Personal Safety

Your personal safety is most important while you are traveling abroad. It is a good idea to familiarize yourself with basic local information about transportation, accommodation, culture and custom, the political situation, and so on, before you leave.

You will need to do some research about the country you are travelling to and consider your options before deciding which method is best for you. For example, is it a cash-based society or can you readily use debit and credit cards?


Managing your money while overseas can be more complicated than at home.

Your first step should be to research your destination: What are the average costs there? How much will you need to budget per month? For your entire stay? You can use websites such as Expatistan to see the average cost of living in comparison to Toronto.

Next you should consider how you will access money – Is it a cash-based society? Do most places accept credit cards? Where will you withdraw or exchange money? In some cases, the Travel Advisory for your destination will note these differences.

Before leaving the country, you should:

  • Notify your bank and credit card company of your travel plans so you don’t get blocked from your account while abroad.
  • Confirm any fees that are involved for withdrawals, transfers, exchange rates, etc. for your credit cards or debit cards.
  • Plan to bring at least two cards with you in case one doesn’t work.
  • Prepare enough currency for the first few days, and especially for your first day, in case your plans to withdraw money are interrupted.
  • Set up an emergency fund that you can draw from if needed.

Before travelling, you can plan ahead how you will protect your money while you are overseas.

First, make sure to plan and book your travel early. You should also arrange your accommodation before you leave for your trip to make sure that you don’t have to pay in cash when you arrive.

Research ahead of time any rules around carrying money across borders. Are you able to bring cash with you? How much can you bring? You should also consider how you will access money when you first arrive in your destination. Where will you withdraw cash? Can you use your cards everywhere?

Before your trip, you may want to consider:

  • Exchanging some currency and carry some cash with you for any initial expenses (e.g. food, transportation, SIM cards). You can’t guarantee that you will be able to easily exchange money when you first arrive, especially if you are jet lagged and not a native speaker of the language.
  • How will you be carrying your money? Consider bringing a money belt with you and make sure large amounts of currency are not kept in one place.
  • If you are travelling to a place where theft is common, you may want to pack an extra wallet to use as a decoy.
  • Pay close attention to any bags you might be carrying, especially those in which you will carry money. Bags that can be zipped are generally safer than open designs; avoid carrying valuables in any bag that can’t be properly closed. Depending on your destination, you might also want to consider bags with solid straps and/or bags made from thick materials that are difficult to cut or rip.

When in your destination:

  • Break up your money into a manageable amount (e.g. into smaller coins and bills).
  • Having a money belt is helpful, but never treat it like your purse! Do not take money out from it in public; instead, go to the bathroom to withdraw money if you are out in public.
  • Do not use large bills, or at least do not carry them with the bills you will be frequently taking out in public to pay for things. If you are carrying high value currency, put it into a separate section of your wallet so you don’t show it to others.
  • Use a decoy wallet in areas with high levels of theft.

Before travelling, you should first know where to withdraw money. In most, but not all, places, you will be using an ATM to withdraw cash.

Do not assume that you will be able to find an ATM as soon as you arrive, or that your credit card will work without any issues. Always carry enough cash with you for your initial expenses, such as the trip from the airport to your accommodation, initial payment for your accommodation, and enough for food or snacks for the first day.

While overseas you may need to know to which network your cards belong. Generally speaking there are two international divisions of cards: the Cirrus/Maestro (Mastercard) and PLUS (Visa) networks. When looking for an ATM, you may need to do a quick check: usually the Cirrus or PLUS symbols will be displayed somewhere on the outside of the machine, indicating which kinds of cards can be used to withdraw money. Some ATMs will only have one symbol, while others may accept both networks.

An ATM sign showing the Visa, Plus, Mastercard, Maestro, Cirrus, American Express, Diner's Club, JCB, Union Pay, and Discovery logos.

Would you be able to use your credit card at this machine? How about your debit card?

Your bank may have agreements with foreign banks, allowing customers to use certain foreign ATMs at reduced fees. You may want to check for this possibility, as well as research whether such banks are close to your accommodation (in some cases, such banks may only be located in major cities or downtown areas).

To avoid surprises, check what fees will be involved when withdrawing money overseas. Keep in mind that you may not only be charged fees by your own bank, but also by the owner of the ATM. Sometimes it can work out cheaper to make a few large withdrawals instead of multiple small ones, but make sure you have a safe place to store cash, avoid withdrawing large bills, and avoid carrying all of your cash with you. If you withdraw large bills, make sure to break them into smaller ones as soon as possible.

Be aware that not only will there be withdrawal limits, but there usually are also daily limits on the amount of cash you can withdraw. If you are paying large bills (e.g. for your accommodation), plan ahead to ensure that you don’t miss payment deadlines.

You should also review what the usual PIN lengths are in your destination, not only for withdrawals, but also for payments. Average PIN length can differ depending on your destination. If you remember your PIN by letters, you should memorize the numbers, as many ATMs only have numbered keyboards.

Be sure to have a plan for what to do if an ATM eats your card or refuses it. Make sure to bring more than one card and have cash on hand.


Useful Links:

https://travel.gc.ca/air/travelling-money

Know how to contact your bank and credit card company while overseas. Write down the international phone numbers and keep them in a safe place, separate from your cards. Keep your card numbers written down too, if you can’t access the numbers online, so you will be able to provide them when the cards are stolen.

While overseas, keep a close eye on your accounts. Make sure to check for any unauthorized transactions and report them as soon as you can.

Avoid using your debit card to make purchases as much as possible. Instead, use cash or your credit card.

Read more about preventing debit card fraud.

Pay close attention to your surroundings when withdrawing money at an ATM, and always cover the keypad with your hand or wallet when entering the PIN.

Be careful with your PIN, whether it is for your credit or debit card. Always block others from seeing which keys you press, never write down your PIN, and never give information about your PIN to others.

Keep your card in sight at all times. If someone asks for your credit card to make a payment, always stay with the card and pay close attention to how it is being used.

When shopping online, check for the padlock image in the address bar or for an “https” web address. Only use trusted websites and avoid using public or insecure WiFi to do your shopping. Read more about safe online shopping.

If you lose your credit card, or if you suspect the information has been stolen, call your credit card company or bank immediately. Pay close attention to your statements for any fraudulent activity and unauthorized transactions.

When reporting potential fraud, keep detailed records and make notes of any unauthorized transactions. When speaking with the bank or credit card company, make sure to write down the name of the person you spoke with and when you spoke with them.

Read more about preventing credit card fraud.


Useful Links:

https://www.canada.ca/en/financial-consumer-agency/services/debit-fraud.html

https://www.canada.ca/en/financial-consumer-agency/services/credit-fraud.html

https://www.getcybersafe.gc.ca/cnt/prtct-yrslf/prtctn-mn/nln-shpng-en.aspx

Travelers tend to be the targets of money related scams because of their unfamiliarity with the local currency and its value. For example, the following issues tend to commonly effect travelers:

A hand holding a collection of bank notes of different values.

Slow Change – Dishonest cashiers know that foreign visitors are often distracted, are less familiar with the local currency, and may not notice incorrect change. Watch out for slow counting cashiers, who hope that you will give up waiting and leave early, or for cashiers who hand you a huge pile of coins in the hopes that you won’t count them. Another trick used by dishonest cashiers is to pretend that you gave them a smaller bill in the first place. Familiarize yourself with local currency, have patience when cashiers are counting, and make sure you count it carefully yourself.

An electronic board displaying exchange rates for different currencies.Currency Exchanges – The value of a currency exchange can change pretty frequently between shops, but if there is a place that seems to be offering an unbelievably good deal, far better than anybody else, then it is more likely to be fraudulent. In other cases, currency exchange shops can take advantage of your lack of knowledge to charge you far more than average. Know your exchange rates, check them frequently, and avoid any places that seem completely different from the rate you know.

 

A person at a cash register tapping their card against a payment machine held out by the staff member.Skimming/Shimming – ‘Skimming’ is when thieves attach a device to the card readers, either at ATMs, or at other places where the device is unlikely to be noticed (e.g. gas stations). The device then reads your card’s information when you swipe the magnetic strip. ‘Shimming’ is an updated version, in which the device reads your chip when you insert a chip-and-pin style card. In order to avoid this, use the tap-and-go feature on your card, if you have one. Avoid using a debit card if it is connected to all of your savings. If you’re using an ATM, make sure to cover the keyboard closely with your spare hand or another object (‘skimming’ often involves tiny cameras pointed at the keyboard). Even better, avoid ATMs altogether and withdraw money inside the bank. When you’re inserting your card, if the machine seems wrong or something seems off, pay in cash or use another machine. In general, keep a close eye on your banking records while overseas, in case of any fraudulent charges.

A blue piggy bank.ATM Helper – Foreign ATMs can sometimes look very different than the ones that you are used to. Not only do you have to adjust to different questions or processes, but you also might have to read everything in another language. Especially when you are in a line, this can become quite a stressful situation. Sometimes a person in the line behind you might offer suggestions to help you speed up the process. While often these tips are genuinely meant to help, you should not accept any help from others. Do not let anybody stand near you while you are using the machine. If they can see the screen, they are too close. Do not let anybody else touch your bank card or press buttons on the machine. Always remember to take your receipts. If people continue to offer advice and gather around you, take your card and walk away.

A stack of silver coins, with a blurry clock behind them.Tourist Prices – Some sellers of goods or services may take advantage of your lack of knowledge to charge you much higher prices than they would charge locals. Especially if you look like a recently arrived tourist or have what locals consider signs of wealth, you may find yourself paying more than your local friends or colleagues. To avoid being tricked out of your cash, make sure to familiarize yourself not only with what the money looks like, but also its general value when purchasing goods.

 

Read more about common scams.


Useful Links:

U of T Campus Police – Little Black Book of Scams

What is ‘shimming’?

What is ‘skimming’?

What should you do if there are fraudulent charges on your card?

What are the two main ATM networks worldwide? How can this influence where I use my card?

How many cards (credit/debit) should you bring with you?

True or False? Withdrawing money after you arrive is better than bringing cash with you.

Why should I inform my bank and/or credit card company that I will be travelling overseas?


What is ‘skimming’?

Skimming is a form of theft where thieves place a small piece of technology into bank machines or other card reading devices to collect your card’s information.

Read more about how to reduce the risk of ‘skimming’: Money-Related Scams.

Back to Top


What should you do if there are fraudulent charges on your card?

You should call your bank or credit card company to report the issue immediately.

Read more about reducing the risk of fraudulent charges: Managing Cards.

Back to Top.


What are the two main ATM networks worldwide? How can this influence where I use my card?

There are two main networks worldwide: Cirrus/Maestro and PLUS. Most credit and debit cards belong to one of these two networks.

Read more about how this may affect your ability to withdraw money: Withdrawing Cash.

Back to Top.


How many cards (credit/debit) should you bring with you?

At least two.

Read about why: Managing Cash.

Back to Top.


True or False? Withdrawing money after you arrive is better than bringing cash with you.

False.

There is no guarantee that you will be able to withdraw money or use your credit card as soon as you arrive. You should make sure to bring enough cash with you at least for the first few days, to ensure that you will be safe and well even if there are issues accessing money.

Read more about what to do before leaving: General Tips.

Back to Top.


Why should I inform my bank and/or credit card company that I will be travelling overseas?

In case you suddenly lose access to your cards.

If your cards are suddenly used overseas, your bank and/or credit card company may assume that your cards have been stolen and immediately freeze or cancel the cards to protect your accounts. If this happens, you will have to contact the company to sort it out, and they may have to reissue cards, meaning that you may be stuck overseas without a way to withdraw money.

Read more about what to do before leaving: General Tips.

Back to Top.

While your personal safety is the priority while overseas, it’s also important to ensure your belongings are safe.


While travelling, we are more vulnerable than usual. We are less familiar with the usual patterns of life overseas, and tend to be distracted by our surroundings, or lack important information. We also tend to carry larger amounts of money, have our cameras or phones with us at all times, and have less understanding of the worth of local currencies.

In short, travelers can be easy targets for scam artists and thieves.

