will help you file a police report.
Travel and Health Insurance
Arrange appropriate travel and health insurance before you go anywhere. Ensure that you are covered in the event of loss or theft and for accidents. This could end up reimbursing you if your valuables are stolen or save you thousands in hospital fees.