While these tips may also be useful at home, they are especially important to keep in mind while overseas. Remember, awareness is key to preventing thefts!

If you are a victim of theft while overseas, you should:

  • Report the theft to the local authorities and to your hosts.
  • In an emergency, call International SOS.
  • Report the incident to Safety Abroad, and ask for further advice.

Pickpocketing is a fairly common form of theft around the world. While some thieves rely on skill alone to take objects out of your pockets, others will rely on distraction so that you don’t notice what they are doing.

Be especially aware of pickpocketing in crowded areas or near tourist attractions. Pickpockets tend to work in groups, passing stolen objects to other thieves so that they can avoid being identified, so large crowds are particularly alluring. Crowded markets, busy train stations, and any kind of public event are especially loved by pickpockets – they know you will be distracted at these places. As locals tend to be aware that there are pickpockets in these areas and know how to avoid them, tourists are usually more popular targets.

Can you spot the pickpocket in the video below? Hint: bottom left corner of the screen.

While watching the video, did you notice others who might have had things stolen? Why were they particularly vulnerable to theft?

In general, to avoid having your valuables lifted out of your pockets, ensure that your wallet, cellphone, and other objects with monetary value are kept inside bags or in zipped pockets. Even better, leave them at your accommodation. Do not leave your bags unattended. Avoid drawing attention to where your valuables are located (e.g. do not frequently take them out and put them back). As well, do not frequently pat your pockets to check if everything is still there. It’s important to be aware of your belongings, but pickpockets know that someone carefully patting his pocket every time he bumps into somebody is patting something valuable.

If you know you are in an area popular with pickpockets, you may want to consider using a money belt or decoy wallet. With a money belt, you can keep your valuables (including passports, money, credit cards, etc.) inside your clothes and close to your body, carrying only a small amount of cash in your pockets. Having two wallets can also work: carry a second wallet with only a limited amount of money inside and refill it from your actual wallet when you are in a safe place, away from other people.

If you are carrying a purse, ensure that the purse has both a flap and a zipper, so that thieves have to get through two safeguards to get to your wallet. If you are carrying a backpack, wear it on your front, or at least make sure that all valuables are deep inside, buried underneath items you don’t mind losing as much.

Finally, ensure that you have copies of all the information you carry with you on a daily basis. Make copies not only of your passport, visa, and vaccination documents, but also of any banking information (e.g. debit or credit cards) you may be carrying. This information could be stored digitally, so you can access it anytime, or you can also leave the information with someone you trust.

Wondering if your destination has many pickpockets, or what kind of techniques they use? Check out the Safety and Security section of the travel advisory for your country.

One common method of theft is to distract a person before stealing their belongings. For this reason, any object left out on a table or hanging off the chair behind you is a temptation for thieves. Consider the following scenarios:

You’re sitting on the patio when a man comes up to your table, asking if you can help him find a place. He spreads out an enormous map across the table. You point to the most famous place in the city, wondering why he can’t figure this out himself. He thanks you and takes the giant map with him. Your camera, which was on the table, goes with him.

A man standing next to you on the bus suddenly stumbles and falls into you. He apologizes profusely and gets off at the next stop. The wallet in your coat pocket is now gone with him.

At the airport, somebody drops an entire coin purse. The coins bounce everywhere, and you, along with several other people, help pick them up. The person thanks you gratefully. You turn around and your luggage is gone.

Why did these scenarios work? Because the thieves distracted you from your belongings just long enough for them to take the items and walk away. Wondering how that could be possible? Try the selective attention test below.

Given that it’s so easy to get distracted, how can you avoid these kinds of thefts?

First, keep your belongings, especially high value items like cellphones, cameras, or wallets inside your bags. Are you sitting down? Put your purse or backpack immediately in front of your legs, wrap a strap around your leg, or rest it on your lap. Looking at your phone or camera? If you put it down, put it on your lap. If somebody approaches you, ensure you put one hand on your belongings and keep it there.

Never keep your valuables in coat pockets, backpack pockets, or anywhere else that can be quickly and easily accessed. Store your wallet inside your bag. It may take longer to get out, but that means it takes more effort to steal. If you are travelling somewhere with high levels of theft, considering having two wallets: one with your cash and cards, and another that you use frequently with only a little money in it. You can always refill your second wallet with more cash when you go to the bathroom.

While travelling with suitcases, ensure you are not overwhelmed with the amount of luggage you have to watch. You ideally should have one hand free at all times. Keep a hand, a foot, or even a leg on your suitcase at all times, especially when you are resting or if you are waiting in a line. People may kindly offer to carry your luggage for you. It’s better to decline than watch someone sprint away with your suitcase. If your bag is too heavy, consider taking the elevator instead if that is an option.

The following video demonstrates some of the distraction methods that thieves may use, along with some helpful suggestions for how to protect your belongings:

While we are somewhere we know well, we tend to know how to avoid bad deals, but while travelling, we are less aware of local scams. The following are some examples of common scams targeting travelers:


A store sign that says "Sorry we're closed"It’s Closed – this scam is usually carried out by taxi drivers, who will tell you that the hotel to which you want to go, or the attraction, is closed. However, they will say, they know another one – a high priced alternative that will give a portion of the profits to the taxi driver.
Prevention: Insist the taxi driver take you to your original destination. If they refuse, get out and take a different taxi. If you need to check if your hotel is open, call them using the number on your reservation receipt.


An image of a cup of tea, as these scams are frequently referred to as "tea scams".English Practice – it’s quite common to be approached overseas by people interested in practicing their language skills, and most just want to chat. However, if the person suggests going to an attraction or to a restaurant together, you may want to reconsider. If you do choose to go, make sure that you are aware of the costs of all items on the menu before you order, and beware that your language exchange partner may suddenly leave you with the bill.
Prevention: Refuse the person’s first suggestion for a place to chat, or choose a place yourself. Familiarize yourself with local prices. Do not have an open tab at bars, and pay as you order.


Found Item – A person in front of you “finds” a valuable object (e.g. jewelry) in the street. They declare that it is really expensive and offer to sell it to you at a highly discounted price. You only find out later that the item is a cheap fake.
Prevention: If somebody is offering you a ridiculously good deal, keep in mind this phrase: “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”


Two police officer dolls, one male officer and one female officer.Fake Authorities – some official-looking people stop you on the street and ask for your ID, before issuing you with a fine for some reason or demanding money before returning your ID.
Prevention: Show your ID, but do not let it leave your hands. If they try to fine you, suggest that you go together to the police station to sort it out.


Two hands holding out a giftwrapped present.A Gift for You – Someone approaches you and seemingly offers you a gift. You take it in delight. The person then asks you for money, and claims you can’t refuse now that you have accepted it.
Prevention: Don’t accept gifts from complete strangers. If you find yourself holding it, try to give it back. If they refuse, place it on the ground and walk away.


Amazing Deal! – Someone offers you an amazing deal on tickets, luxury goods, or currency exchange. You eagerly agree, only to find out later that the deal wasn’t as good as you originally thought (e.g. fake tickets/goods/currency).
Prevention: Avoid purchasing tickets, goods, or currency from pushy sellers. Instead look for actual ticket counters or machines, luxury storefronts, or currency exchange outlets.


Much as with local culture, each region also tends to have its own local scams. It’s a good idea to search online for common scams in your region before you visit. Knowing how these scams work will greatly decrease your chances of losing money to scam artists.


Useful Links:

https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/emergencies/international-financial-scams.html

Any phone call in which someone demands immediate payment of a fee should be treated as suspicious.

Phone scams can run from “Emergency” calls in which the scammer claims to need money to help one of your friends or family members, to “Government” calls demanding payment of an overdue fee or threatening your visa status, to the globally popular “You’ve Won the Lottery” call, asking for your banking information to give you a prize. These kinds of calls can easily trick people into giving up thousands of dollars.

A red telephone with a long cord.When receiving an unexpected phone call, be suspicious. Do not hesitate to ask for proof of identity. If you think it might be a scam call, hang up and call back from a number that you know or find yourself. Keep in mind that call numbers are easily faked. Finally, never feel pressured to immediately act on the phone call by providing personal information or money. If the caller demands immediate action (e.g. so you don’t get deported or arrested), tell them you will contact the office yourself and hang up.

In general, NEVER feel pressured to send money to someone you have only spoken to on the phone. And DON’T PANIC. The reason these kinds of scams work is because people tend to panic when hearing that there is a deadline. Scammers know that people who are panicking cannot think clearly, and take advantage of it. If you begin to feel stressed, tell them you will call them back, hang up, take a deep breath, and call somebody who would know more information (e.g. your host university, the visa office, the Canadian consulate, International SOS, Safety Abroad, etc.).

If you are unsure about the information in the phone call, you can always reach out to your hosts, or contact International SOS (215-942-8478) or Safety Abroad for advice. If you are on exchange, you can always contact the exchange students’ office to ask for advice as well.

You’re travelling in an area with a high pickpocketing risk. What can you do to keep your things safe?

What are distraction thefts?

If you are pressured over the phone to provide personal information or money, what should you do?

What are some common scams in my destination?


You’re travelling in an area with a high pickpocketing risk. What can you do to keep your things safe?

One way to avoid pickpockets is to make sure that you keep your valuables inside your bags or zipped pockets and to avoid frequently taking them out.

More Tips to Avoid Pickpockets: Pickpocketing.

Back to Top.


What are distraction thefts?

Distraction thefts are when a thief draws your attention away from your belongings for a short while, in order to steal them, either by themselves, or with the help of another person.

Read More: Distraction Thefts.

Back to Top.


If you are pressured over the phone to provide personal information or money, what should you do?

Stay calm and ask for proof of identity, or hang up and call back from a number that you find yourself. If you find yourself panicking or not able to think clearly, tell them you will call them back, hang up, and take some time to gather your thoughts and ask for advice from others.

Read More: Phone Scams.

Back to Top.


What are some common scams in my destination?

When it comes to scams, knowledge is your ally. Each place will have a different set of common scams, so it’s worth spending a few minutes researching the most common ones aimed at newcomers. Discussion boards on many travel sites have sections devoted to travellers warning each other of the scams that they have encountered abroad, and your destination’s Travel Advisory may also have some information.

Read about a few examples: Common Travel Scams.

Back to Top.

If you find you are the victim of theft while overseas, you should:

  • Report the theft to the local authorities and to your hosts.
  • In an emergency, call International SOS.
  • Report the incident to Safety Abroad, and ask for further advice.

While abroad, behaviours that are illegal or  socially unacceptable in Canada such as lewd comments, groping, or even sexual assault may not be viewed the same way. Travellers may be particularly vulnerable because of their unfamiliarity with the local environment and separation from support systems such as family and friends.


Sexual harassment is uninvited and unwanted sexual attention. It could be both direct or indirect, obvious or subtle. What is considered sexual harassment also varies from culture to culture. For example, a sign of friendliness in North America might be seen as sexual invitation in other cultures. Conversely, a sign of friendliness in another country may be seen as a sexual invitation in North America. To reduce the risk of sexual harassment and protect yourself from accusations, make sure to research norms in your host culture.

That being said, “It’s a cultural difference” should never be used to excuse a situation in which you feel unsafe. If you feel uncomfortable or unsafe, do not feel guilty for removing yourself from the situation.


According to the University of Toronto’s Policy on Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment, sexual violence is “any sexual act or act targeting a person’s sexuality, gender identity or gender expression, whether the act is physical or psychological in nature, that is committed, threatened or attempted against a person without the person’s consent…and includes…Sexual Harassment”.

Sexual violence thus includes a broad scope of behaviours. It can be physical in nature, or it can be non-physical as in the case of cyber sexual harassment or gender identity harassment.

In these cases, a defining feature of sexual violence is the absence of consent. To read more about sexual violence and consent, visit the University of Toronto Sexual Violence Prevention and Support Centre here.

As you will note when signing your waivers before travel, the University of Toronto’s policies regarding sexual violence and sexual harassment still apply overseas. However, the University is unable to discipline non-members of the University community.

If you find yourself in a difficult situation, contact U of T Safety Abroad In an Emergency or your host organization for support.


Useful Links:

https://www.svpscentre.utoronto.ca/learn/understanding-consent/

https://www.svpscentre.utoronto.ca/learn/what-is-sexual-violence/

 

 

Different cultures may handle harassment differently, and governments may not have the same laws and policies that are in place in Canada. In order to stay safer while overseas, you may want to use a combination of research, conversations with locals, and paying close attention to your surroundings.

Some things to consider:

  • Sexual harassment and violence can happen to anybody, no matter your gender or identity.
  • Research cultural norms, especially those related to interactions between men and women. Do men and women have friendships? Are there different rules for greeting or behaving around men versus women? Do these rules change based on your own gender? Understanding these social norms can help you navigate challenging situations and help you decide when a behaviour is beyond the level of intimacy you accept. This can also help you avoid misunderstandings about your own behaviour towards others.
  • No behaviour or clothing is an excuse for sexual violence. However, consider adopting local communication cues, be aware of how your clothing is perceived by others, and consider whether it is safe to walk alone at night.
  • Pay close attention to how locals behave, especially those who identify with the same gender as you. If you are wondering about taboos or about whether a behaviour is considered acceptable, local contacts may be your best source of information.
  • When meeting people for the first time, try to meet in a public space if possible. Avoid inviting new friends back to your place. If you are invited to travel to a location you do not know, check how to get there and back if you need to travel by yourself. Check with a trusted local contact that the location, and the decision to travel there with that person/those people, is a safe one.
  • Think twice about higher risk activities, especially those involving alcohol. Pay close attention to anything you consume, especially to your drink. If someone offers you a drink, make sure you can watch it being made, or even better, ask for one that is unopened. If going out, especially with new acquaintances, make sure someone else knows where you are and when you plan to come back.
  • Trust your gut. Be aware of vulnerable situations, especially in the classroom, workplace, or home, and trust any perceived warning signs. Even if the behaviour is accepted or normalized by others, it does not have to be acceptable to you.
  • Know who to contact if something happens. In some countries, survivors of sexual violence can be blamed for what happened or can be treated as criminals, which means calling the police may not be an option. Research ahead of time laws around the treatment male and female survivors of sexual violence so you will know who to contact. If you are still unsure, reach out to trusted local contacts.

Members of the LGBTQ+ community can find additional resources in Adjusting, under the ‘Identity’ tab.

Travellers who identify as female may find the Global Affairs Canada’s ‘Her Own Way – a woman’s self-travel guide’ helpful.


Useful Links:

Government of Canada – Travel Advisories

Government of Canada – Safe Travel Guide for Women

 

If you are a survivor of sexual harassment or violence, or if you suspect that you may be one, remember it is not your fault and that you have options for dealing with the situation while overseas.


If you are in crisis or immediate danger, call local authorities or International SOS.

Reach out for help:

If you have experienced sexual violence, remember that:

You may blame yourself for what happened, but it was not your fault. You deserve to be treated with respect and kindness.

There is no “right” emotional reaction. Everybody is different, and there is no “right” way to react.

Getting help is not a sign of weakness, but rather a sign of strength.

Healing may take longer than you expect – everyone is different. You can choose if, when, and how to tell others. Sharing what happened is your choice.

If you choose to share, we are here for you. Even while you are overseas, the University of Toronto’s Safety Abroad can help connect you with resources to help. You can reach us 24/7 via the Campus Police emergency number (+1 416-978-2222). If you are on exchange, your host institution may also have resources available.

If you are experiencing sexual harassment or feel uncomfortable, you can always reach out for help. The University of Toronto has policies and procedures in place to address sexual harassment and sexual violence for members of the University of Toronto community. The University cannot discipline non-members of the University community, however, Safety Abroad can connect you with expert supports on campus to help support and guide you with your preferred course of action, even while you are abroad.

 

 

Whether you are overseas or at the University of Toronto, there are many resources that you can access.


Overseas – Emergency/Crisis

Local emergency authorities – check your local emergency numbers through the Travel Advisory for your country.

International SOS: +1 215 942 8478.

MySSP: 001 416 380 6578.


Overseas – Counselling/Ongoing Support

MySSP: 001 416 380 6578.

International SOS: +1 215 942 8478

Your host institution may also have ongoing support options available for you.

Contact Safety Abroad for additional support.


In Toronto – Emergency/Crisis

Call 911.

MySSP: 844 451 9700.

Good2Talk: 866 925 5454.

Campus Police: 416 978 2222.

More options specific to situations.


In Toronto – Counselling/Ongoing Support

MySSP: 844 451 9700.

Good2Talk: 866 925 5454.

On-Campus Health & Wellness Centres: St George, Mississauga, Scarborough.

More options.

 

 

What is MySSP? When would you use their services?

MySSP offers support in how many languages?

I’m already receiving treatment in Toronto, or I used to receive treatment. What should I do before going overseas?

What should I do if I am a survivor of sexual violence overseas?


What is MySSP? When would you use their services?

My Student Support Plan (MySSP) offers 24/7 immediate and/or ongoing support for any concerns that you may have. You can talk with somebody any time of day or night, including from overseas, whenever you are looking for somebody to talk with.

For example, you can get advice about:

  • Being successful at school
  • Practical issues while studying
  • Relationships with friends and family
  • Language and cultural barriers
  • Stress, sadness and loneliness
  • Balancing work and school
  • Difficulty adjusting to life in Canada

Back to Top.


MySSP offers support in how many languages?

My Student Support Plan (MySSP) offers ongoing support in 146 languages over the phone. Immediate support is available by phone in 35 languages, and by chat in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Korean, and Spanish.

Phone (call): International: +1-416-380-6578 | Canada: +1-844-451-9700.

App (chat): Apple App Store | Google Play.

Back to Top.


I’m already receiving treatment in Toronto, or I used to receive treatment. What should I do before going overseas?

If you have had mental health issues in the past, and especially if you are currently receiving treatment, you should speak with a healthcare provider before going overseas. Travelling can increase mental strain, change access to support systems, and/or make it more difficult to receive treatments. It’s important to consider these potential changes before going abroad, so that you can continue to maintain your mental health while overseas.

Back to Top.


What should I do if I am a survivor of sexual violence overseas?

What you choose to do is entirely your decision. You should not feel pressured to act in a certain way.

Whatever your decision, you can keep in mind the following resources:

If you are in immediate danger or in crisis, you can call local authorities (find the number here) or International SOS for immediate support. MySSP also offers immediate support over the phone.

If you are looking for advice, you can contact MySSP for confidential support. International SOS can recommend local resources that may be of help. You can also reach out to Safety Abroad.

You can find more University of Toronto resources via this page.

Back to Top.

Physical safety risks may be easy to envision, but what about safety in the digital world?


A fairly new territory for travelers overseas involves ensuring the safety of electronic data. From bank transfers, to credit card information, to passwords, much of our personal information is shared online. However, while overseas, it can be more difficult to ensure our information stays safe.

In general:

  • Choose strong passwords for your accounts, and change them as soon as you suspect there’s a problem.
  • Do not share your passwords or usernames with others.
  • Avoid sending sensitive information, including credit card details, over public wifi connections.
  • Monitor your credit card and banking information in case of fraudulent charges.
  • Be aware that, depending on your location, authorities can ask you to unlock your devices or show them social media accounts. If you have information on your device, such as photos, apps, message histories, contacts, documents, data, etc., that might raise questions from authorities, make sure to clear them off before crossing borders, or regularly, depending on your situation.
  • Be aware that in some locations your communications may be monitored, and act accordingly.

Useful Links:

https://securitymatters.utoronto.ca/resources/students/

 

 

Before crossing borders, make sure to clear your devices of any information that may be deemed illegal or problematic by officials. Keep in mind that this data could be in the form of photographs, videos, articles, books, audio recordings, and/or messages on messaging apps or emails. Be aware that border officials have the right to access all of your devices, including those that have password protection.

In some countries, police officers or other authorities may have the right to access your devices without prior approval, and not cooperating (e.g. not providing passwords) may be illegal. If you are regularly moving around or going through checkpoints, make sure that you regularly clear your devices of anything problematic before going out for the day.

Back up your data to a cloud server in case of any issues. If you are storing potentially problematic information on the server, remember to look into how it could be accessed or linked to you.

Know that social media, phone calls, text messages, and other forms of communication may be monitored by authorities. Especially if you are connecting to public wifi, assume that everyone can read your messages and act accordingly. Just as how you wouldn’t send your credit card information over public wifi, do not share any information that may get yourself or those around you into trouble.

The University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab has a Security Planner which can tailor security advice according to your particular concerns and situation.

University of Toronto Libraries also offers a guide to Research Data Management, including guidelines for encrypting information,  data storage, and the safe transfer of files.

If you are concerned about how your research may affect your safety while overseas, make sure to discuss the situation with your supervisors and/or hosts before travelling. You can also contact Safety Abroad for advice.

 

 

A key part of digital safety is to reduce the risk of having your personal information, including passwords, usernames, and credit card details, stolen online.There are several steps you can take to reduce the chances of this happening.

First, you shouldn’t share your passwords or login information with anyone, including through messaging services. Be aware that instant messenger services (e.g. Facebook) are not necessarily encrypted, so your messages can more easily be read by others. Check the encryption of your message before you send it. If in doubt, wait until you are connected to a more secure WiFi service (e.g. at your hotel or host university), or use a landline telephone, and then call the person with whom you wish to share your information.

In general, you should not provide your credit card or banking information over the phone.

You should also check that you are calling the correct person. Always assume an unknown person asking you for personal information is a scammer, and never hesitate to ask them to prove their identity. If they claim to be from a bank or credit card company, tell them you will call them back, hang up, find the number you would usually call, and call that. If you are unsure if the caller is your friend or relative, either ask them a personal question, or hang up and call them back. See the Phone Scams section for more information.

Similarly to phone numbers, websites can also be faked. Avoid clicking through links on unexpected emails claiming to be from your financial institution or an authority, especially if they ask you to enter personal information once on the website. You should check if the website address is correct before entering any information, or access the website without clicking through the link.

You should also ensure that you have a secure connection for WiFi. As you travel, you will connect to many different WiFi networks in public places, many labelled “public”. How much do you know about these networks? If you need to access sensitive information, using public networks is a huge security risk. These networks are open to “man-in-the-middle” attacks, where a hacker redirects your search to a fake website that looks like the one you are searching for.

Some tips for avoiding insecure networks:

  • Use a VPN to secure your network connection.
  • Check if the website address starts with HTTPS (many websites use SSL certificates to encrypt your data) – don’t send credit card information via a non-encrypted site.
  • Use a hard-wired connection (e.g. an Ethernet cable).
  • Rely on a cellular network, which will likely be more secure than WiFi.

If you realize that your passwords have been accessed, immediately create new login information for all accounts connected with that username/email address and/or password.

If your credit card information is stolen, or if you notice any odd transactions on your bank account, call your financial institution immediately to report the issue.


Useful Links:

Online Shopping Safety

Reducing the risk of cyber theft.

Identity Theft

 

A border official asks you to show them your social media posts. Can you refuse?

What kind of risks do public wifi have?

My research may have additional risks where I am going. Where should I go for advice?


A border official asks you to show them your social media posts. Can you refuse?

Probably not.

If the laws of the country you are visiting permit border officials to access social media accounts, you may risk penalties for not complying with the request.

Read More: Research & Data Security.

Back to Top.


What kind of risks do public wifi have?

Public wifi should not be used to send sensitive information, and can be spoofed relatively easily.

Read More: Digital Theft.

Back to Top.


My research may have additional risks where I am going. Where should I go for advice?

If you are concerned about how your research may impact your safety overseas, you should speak with your supervisors and hosts about any potential concerns or mitigation strategies. You can also reach out to Safety.Abroad@utoronto.ca for additional advice.

Back to Top.

Many factors can increase the possibility of security threats, most of them beyond an individual person’s control. As a result, you should know what to look for and how to respond in order to keep yourself safe.


In general, no matter whether your destination has a high or low risk of security incidents, you should try to stay alert in public areas, especially in large gatherings.

If you see something suspicious, make sure to report it to local authorities.

Pay attention to what is going on around you, especially in crowded places. Not only does this help reduce the chances that your valuables will be stolen, but you can also stay alert to changes in the atmosphere around you and keep an eye out for any odd behaviours. Paying attention will also help you remember where the exits in buildings are, if you need to leave suddenly.

If you are in a higher risk area:

  • Have an emergency plan, not only for yourself, but for whoever may need to leave with you as well.
  • Keep a “grab bag” in case of emergencies, so that you don’t have to search for your passport, keys, medicine, etc. in a hurry.
  • Know which number to call for help in an emergency, and talk over with locals/your hosts any procedures that might already be in place.

In the event of a physical security incident, do your best to stay calm and make a plan.

  1. Quickly move away from any imminent danger.
  2. Follow the advice of local authorities, including any curfews or travel restrictions.
  3. Stay inside where you are, unless it is unsafe to do so.
  4. Try to stay in a group – unless the group is not acting safely or if your own assessment of the situation contradicts the group.
  5. Call the local emergency number if you need assistance (find the local emergency number). If you can’t and need immediate assistance, call International SOS.
  6. Contact Safety Abroad as soon as possible to let us know you are safe.

 

Before leaving, you should have a general understanding of the political culture in your destination. Research the situation in your host country and any attitudes towards foreigners, particularly towards someone with your nationality, or any nationality associated with your appearance

Are there any specific dangers arising from the local political situation? Is there a history of riots or strikes that may impede your safety or disrupt your travel?

Is there an election being held while you are there? How has the country historically responded to elections?

As a traveller, you may not be fully aware of the politics behind any demonstrations that occur while you are overseas. Carefully consider the implications, not only for yourself, but also for locals, if you decide to participate or even just go to protest areas to take pictures.

If demonstrations occur:

  • Follow local news and monitor Global Affairs Canada for updates.
  • Avoid areas where demonstrations are taking place. Ask locals where demonstrations are likely to occur and make efforts to avoid those areas.
  • If you come across a demonstration, or a large gathering of people who seem upset, you should leave the area as quickly as possible. In some locations demonstrations are illegal, and authorities may consider you to be participating if you remain in the area.
  • Avoid photographing or videoing protests. Think twice about posting any images online – depending on the situation, social media may be used to determine who was participating in the event. Keep in mind, also, that others may not wish for their presence to be publicized.

If you are detained:

  • Comply with authorities.
  • Contact the embassy associated with your travel documents as soon as possible.

Useful Links:

https://travel.gc.ca/travelling/health-safety/mass-gatherings

 

Robbery is when a person steals your valuables using a weapon. A mugging is a quick robbery that usually occurs in a public place. Check the Travel Advisory for your location for information specific to your location, but in general, to reduce your risk of being a victim of robbery:

  • Choose secure accommodations.
  • Be careful when withdrawing money. Try to choose ATMs in secure locations (e.g. inside banks, in well-lit areas), and pay close attention to your surroundings both before and after withdrawing money. Be sure not to show how much money you have withdrawn. If you have a travel companion, ask them to watch your surroundings for you.
  • Do not dress or act as though you are wealthy, and be aware of how you may be perceived by those around you. Avoid looking like a tourist as much as possible.
  • Keep your valuables hidden when in public areas. These may include cameras, laptops, branded goods, jewellery, or certain brands of cellphones. In general, avoid bringing valuable items with you, and do not frequently bring them out in public (e.g. to take pictures).
  • Do not accept food, drinks, or cigarettes from strangers or new friends.
  • If you see someone or something that looks suspicious, make sure to report it to staff at your accommodation, place of work/study.
  • When travelling by road, make sure the doors are locked and keep the windows closed, especially when you are frequently stopping or travelling slowly.
  • In higher risk areas, or if you are in a higher risk group, do not travel alone and be especially wary after dark. You should also avoid hailing taxis on the street, and instead call ahead to book them.

If confronted by someone who is armed:

  • Comply with their instructions.
  • Avoid any sudden movements – keep your movements slow and steady.
  • Avoid resisting or antagonizing them – try to keep your voice calm and follow instructions.
  • Avoid eye contact, in case this is interpreted as a challenge.

Once you are safe, report the robbery to local authorities, your hosts, and Safety Abroad.

 

If the Travel Advisory for your destination notes a risk for terrorist attacks, you should keep the following in mind:

Stay Aware: You should be especially vigilant in areas that are at a higher risk of terrorism. Such incidents will often occur during large public gatherings, in places of significance, or during public events. Some places that may be particularly high risk include airports, train or bus stations, landmarks, sports venues, concert halls, government or military buildings, or religious sites. In some locations, usually noted in the Travel Advisory, this list includes hotels, restaurants, shops, and marketplaces where large numbers of foreigners can be found.

Be vigilant whenever you are in a crowded place. Being aware can also help when you need to remember where things are, such as exits. Try to avoid visiting places during peak hours – this may also help reduce your risk of theft and pickpocketing. Pay close attention to the attitude of the crowd. If the atmosphere becomes tense, if you sense something is wrong, or if you see something suspicious, follow your gut and leave.

Stay Informed: Pay close attention to government warnings that relate to your location. These warnings can also include information about specific areas or routes. Talk with trusted local hosts for their recommendations of places or routes to avoid. Monitor local media, and ask your hosts, to keep updated on the local security situation.

Have A Plan: Have an emergency contact outside of town and share their contact information (including email) with everyone in your household. Decide a meeting place in case something happens, and know the evacuation procedures at your accommodation and place of work/study. Prepare an emergency kit, including medicine, copies of important documents (e.g. your passport, health insurance information), first aid supplies, some cash, and a battery powered radio and flashlight. You should also include non-perishable food and bottled water, in case you have to shelter in place.

If there is an act of terrorism:

  • Be especially vigilant in crowded areas and avoid them as much as possible.
  • Avoid or be vigilant on public transportation.
  • Consider moving to accommodation with heavier security.
  • Have a plan should you need to evacuate quickly.
  • If something happens near your home and you are there, check for damage using a flashlight. Do not turn on the electricity or light matches. Check for fire hazards and gas leaks. If there is a gas leak, open the windows and move to a safer location.
  • Call International SOS for advice if needed.
  • Once you are safe, contact Safety Abroad to let us know you are okay.

If you are in a higher risk area:

  • Have an emergency plan, not only for yourself, but for whoever may need to leave with you as well.
  • Keep a “grab bag” in case of emergencies, so that you don’t have to search for your passport, keys, medicine, etc. in a hurry.
  • Know which number to call for help in an emergency, and talk over with locals/your hosts any procedures that might already be in place.

Useful Links:

American Red Cross – Terrorism Safety

 

If the location you are visiting has an increased risk of kidnapping or robbery, especially for foreigners, then you should take some precautions.

  • Pay close attention to any government warnings about areas or routes to avoid. You can also ask trusted locals for their recommendations of areas to avoid or precautions you should take.
  • Make sure you have secure accommodation, and keep your door locked even when you are inside the room. Don’t leave windows or balcony/patio doors open.
  • Regularly change your daily habits: avoid travelling at the same time every day and change routes frequently if safe to do so.
  • Do not dress or act as though you are wealthy by the host culture’s standards. Avoid looking like a tourist as much as possible.
  • Keep your valuables hidden when in public areas. These may include cameras, laptops, branded goods, jewellery, or certain brands of cellphones. In general, avoid bringing valuable items with you, and do not frequently bring them out in public (e.g. to take pictures).
  • If you see someone or something that looks suspicious, make sure to report to staff at your accommodation, place of work/study.
  • Never get into a taxi with people other than the driver inside. For more taxi safety tips, see Transportation.
  • When travelling by road, make sure the doors are locked and keep the windows closed, especially when you are frequently stopping or travelling slowly.
  • In higher risk areas, or if you are in a higher risk group, do not travel alone and be especially wary after dark.

Once you are safe, call local authorities and/or International SOS. Report the incident to Safety Abroad and your hosts.

 

 

Should I have an emergency “grab” bag? What should be in the bag?

Dressing or acting wealthy may negatively effect personal safety, but what does “wealthy” mean?

Where can I find more information about the security situation in my area?


Should I have an emergency “grab” bag? What should be in the bag?

If your area has a high risk of security incidents, or if there is a possibility that you may need to leave your accommodation in a rush, you should keep a grab bag for emergencies. What you have in your grab bag will vary depending on what you will need in an emergency, but in general should have items such as your passport, keys, any medications you take, a change of clothes, and emergency contact information.

Back to Top.


Dressing or acting wealthy may negatively effect personal safety, but what does “wealthy” mean?

What is considered looking “wealthy” will be different depending on where you are in the world, or where you are within a country or even city. No matter where you are, foreigners tend to be perceived as wealthy targets for thieves. In general, pay attention to how locals dress and try not to stand out too much.

Back to Top.


Where can I find more information about the security situation in my area?

The Government of Canada’s Travel Advisories are a good start, and you may want to consider following your local Canadian embassy or consulate on social media. These social media accounts can be found through the Travel Smart app, or from this directory.The Travel Smart app also contains up-to-date information on safety and security, as well as other useful information.

Another good source is International SOS. Their Assistance app is regularly updated with information, and the your location page will show active alerts if there are issues.

Back to Top.

No matter where you are, you should be considering how to stay safe while travelling around your location.


Note: Students travelling on University of Toronto international activities are not permitted to drive.

  • Unregistered taxis sometimes overcharge customers, do not maintain vehicles, or bring you to a completely different destination than you asked.
  • For these reasons, use registered taxis, but always do a small risk assessment before climbing in the cab. Is the vehicle in good condition? Is there a meter scale or should you negotiate a price? Keep in mind that a registered taxi uses a scale instead of negotiating.
  • Research the destination’s public transportation system: How much does it cost for one fare? Are there transfer policies? Will you receive a proof of payment each time on a ride? What kind of transit pass works best for you? Do you pay when boarding, or when exiting?
  • Do not assume you can use ride-sharing apps like Uber everywhere you travel. Some places, such as London, Copenhagen, Austin and Vancouver have banned the Uber ride-sharing app.
  • If you’re traveling to a higher risk region, have a budget for registered taxis.
  • When walking near traffic at dusk or at night, make sure to wear reflective and/or bright clothing.
  • Do not get into a vehicle if you suspect the driver has been drinking or taking drugs.
  • Look both ways when crossing the road! Remember that cars or bicycles may be coming from a different direction than you expect.

 

Before travelling, you should check which methods of transportation are most common in your destination, and which are considered the safest.

Do not assume that you can use ride-sharing apps like Uber everywhere you travel. Some places, such as London, Copenhagen, Austin, and Vancouver, have banned the Uber ride-sharing app. In other places, there are regular physical fights between taxi drivers and ride-share drivers, making a ride-sharing trip more risky than usual.

In other places, ride-sharing options may be safer than regular taxis, so this is an important step in your research. As always, knowledge is your most powerful ally for a safe trip.

Before getting into any taxi or ride-sharing vehicle, you should first quickly check over the vehicle for any potential problems.

  • Are similar-looking taxis or taxis from the same company easily found at official taxi stands? What kind of characteristics (e.g. colours, designs, logos) are on taxis at taxi stands? Generally taxis at these stands are part of official companies, so knowing what they look like is a huge advantage.
  • Unregistered taxis sometimes overcharge customers, do not maintain vehicles, or bring you to a completely different destination than you asked. For that reason, you should always use registered taxis.
  • If you are travelling to a higher risk area, make sure you have a budget for registered taxis.

When getting into a vehicle, keep the door open and one leg outside the door until you have decided it is safe. Keep your luggage with you on the back seat as much as possible in case you need to exit the vehicle in a hurry. Check for:

  • The condition – is the vehicle in good condition?
  • A two-way radio, a meter, and a driver’s ID – these are hallmarks of a legitimate taxi.
  • Are there door handles on the passenger doors? Do they work?
  • Ask the driver if you will use the meter or if you have to negotiate. Keep in mind registered taxis use scales instead of negotiating.
  • Do not share with others. If the driver wants to pick up another passenger, refuse, and if the driver insists, get out and find another taxi.

While in the taxi:

  • Above all else, know where you are going. If possible, follow the route on your phone and pay close attention to any landmarks outside of your windows.
  • If the driver chats with you, do not reveal that you are new to the area. Do not share personal information, such as your travel companions’ names. For solo travellers, you might also want to give the impression that you will be meeting a local friend at your destination point.
  • Keep your valuables tucked away, out of sight of the windows.
  • Ride with the windows mostly rolled up, especially when the vehicle is moving slowly or frequently stopping – this stops possible thieves from reaching inside to steal bags and/or valuables.
  • If you feel uncomfortable, trust your gut. If you decide to leave the taxi, tossing the fare into the front seat may mean you are less likely to be followed.

 

Before using public transportation in your destination, you should do a quick check of how the system works.

  • Is public transportation generally a safe choice?
  • How much is one fare? Do fares vary? Are there transfer policies?
  • Will you receive a proof of payment each time you use the transportation?
  • How do most people pay? If there are passes, can you get one for the length of time you need? If you can avoid frequently taking cash out, passes might be a better choice.
  • No matter your payment method, try to keep your payment close at hand, especially if public transportation tends to be crowded. Prepare your payment ahead of time. Avoid keeping your transit pass or cash payment in your wallet so you don’t have to keep bringing it out.
  • Do you pay when entering, or when leaving? In some countries, this will be very clear, but in other countries you may need to check how to “tap off” the transportation system when using transit passes.
  • If you have a transit pass, check whether you will have to pay extra for detouring from your regular route.
  • If you have accessibility requirements, you should research ahead of time whether the system can support your needs (i.e. whether taking a taxi might be better), and if there is anything you need to know ahead of time.

While you are in the transportation system:

  • Pay close attention to the culture: Do people line up in a specific way when boarding? Do they give priority to certain groups in seating? Are there norms about personal space?
  • Bring only what you need, and keep valuables close to you, preferably against your body so you can feel them move.
  • If travelling with luggage, try to keep it manageable – the fewer bags, the better. If you can’t put it in a luggage rack close to your seat, consider keeping the luggage with you or under your seat. In general, smaller bags will need more attention than larger bags.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. Avoid dozing off or becoming too distracted by your phone, music, or thoughts. The more aware you are, the easier it will be to spot potential issues.
  • Standing or sitting in the middle of a vehicle tends to be less risky than being close to the doors, as door areas are usually more crowded – something thieves generally use to their advantage.

 

While travelling, you should be aware of potential scams involving transportation, especially involving drivers. The following are common scams involving transportation:

Taxi Without a Meter – This is perhaps the most common scam in the world. In these cases, either the driver will claim that they don’t have a meter or it’s not working, or they will offer you a “better deal” than it would be if the meter was working. In these cases the driver knows you don’t know the local prices, and takes advantage of your lack of information to charge you much more than usual.


Taking a Long Route – Perhaps the second most common scam in the world! The driver is on the meter, but takes a longer route than he could have taken, thus ensuring you pay more. After winding through the town, passing the same places multiple times, and taking hours to get somewhere that was supposed to be close by, you receive a bill that shocks you.


“I Don’t Have Change” – You’ve withdrawn money from the ATM, but you haven’t yet had the chance to break those larger bills into smaller amounts. Once you arrive at your destination, you offer the driver a large bill and ask for change. The driver apologizes, he doesn’t have any change. You are left with a choice: overpay or get into trouble for not paying at all!


Sleight of Hand – The driver accepts your cash, but then turns around to show that you’ve given her the wrong bill. Oops! You were sure you were handing her the right amount, but after all, she is the local. You must have made a mistake. You quickly hunt around in your bag and hand over another large bill. It’s only afterwards that you realize you were right – you’ve just overpaid.


Avoiding the Scams:

The best way to avoid these kinds of scams is to be prepared. Look for registered taxi drivers – If you don’t know, ask staff at hotels, universities, conference centers, airports, etc. to call a taxi for you, or to recommend a company. Avoid drivers who approach you and instead approach drivers yourself. If you get inside the cab, check for the meter before closing the door, and ask the driver to use it. If he refuses or claims to give a better price without it, get out and find another taxi driver.

Before setting off, make sure to check the route on a map. Ask the driver how long he thinks it will take to get there, and compare the time with your map. While on route, keep looking out of the windows. See the same landmark twice? Ask the driver if he is lost and perhaps choose another taxi. Route not lining up with the map? Question the driver and consider getting out or calling a friend.

When paying for your bill, make sure to have smaller amounts of currency on hand. Avoid only carrying large bills, even if you have to split them quickly by buying something small before catching a taxi. Carefully count out the amount and say out loud the amount of the bill that you are giving the driver. Watch the driver carefully to make sure there are no sudden changes in what you’ve given them. Paying in smaller amounts will be especially helpful in avoiding slight of hand scams, as it’s not as valuable to switch out smaller bills.

 

True or False? Ride sharing apps are safer than taxis?

True or False? When riding in a taxi, you should keep your valuables in the trunk, to avoid theft.

You’ve decided to take a public bus. Where is the most risky place to stand in terms of theft?

What is the “I don’t have change” Scam? What can you do to avoid it?

True or False? Keep your transit pass or tickets in your wallet, to ensure they don’t get lost.

What should you do when renting a car?


True or False? Ride sharing apps are safer than taxis?

Which transportation method is the safest choice will depend on your location and your own characteristics. Depending on your location, ride-sharing apps may be banned. In most places, registered taxis will be the safest option, but this also depends on your location.

Read more: Taxis & Ride Sharing.

Back to Top.


True or False? When riding in a taxi, you should keep your valuables in the trunk, to avoid theft.

While the correct answer may depend on your personal situation and what you are carrying, in general you should keep valuables with you in the vehicle as much as possible, in case you need to exit the vehicle in a hurry.

Read more: Taxis & Ride Sharing.

Back to Top.


You’ve decided to take a public bus. Where is the most risky place to stand in terms of theft?

Standing near the doors may not be your best option.

Read more: Public Transportation.

Back to Top.


What is the “I don’t have change” Scam? What can you do to avoid it?

This scam is closely related to having and using large bills to pay.

Read about the scam and how to avoid it: Transportation Scams.

Back to Top.


True or False? Keep your transit pass or tickets in your wallet, to ensure they don’t get lost.

False. Keeping your transportation tickets and/or passes in your wallet means that every time you board public transportation, you will need to bring out your wallet. Instead of bringing attention to your wallet, keep your transportation tickets and/or passes in a separate place.

Read more: Public Transportation.

Back to Top.


What should you do when renting a car?

Students travelling on University of Toronto activities overseas are not permitted to drive.

If you believe that driving may be the only option available to you overseas, please contact Safety.Abroad@utoronto.ca.

Back to Top.

If your destination is at a high risk of natural disasters (e.g. earthquakes, floods, hurricanes), you should have a good idea of what signs to look for and a general idea of how to respond. Your local contacts will be the best sources of information, but the following tips may also help.


The Government of Canada’s Travel Advisories helpfully provide a section for each country listing the most common natural disasters and climate events for that destination. In order to be prepared for the worst, you should research ahead of time which are more common and how you should act in each worst-case scenario.

Since all countries are susceptible to some type of natural disaster, put a plan in place before you go. How would you contact family and friends at home? How would you reach your local contacts in an emergency? Where are the safe places to go in an emergency?

If natural disasters or climate events are common in your destination, then it is highly likely that locals already have a system in place for dealing with them. Your local contacts may be great sources of information. Upon arriving, you may want to talk to locals about what you should do and any procedures that you can follow. Keep in mind that if such events occur frequently (e.g. frequent earthquakes, monsoons every year), locals may consider this kind of information common sense, so you may have to ask directly for explanations. Do not be afraid of asking multiple times until you fully understand.

If you find yourself in a natural disaster or climate event:

  • Follow the advice of local authorities. Following the guidance of local authorities is extremely important in the aftermath of a disaster.
  • Connect with the nearest Canadian consulate (or your home country’s consulate) for assistance.
  • If you find yourself in a particularly dangerous situation, call International SOS: +12159428226.

Following a natural disaster, stay safe while cleanup efforts are underway. Avoid any fallen power lines, damaged gas lines, or debris. Be aware that food and water can be unsafe and pose serious threats to your safety.


Useful Links:

https://www.getprepared.gc.ca/

 

Earthquakes occur when there is a shift in the earth’s crust and can occur at many different levels of intensity. Certain areas experience earthquakes more frequently: this map shows recent seismic activities worldwide. You can check whether your destination commonly has earthquakes through the Travel Advisories.

To prepare for an earthquake, your first step should be to talk with your hosts or with local contacts about any procedures that are in place. Keep in mind that if earthquakes are common, locals have likely had training since they were young and might consider these procedures common sense. You should be proactive in asking what to do. You should also learn how to turn off gas or electricity in your accommodation, in case you are asked to do so by authorities.

In general, you should make sure that heavy items are stored at ground level, and that any furniture or shelving is secured and won’t tip over. Do not hang any heavy objects over your bed. You may also want to consider how to secure computers and other appliances.

A crack in a road, marked by traffic cones.

If an earthquake happens….Drop, Cover, Hold!

Drop under something solid, such as a heavy table or desk. If you can’t get under a table or desk, stand against an inside wall or hallway. Avoid standing in doorways in case the door slams into you. Avoid being near windows, lights, and tall furniture. If you are outside, stay low and stay away from overhead power lines and tall trees. If you’re in a car or other vehicle with a roof, pull over and stay inside it. Most injuries occur when people run outside and are hit by debris.

Cover your head. If possible, grab some pillows or blankets and hold them over your head to protect yourself against falling debris. If not, use your arms to protect your head from falling debris. If you are in a wheelchair, lock the wheels and protect the back of your head and neck.

Hold on. Keep a tight grip on whatever object you are under to prevent yourself from sliding around.

After an earthquake:

Remember that aftershocks can occur, especially after larger quakes. Listen to the radio or television for any news or instructions from local authorities. If you are near an ocean, monitor the news for any tsunami warnings. Do not light any matches until you are sure there are no gas leaks or spilled flammable liquid.

If tap water is still available, fill your bathtub or other containers. Put on your shoes to protect your feet from any debris. Check your accommodation for any structural damage (e.g. cracks). If you suspect it is unsafe, do not go back inside. If you leave your accommodation for any reason, post a message in clear view indicating where you have gone and when you should be back.


Useful Links:

https://www.getprepared.gc.ca/cnt/hzd/rthqks-en.aspx

https://www.emsc-csem.org/#2w

 

Tsunamis can happen with little warning and are caused by large, high energy disturbances in the sea floor. These disturbances can be the result of earthquakes, volcanic activity, landslides, or less commonly, meteoric impacts. The Government of Canada’s Travel Advisories will have information if tsunamis are common in your destination.

When staying somewhere with a potential for tsunamis, you should ask locals for any procedures you should know about. If tsunami warnings are common, locals may have had this training since childhood and consider it common sense, so be proactive in asking what you should do if one happens. You should also know how to turn off gas and electricity in your accommodation, in case authorities ask you to do so at some point. In high risk areas, you should ensure you have an emergency kit in your accommodation (read more in the Emergency Kits tab).

A wave cresting, so white spray is rising above the water.

One possible sign of a tsunami risk is a strong earthquake that lasts more than 20 seconds. If an earthquake occurs and you are in a coastal area, you should monitor the news and any messages about a tsunami risk. If you can see the ocean, another sign of a tsunami is a sudden recession of the water, even further than when there is a low tide. If there is a tsunami warning and it is safe to do so, move to higher ground immediately. DO NOT go to the shore.

If you cannot get to higher ground, move to the side of your building furthest from the water and away from any windows. Listen for any warnings or instructions from local authorities. Remember that tsunamis often occur in multiple waves, sometimes as much as one hour apart. If you are safe when the first wave hits, remain in place until authorities announce it is safe.

After a tsunami hits, you may encounter flood waters. Avoid walking or driving through flood waters as much as possible, as you will not know what is in the water (e.g. power lines, debris). Before travelling anywhere, you should listen to instructions from local authorities, who will be coordinating evacuation plans.


Useful Links:

https://www.getprepared.gc.ca/cnt/hzd/tsnms-bfr-en.aspx

https://www.getprepared.gc.ca/cnt/hzd/tsnms-drng-en.aspx

 

Avalanches occur when a layer of snow gives way and snow rapidly travels downhill. The speed of the snow can reach more than 90km/h.

If you are travelling to a destination with a risk of avalanches, you should learn how to recognize the signs of an avalanche and pay close attention to local news and weather forecasts.

A village nestled at the foot of snowy mountains during the winterside.

If you are travelling when an avalanche hits and you’re in a vehicle, stay inside the vehicle and keep your seatbelt on. It’s easier to find a vehicle than a person, and you will have an air pocket around you.

When travelling in avalanche-prone areas:

  • Always travel with a buddy or guide, preferably one familiar with the area.
  • Ask about local alert systems and sign up for them if available.
  • Get training on how to stay safe in an avalanche.
  • Have proper equipment to protect yourself and create air pockets.
  • Avoid any areas with higher risks.

Read more.


Useful Links:

https://www.ready.gov/avalanche

https://www.getprepared.gc.ca/cnt/hzd/vlchs-en.aspx

 

If heavy rains or floods are common in your destination (find out here), you may want to know how to prepare and what to do if a flood happens. You should carefully monitor the local news and talk to local contacts about any procedures that might be in place.

If a flood is possible, or if your area is experiencing heavy rains, you should talk with your landlord or hosts about how to prepare your accommodation for flooding, especially if you are staying in a room on the ground floor or in a basement apartment. If possible, you may want to ask about staying on a higher level of the building temporarily.

If flooding is imminent, move anything that could be damaged or dangerous (e.g. electronics, appliances, belongings) to higher levels, either in the building or inside your room. In some cases, you may receive emergency instructions to prepare sandbags to block flood waters. Pay close attention to any instructions from authorities.

Read more about what to do before a flood.

A picture of a tree submerged in flood waters.

During a flood, keep your radio on and your emergency kit close by in case you are asked to evacuate.

If you are asked to evacuate, follow authorities’ instructions closely. If you are asked to leave and it is safe to do so, leave and follow the routes specified by authorities. Do not attempt to take shortcuts. If you have time, leave a note informing others when you left, where you are going, and when you hope to arrive there. If possible, let someone know your plans.

DO NOT attempt to cross floodwaters. If you are on foot, fast moving waters can sweep you away. Even in shallow water, you run the risk of being injured by debris. Floodwaters can also be heavily contaminated with sewage and other pollutants from flooded sewers.

If you are in a car, do not attempt to drive through floodwaters, especially in underpasses. The water may be far deeper than you thought and the car may get swept away.

Read more about what to do during a flood.

After a flood, if you left your home, do not return home until permitted to do so by local authorities. Do not enter until you are certain that it is safe to do so – if the electricity was on when you left, ask someone (e.g. hosts, landlords, an electrician) to check that it is safe for you to enter. Check that the building itself has not been damaged.

Do not use any appliances that were damaged in the flood waters until they are completely dry and have been checked over by an electrician. If you are unsure if they were damaged, but know that they were in the floodwaters, consider buying replacements.

Be careful of any debris and check for damage. Be cautious around any remaining flood water, as it may be contaminated with sewage or other pollutants. Be sure to thoroughly clean and sterilize your space and anything that was in the floodwaters. Make sure to record any damage by photograph or video if you are planning to file an insurance claim or if you need to discuss it with your landlord.

Read more about what to do after a flood and how to safely clean up your space.


Useful Links:

https://www.getprepared.gc.ca/cnt/hzd/flds-en.aspx

 

Hurricanes, tropical storms, cyclones, typhoons…all of these categories refer to storms that consist of high winds, heavy rain, and severe thunderstorms. You can check whether these kinds of storms regularly occur in your destination via the Government of Canada’s Travel Advisories.

If a hurricane, tropical storm, cyclone, or typhoon is forecast:

  • Monitor local news for emergency information and alerts.
  • Stock up on water, ready-to-eat food, heating fuel (if applicable), battery powered radios and flashlights, as well as extra batteries.
  • Secure any loose items on balconies or immediately outside of your accommodation.
  • Prepare a grab bag of valuables, medicine, ID, and other things you will need if you have to evacuate.
  • If asked to evacuate by authorities, do so immediately.

A swirling circle of clouds during a hurricane, as seen from space.

During a hurricane, tropical storm, cyclone, or typhoon:

  • Stay indoors and avoid going out. Do not go down to water to watch the storm approach.
  • Stay in an interior room or storm shelter, away from windows and doors.
  • During the eye of the storm, there will be a period of calm, which can last from a few minutes to as long as half an hour. During the eye, stay in a safe place, and only make emergency repairs if necessary and be aware that the storm will return.
  • If there is lightening, avoid using landline phones. Cellular phones should still be safe to use.
  • Listen for reports from authorities.
  • If told to evacuate by authorities, do so immediately. If you encounter flood waters, do not attempt to cross them, either by foot or by vehicle.

After the storm:

  • Listen to the instructions of local authorities and only return if it is safe to do so.
  • Use text messages and social media to contact family and friends. Phone lines tend to be overwhelmed after disasters, so avoid making phone calls unless in emergencies.
  • Be careful during cleanup efforts – wear protective clothing and do not touch any wet electrical equipment, especially when standing in water.
  • Avoid flood water, even if it seems shallow, in case of debris, sewage, or other dangers.

Read more.


Useful Links:

https://www.getprepared.gc.ca/cnt/hzd/hrrcns-en.aspx

https://www.ready.gov/hurricanes

 

Landslides can occur as a result of heavy rains or earthquakes and can cause significant damage to infrastructure, including roads and buildings. As always, research your destination before travelling and pay close attention to local news, especially after earthquakes or during periods of heavy rains.

Pay close attention to any warning signs: Listen for sounds of rushing water, increasingly loud rumbling, and other unusual sounds, such as trees breaking or rocks grinding together. If there is a high chance of a landslide occurring in your area, try to stay alert and avoid sleeping, or take turns sleeping.

If you are asked to evacuate, do so promptly and follow local authorities’ instructions.

If a landslide occurs

…and you are indoors: take cover in the part of the building furthest from the landslide. Take shelter under a table or other solid furniture and hold on tightly.

…and you are outdoors: move away from the path of the landslide as soon as possible, and especially away from any trees or power lines. It’s recommended to move uphill. Never attempt to cross in front of a landslide, even if you think you can be faster. Never try to cross a road with mud or water flowing across it.

After a landslide:

  • Stay away from the area where the landslide occurred, in case there are further slides.
  • Listen to local radio or television stations for updates.
  • Do not re-enter buildings that were in the path of the landslide until authorities confirm it is safe to do so.

Useful Links:

https://www.getprepared.gc.ca/cnt/hzd/lndslds-en.aspx

https://www.ready.gov/landslides-debris-flow

 

If a storm warning comes on the news while you are in your destination, what should you do?

Severe storms can take many forms, including blizzards, hail, thunderstorms, and the weather events with further information in this section. While you may not be able to predict that a storm will occur while you are overseas, you should have an emergency kit on hand in case of any issues (read more in the ‘Emergency Kits’ section).

In general, if a severe storm is forecast, you should move inside, stay away from windows and doors, and monitor local news for any updates.

During the storm, pay close attention to local news. If there is a thunderstorm, stay away from anything that might conduct electricity, including showers, baths, sinks, landline phones, metal pipes, and radiators. If you are outside when lightening begins, seek shelter immediately in a building or enclosed vehicle. If in a vehicle, make sure that you are not near trees or power lines that may fall on you. You should wait at least 30 minutes after the last lightening strike before you go outside again.

If there is hail, do not try to go outside to get things. Stay indoors and away from windows, glass doors, and skylights. If you are outside, find shelter and avoid low-laying areas that might flood.

During a blizzard or other winter storm, avoid going outside. Be aware that your visibility may be so far reduced that you may get lost, even in short distances. Avoid travelling during blizzards. If going outside, don’t assume you will be able to stay in a warm vehicle and make sure to dress appropriately for the weather. If you are in a vehicle, remain calm and stay inside the vehicle. If the vehicle is unable to move, stay inside and beware of exhaust fumes that may result from a blocked exhaust pipe. Keep your body moving to stay warm, especially your hands and feet. DO NOT fall asleep, and keep watching for other traffic or rescuers.

Read more about what to do in severe storms.

 

Wildfires may be common in areas with forests, grasslands, or brush. Before travelling, you should check your destination’s Travel Advisory to see whether wildfires may be common in your destination.

In order to be prepared for a wildfire, you should make sure you have a clear plan for what to do if a wildfire occurs and how you would get out of the building. Keep an emergency kit on hand. You should also make sure that your building and room have working smoke detectors, and that you keep escape routes clear of any objects. If wildfires are common in the area, you may want to ask locals about any procedures that are already in place. Keep in mind that locals may have had training in such procedures since they were young and consider it common sense. Be proactive and ask around.

Evacuate immediately if authorities tell you to do so.

Smoke rising from a forest in the valley of a mountain range.

If you hear that a wildfire may be approaching:

  • Close all windows and doors and cover vents with duct tape to block the smoke, if possible.
  • Have everything ready to go in case you need to evacuate.
  • Turn off the gas, turn on the lights, and move anything that might burn easily away from the windows.
  • Fill your bathtub and/or containers with water.
  • Monitor local radio stations for updates.
  • Evacuate immediately if told to do so. If trapped, call local emergency authorities, but be aware that a response may be delayed.

After the wildfire passes:

  • Only return if authorities say that it is safe to do so.
  • Avoid any hot ash or smouldering debris.
  • Use text messages to reach out to others – phone lines will likely be overloaded immediately after a disaster, so only make emergency calls.

Useful Links:

https://www.getprepared.gc.ca/cnt/hzd/wldfrs-bfr-en.aspx

https://www.getprepared.gc.ca/cnt/hzd/wldfrs-drng-en.aspx

 

If you are in a place where natural disasters can occur, you should carefully consider what to include in your emergency kit.

The purpose of an emergency kit is to ensure that you have enough supplies to survive during an emergency, even without electricity or running water. It should have necessities that you might need while you are waiting for help, or for you to survive in the immediate aftermath of a disaster.

Your kit should be easy to move (e.g. in a suitcase), and the Government of Canada recommends having enough supplies for 72 hours, including:

  • Two liters of water per person per day
  • Dried or canned food that won’t spoil (don’t forget a can opener!)
  • A flashlight
  • A battery powered or wind-up radio
  • Extra batteries
  • A first aid kit
  • Some cash, especially coins for payphones or vending machines

You should also have a clear plan for what you will need to take with you, such as keys, travel documents, and any prescription medication. You might consider having a reminder on or near your emergency kit to make sure you remember to bring them with you.

These are recommendations from the Government of Canada for emergency kits for disasters in Canada. Depending on where you are, you may need to modify what the kit contains. No matter your destination, you should consider preparing an emergency kit upon arrival.


Useful Links:

https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/emergency-preparedness/making-an-emergency-kit.html

Canadian Red Cross – Disaster Prep on a Budget

 

Where can you find information about your destination’s most common natural disasters?

During an earthquake, where is a good place to take shelter?

What is a good warning sign of a tsunami? How long does it usually last?

During a hurricane, you look outside and see everything has become calm. Is it safe to go outside?

Your hosts don’t mention an earthquake procedure, even though you are in an earthquake zone. Does this mean there aren’t emergency procedures?

What can be a warning sign of a landslide approaching?

True or False? If floodwaters are shallow, and if you are wearing solid footwear, they are safe to cross.

How much water should you have in an emergency kit?

After a natural disaster, what is the best method to contact family and friends?


Where can you find information about your destination’s most common natural disasters?

Your destination’s Travel Advisory is a good place to start.

Read More: General Information.

Back to Top.


During an earthquake, where is a good place to take shelter?

You should find shelter under something solid, such as a desk or table.

Read about other options: Earthquakes.

Back to Top.


What is a good warning sign of a tsunami? How long does it usually last?

One good warning sign of a potential tsunami is a prolonged earthquake.

Find more information: Tsunamis.

Back to Top.


During a hurricane, you look outside and see everything has become calm. Is it safe to go outside?

The answer to this question depends on whether you are inside or outside the storm.

Read more about the eye of a hurricane: Hurricanes.

Back to Top.


Your hosts don’t mention an earthquake procedure, even though you are in an earthquake zone. Does this mean there aren’t emergency procedures?

In places where certain natural disasters, such as earthquakes, are common, locals have often been trained on what to do since they are children. As a result, they may view emergency procedures as common knowledge and assume you already know what to do. If nobody has mentioned an emergency procedure and you know natural disasters are common in your area, make sure to ask for details of what to do in an emergency.

Back to Top.


What can be a warning sign of a landslide approaching?

Landslides usually make a unique noise as they approach.

Read more: Landslides.

Back to Top.


True or False? If floodwaters are shallow, and if you are wearing solid footwear, they are safe to cross.

False.

Read why: Floods.

Back to Top.


How much water should you have in an emergency kit?

Two liters per day.

Find out for how many days: Emergency Kits.

Back to Top.


After a natural disaster, what is the best method to contact family and friends?

After a disaster, telephone lines are usually full of emergency calls. Save the phone calls for an emergency and text or email family and friends instead.

Back to Top.

There are many factors that can effect your personal safety overseas. Check out the following topics for more information!


LGBTQ+ Safety

LGBTQ+

For more information about LGBTQ+ safety overseas, see Adjusting.

 

 

Families and Children

Families and Children

Read more about safely travelling with children, or while pregnant.

Food & Water Safety

Food & Water Safety

To learn more about Food & Water Safety overseas, see Health & Wellness.

 

Mental Health

Mental Health

Learn what might affect your mental health while overseas: Health & Wellness.

Extreme Temperatures

Extreme Temperatures

To read more about staying safe in extreme temperatures, see Health & Wellness.

Identity

Identity

Learn more about how your unique personal identities may interact with local differences: Adjusting.

Taboos & Laws

Taboos & Laws

Read more about how different taboos and laws can affect your safety: Adjusting.

 

 

Physical Health

Physical Health

Learn about illnesses that might affect you during your trip: Health & Wellness.

Money Management

You will need to do some research about the country you are travelling to and consider your options before deciding which method is best for you. For example, is it a cash-based society or can you readily use debit and credit cards?


Managing your money while overseas can be more complicated than at home.

Your first step should be to research your destination: What are the average costs there? How much will you need to budget per month? For your entire stay? You can use websites such as Expatistan to see the average cost of living in comparison to Toronto.

Next you should consider how you will access money – Is it a cash-based society? Do most places accept credit cards? Where will you withdraw or exchange money? In some cases, the Travel Advisory for your destination will note these differences.

Before leaving the country, you should:

  • Notify your bank and credit card company of your travel plans so you don’t get blocked from your account while abroad.
  • Confirm any fees that are involved for withdrawals, transfers, exchange rates, etc. for your credit cards or debit cards.
  • Plan to bring at least two cards with you in case one doesn’t work.
  • Prepare enough currency for the first few days, and especially for your first day, in case your plans to withdraw money are interrupted.
  • Set up an emergency fund that you can draw from if needed.

Before travelling, you can plan ahead how you will protect your money while you are overseas.

First, make sure to plan and book your travel early. You should also arrange your accommodation before you leave for your trip to make sure that you don’t have to pay in cash when you arrive.

Research ahead of time any rules around carrying money across borders. Are you able to bring cash with you? How much can you bring? You should also consider how you will access money when you first arrive in your destination. Where will you withdraw cash? Can you use your cards everywhere?

Before your trip, you may want to consider:

  • Exchanging some currency and carry some cash with you for any initial expenses (e.g. food, transportation, SIM cards). You can’t guarantee that you will be able to easily exchange money when you first arrive, especially if you are jet lagged and not a native speaker of the language.
  • How will you be carrying your money? Consider bringing a money belt with you and make sure large amounts of currency are not kept in one place.
  • If you are travelling to a place where theft is common, you may want to pack an extra wallet to use as a decoy.
  • Pay close attention to any bags you might be carrying, especially those in which you will carry money. Bags that can be zipped are generally safer than open designs; avoid carrying valuables in any bag that can’t be properly closed. Depending on your destination, you might also want to consider bags with solid straps and/or bags made from thick materials that are difficult to cut or rip.

When in your destination:

  • Break up your money into a manageable amount (e.g. into smaller coins and bills).
  • Having a money belt is helpful, but never treat it like your purse! Do not take money out from it in public; instead, go to the bathroom to withdraw money if you are out in public.
  • Do not use large bills, or at least do not carry them with the bills you will be frequently taking out in public to pay for things. If you are carrying high value currency, put it into a separate section of your wallet so you don’t show it to others.
  • Use a decoy wallet in areas with high levels of theft.

Before travelling, you should first know where to withdraw money. In most, but not all, places, you will be using an ATM to withdraw cash.

Do not assume that you will be able to find an ATM as soon as you arrive, or that your credit card will work without any issues. Always carry enough cash with you for your initial expenses, such as the trip from the airport to your accommodation, initial payment for your accommodation, and enough for food or snacks for the first day.

While overseas you may need to know to which network your cards belong. Generally speaking there are two international divisions of cards: the Cirrus/Maestro (Mastercard) and PLUS (Visa) networks. When looking for an ATM, you may need to do a quick check: usually the Cirrus or PLUS symbols will be displayed somewhere on the outside of the machine, indicating which kinds of cards can be used to withdraw money. Some ATMs will only have one symbol, while others may accept both networks.

An ATM sign showing the Visa, Plus, Mastercard, Maestro, Cirrus, American Express, Diner's Club, JCB, Union Pay, and Discovery logos.

Would you be able to use your credit card at this machine? How about your debit card?

Your bank may have agreements with foreign banks, allowing customers to use certain foreign ATMs at reduced fees. You may want to check for this possibility, as well as research whether such banks are close to your accommodation (in some cases, such banks may only be located in major cities or downtown areas).

To avoid surprises, check what fees will be involved when withdrawing money overseas. Keep in mind that you may not only be charged fees by your own bank, but also by the owner of the ATM. Sometimes it can work out cheaper to make a few large withdrawals instead of multiple small ones, but make sure you have a safe place to store cash, avoid withdrawing large bills, and avoid carrying all of your cash with you. If you withdraw large bills, make sure to break them into smaller ones as soon as possible.

Be aware that not only will there be withdrawal limits, but there usually are also daily limits on the amount of cash you can withdraw. If you are paying large bills (e.g. for your accommodation), plan ahead to ensure that you don’t miss payment deadlines.

You should also review what the usual PIN lengths are in your destination, not only for withdrawals, but also for payments. Average PIN length can differ depending on your destination. If you remember your PIN by letters, you should memorize the numbers, as many ATMs only have numbered keyboards.

Be sure to have a plan for what to do if an ATM eats your card or refuses it. Make sure to bring more than one card and have cash on hand.


Useful Links:

https://travel.gc.ca/air/travelling-money

Know how to contact your bank and credit card company while overseas. Write down the international phone numbers and keep them in a safe place, separate from your cards. Keep your card numbers written down too, if you can’t access the numbers online, so you will be able to provide them when the cards are stolen.

While overseas, keep a close eye on your accounts. Make sure to check for any unauthorized transactions and report them as soon as you can.

Avoid using your debit card to make purchases as much as possible. Instead, use cash or your credit card.

Read more about preventing debit card fraud.

Pay close attention to your surroundings when withdrawing money at an ATM, and always cover the keypad with your hand or wallet when entering the PIN.

Be careful with your PIN, whether it is for your credit or debit card. Always block others from seeing which keys you press, never write down your PIN, and never give information about your PIN to others.

Keep your card in sight at all times. If someone asks for your credit card to make a payment, always stay with the card and pay close attention to how it is being used.

When shopping online, check for the padlock image in the address bar or for an “https” web address. Only use trusted websites and avoid using public or insecure WiFi to do your shopping. Read more about safe online shopping.

If you lose your credit card, or if you suspect the information has been stolen, call your credit card company or bank immediately. Pay close attention to your statements for any fraudulent activity and unauthorized transactions.

When reporting potential fraud, keep detailed records and make notes of any unauthorized transactions. When speaking with the bank or credit card company, make sure to write down the name of the person you spoke with and when you spoke with them.

Read more about preventing credit card fraud.


Useful Links:

https://www.canada.ca/en/financial-consumer-agency/services/debit-fraud.html

https://www.canada.ca/en/financial-consumer-agency/services/credit-fraud.html

https://www.getcybersafe.gc.ca/cnt/prtct-yrslf/prtctn-mn/nln-shpng-en.aspx

Travelers tend to be the targets of money related scams because of their unfamiliarity with the local currency and its value. For example, the following issues tend to commonly effect travelers:

A hand holding a collection of bank notes of different values.

Slow Change – Dishonest cashiers know that foreign visitors are often distracted, are less familiar with the local currency, and may not notice incorrect change. Watch out for slow counting cashiers, who hope that you will give up waiting and leave early, or for cashiers who hand you a huge pile of coins in the hopes that you won’t count them. Another trick used by dishonest cashiers is to pretend that you gave them a smaller bill in the first place. Familiarize yourself with local currency, have patience when cashiers are counting, and make sure you count it carefully yourself.

An electronic board displaying exchange rates for different currencies.Currency Exchanges – The value of a currency exchange can change pretty frequently between shops, but if there is a place that seems to be offering an unbelievably good deal, far better than anybody else, then it is more likely to be fraudulent. In other cases, currency exchange shops can take advantage of your lack of knowledge to charge you far more than average. Know your exchange rates, check them frequently, and avoid any places that seem completely different from the rate you know.

 

A person at a cash register tapping their card against a payment machine held out by the staff member.Skimming/Shimming – ‘Skimming’ is when thieves attach a device to the card readers, either at ATMs, or at other places where the device is unlikely to be noticed (e.g. gas stations). The device then reads your card’s information when you swipe the magnetic strip. ‘Shimming’ is an updated version, in which the device reads your chip when you insert a chip-and-pin style card. In order to avoid this, use the tap-and-go feature on your card, if you have one. Avoid using a debit card if it is connected to all of your savings. If you’re using an ATM, make sure to cover the keyboard closely with your spare hand or another object (‘skimming’ often involves tiny cameras pointed at the keyboard). Even better, avoid ATMs altogether and withdraw money inside the bank. When you’re inserting your card, if the machine seems wrong or something seems off, pay in cash or use another machine. In general, keep a close eye on your banking records while overseas, in case of any fraudulent charges.

A blue piggy bank.ATM Helper – Foreign ATMs can sometimes look very different than the ones that you are used to. Not only do you have to adjust to different questions or processes, but you also might have to read everything in another language. Especially when you are in a line, this can become quite a stressful situation. Sometimes a person in the line behind you might offer suggestions to help you speed up the process. While often these tips are genuinely meant to help, you should not accept any help from others. Do not let anybody stand near you while you are using the machine. If they can see the screen, they are too close. Do not let anybody else touch your bank card or press buttons on the machine. Always remember to take your receipts. If people continue to offer advice and gather around you, take your card and walk away.

A stack of silver coins, with a blurry clock behind them.Tourist Prices – Some sellers of goods or services may take advantage of your lack of knowledge to charge you much higher prices than they would charge locals. Especially if you look like a recently arrived tourist or have what locals consider signs of wealth, you may find yourself paying more than your local friends or colleagues. To avoid being tricked out of your cash, make sure to familiarize yourself not only with what the money looks like, but also its general value when purchasing goods.

 

Read more about common scams.


Useful Links:

U of T Campus Police – Little Black Book of Scams

What is ‘shimming’?

What is ‘skimming’?

What should you do if there are fraudulent charges on your card?

What are the two main ATM networks worldwide? How can this influence where I use my card?

How many cards (credit/debit) should you bring with you?

True or False? Withdrawing money after you arrive is better than bringing cash with you.

Why should I inform my bank and/or credit card company that I will be travelling overseas?


What is ‘skimming’?

Skimming is a form of theft where thieves place a small piece of technology into bank machines or other card reading devices to collect your card’s information.

Read more about how to reduce the risk of ‘skimming’: Money-Related Scams.

Back to Top


What should you do if there are fraudulent charges on your card?

You should call your bank or credit card company to report the issue immediately.

Read more about reducing the risk of fraudulent charges: Managing Cards.

Back to Top.


What are the two main ATM networks worldwide? How can this influence where I use my card?

There are two main networks worldwide: Cirrus/Maestro and PLUS. Most credit and debit cards belong to one of these two networks.

Read more about how this may affect your ability to withdraw money: Withdrawing Cash.

Back to Top.


How many cards (credit/debit) should you bring with you?

At least two.

Read about why: Managing Cash.

Back to Top.


True or False? Withdrawing money after you arrive is better than bringing cash with you.

False.

There is no guarantee that you will be able to withdraw money or use your credit card as soon as you arrive. You should make sure to bring enough cash with you at least for the first few days, to ensure that you will be safe and well even if there are issues accessing money.

Read more about what to do before leaving: General Tips.

Back to Top.


Why should I inform my bank and/or credit card company that I will be travelling overseas?

In case you suddenly lose access to your cards.

If your cards are suddenly used overseas, your bank and/or credit card company may assume that your cards have been stolen and immediately freeze or cancel the cards to protect your accounts. If this happens, you will have to contact the company to sort it out, and they may have to reissue cards, meaning that you may be stuck overseas without a way to withdraw money.

Read more about what to do before leaving: General Tips.

Back to Top.

Theft Prevention

While your personal safety is the priority while overseas, it’s also important to ensure your belongings are safe.


While travelling, we are more vulnerable than usual. We are less familiar with the usual patterns of life overseas, and tend to be distracted by our surroundings, or lack important information. We also tend to carry larger amounts of money, have our cameras or phones with us at all times, and have less understanding of the worth of local currencies.

In short, travelers can be easy targets for scam artists and thieves.

While these tips may also be useful at home, they are especially important to keep in mind while overseas. Remember, awareness is key to preventing thefts!

If you are a victim of theft while overseas, you should:

  • Report the theft to the local authorities and to your hosts.
  • In an emergency, call International SOS.
  • Report the incident to Safety Abroad, and ask for further advice.

Pickpocketing is a fairly common form of theft around the world. While some thieves rely on skill alone to take objects out of your pockets, others will rely on distraction so that you don’t notice what they are doing.

Be especially aware of pickpocketing in crowded areas or near tourist attractions. Pickpockets tend to work in groups, passing stolen objects to other thieves so that they can avoid being identified, so large crowds are particularly alluring. Crowded markets, busy train stations, and any kind of public event are especially loved by pickpockets – they know you will be distracted at these places. As locals tend to be aware that there are pickpockets in these areas and know how to avoid them, tourists are usually more popular targets.

Can you spot the pickpocket in the video below? Hint: bottom left corner of the screen.

While watching the video, did you notice others who might have had things stolen? Why were they particularly vulnerable to theft?

In general, to avoid having your valuables lifted out of your pockets, ensure that your wallet, cellphone, and other objects with monetary value are kept inside bags or in zipped pockets. Even better, leave them at your accommodation. Do not leave your bags unattended. Avoid drawing attention to where your valuables are located (e.g. do not frequently take them out and put them back). As well, do not frequently pat your pockets to check if everything is still there. It’s important to be aware of your belongings, but pickpockets know that someone carefully patting his pocket every time he bumps into somebody is patting something valuable.

If you know you are in an area popular with pickpockets, you may want to consider using a money belt or decoy wallet. With a money belt, you can keep your valuables (including passports, money, credit cards, etc.) inside your clothes and close to your body, carrying only a small amount of cash in your pockets. Having two wallets can also work: carry a second wallet with only a limited amount of money inside and refill it from your actual wallet when you are in a safe place, away from other people.

If you are carrying a purse, ensure that the purse has both a flap and a zipper, so that thieves have to get through two safeguards to get to your wallet. If you are carrying a backpack, wear it on your front, or at least make sure that all valuables are deep inside, buried underneath items you don’t mind losing as much.

Finally, ensure that you have copies of all the information you carry with you on a daily basis. Make copies not only of your passport, visa, and vaccination documents, but also of any banking information (e.g. debit or credit cards) you may be carrying. This information could be stored digitally, so you can access it anytime, or you can also leave the information with someone you trust.

Wondering if your destination has many pickpockets, or what kind of techniques they use? Check out the Safety and Security section of the travel advisory for your country.

One common method of theft is to distract a person before stealing their belongings. For this reason, any object left out on a table or hanging off the chair behind you is a temptation for thieves. Consider the following scenarios:

You’re sitting on the patio when a man comes up to your table, asking if you can help him find a place. He spreads out an enormous map across the table. You point to the most famous place in the city, wondering why he can’t figure this out himself. He thanks you and takes the giant map with him. Your camera, which was on the table, goes with him.

A man standing next to you on the bus suddenly stumbles and falls into you. He apologizes profusely and gets off at the next stop. The wallet in your coat pocket is now gone with him.

At the airport, somebody drops an entire coin purse. The coins bounce everywhere, and you, along with several other people, help pick them up. The person thanks you gratefully. You turn around and your luggage is gone.

Why did these scenarios work? Because the thieves distracted you from your belongings just long enough for them to take the items and walk away. Wondering how that could be possible? Try the selective attention test below.

Given that it’s so easy to get distracted, how can you avoid these kinds of thefts?

First, keep your belongings, especially high value items like cellphones, cameras, or wallets inside your bags. Are you sitting down? Put your purse or backpack immediately in front of your legs, wrap a strap around your leg, or rest it on your lap. Looking at your phone or camera? If you put it down, put it on your lap. If somebody approaches you, ensure you put one hand on your belongings and keep it there.

Never keep your valuables in coat pockets, backpack pockets, or anywhere else that can be quickly and easily accessed. Store your wallet inside your bag. It may take longer to get out, but that means it takes more effort to steal. If you are travelling somewhere with high levels of theft, considering having two wallets: one with your cash and cards, and another that you use frequently with only a little money in it. You can always refill your second wallet with more cash when you go to the bathroom.

While travelling with suitcases, ensure you are not overwhelmed with the amount of luggage you have to watch. You ideally should have one hand free at all times. Keep a hand, a foot, or even a leg on your suitcase at all times, especially when you are resting or if you are waiting in a line. People may kindly offer to carry your luggage for you. It’s better to decline than watch someone sprint away with your suitcase. If your bag is too heavy, consider taking the elevator instead if that is an option.

The following video demonstrates some of the distraction methods that thieves may use, along with some helpful suggestions for how to protect your belongings:

While we are somewhere we know well, we tend to know how to avoid bad deals, but while travelling, we are less aware of local scams. The following are some examples of common scams targeting travelers:


A store sign that says "Sorry we're closed"It’s Closed – this scam is usually carried out by taxi drivers, who will tell you that the hotel to which you want to go, or the attraction, is closed. However, they will say, they know another one – a high priced alternative that will give a portion of the profits to the taxi driver.
Prevention: Insist the taxi driver take you to your original destination. If they refuse, get out and take a different taxi. If you need to check if your hotel is open, call them using the number on your reservation receipt.


An image of a cup of tea, as these scams are frequently referred to as "tea scams".English Practice – it’s quite common to be approached overseas by people interested in practicing their language skills, and most just want to chat. However, if the person suggests going to an attraction or to a restaurant together, you may want to reconsider. If you do choose to go, make sure that you are aware of the costs of all items on the menu before you order, and beware that your language exchange partner may suddenly leave you with the bill.
Prevention: Refuse the person’s first suggestion for a place to chat, or choose a place yourself. Familiarize yourself with local prices. Do not have an open tab at bars, and pay as you order.


Found Item – A person in front of you “finds” a valuable object (e.g. jewelry) in the street. They declare that it is really expensive and offer to sell it to you at a highly discounted price. You only find out later that the item is a cheap fake.
Prevention: If somebody is offering you a ridiculously good deal, keep in mind this phrase: “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”


Two police officer dolls, one male officer and one female officer.Fake Authorities – some official-looking people stop you on the street and ask for your ID, before issuing you with a fine for some reason or demanding money before returning your ID.
Prevention: Show your ID, but do not let it leave your hands. If they try to fine you, suggest that you go together to the police station to sort it out.


Two hands holding out a giftwrapped present.A Gift for You – Someone approaches you and seemingly offers you a gift. You take it in delight. The person then asks you for money, and claims you can’t refuse now that you have accepted it.
Prevention: Don’t accept gifts from complete strangers. If you find yourself holding it, try to give it back. If they refuse, place it on the ground and walk away.


Amazing Deal! – Someone offers you an amazing deal on tickets, luxury goods, or currency exchange. You eagerly agree, only to find out later that the deal wasn’t as good as you originally thought (e.g. fake tickets/goods/currency).
Prevention: Avoid purchasing tickets, goods, or currency from pushy sellers. Instead look for actual ticket counters or machines, luxury storefronts, or currency exchange outlets.


Much as with local culture, each region also tends to have its own local scams. It’s a good idea to search online for common scams in your region before you visit. Knowing how these scams work will greatly decrease your chances of losing money to scam artists.


Useful Links:

https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/emergencies/international-financial-scams.html

Any phone call in which someone demands immediate payment of a fee should be treated as suspicious.

Phone scams can run from “Emergency” calls in which the scammer claims to need money to help one of your friends or family members, to “Government” calls demanding payment of an overdue fee or threatening your visa status, to the globally popular “You’ve Won the Lottery” call, asking for your banking information to give you a prize. These kinds of calls can easily trick people into giving up thousands of dollars.

A red telephone with a long cord.When receiving an unexpected phone call, be suspicious. Do not hesitate to ask for proof of identity. If you think it might be a scam call, hang up and call back from a number that you know or find yourself. Keep in mind that call numbers are easily faked. Finally, never feel pressured to immediately act on the phone call by providing personal information or money. If the caller demands immediate action (e.g. so you don’t get deported or arrested), tell them you will contact the office yourself and hang up.

In general, NEVER feel pressured to send money to someone you have only spoken to on the phone. And DON’T PANIC. The reason these kinds of scams work is because people tend to panic when hearing that there is a deadline. Scammers know that people who are panicking cannot think clearly, and take advantage of it. If you begin to feel stressed, tell them you will call them back, hang up, take a deep breath, and call somebody who would know more information (e.g. your host university, the visa office, the Canadian consulate, International SOS, Safety Abroad, etc.).

If you are unsure about the information in the phone call, you can always reach out to your hosts, or contact International SOS (215-942-8478) or Safety Abroad for advice. If you are on exchange, you can always contact the exchange students’ office to ask for advice as well.

You’re travelling in an area with a high pickpocketing risk. What can you do to keep your things safe?

What are distraction thefts?

If you are pressured over the phone to provide personal information or money, what should you do?

What are some common scams in my destination?


You’re travelling in an area with a high pickpocketing risk. What can you do to keep your things safe?

One way to avoid pickpockets is to make sure that you keep your valuables inside your bags or zipped pockets and to avoid frequently taking them out.

More Tips to Avoid Pickpockets: Pickpocketing.

Back to Top.


What are distraction thefts?

Distraction thefts are when a thief draws your attention away from your belongings for a short while, in order to steal them, either by themselves, or with the help of another person.

Read More: Distraction Thefts.

Back to Top.


If you are pressured over the phone to provide personal information or money, what should you do?

Stay calm and ask for proof of identity, or hang up and call back from a number that you find yourself. If you find yourself panicking or not able to think clearly, tell them you will call them back, hang up, and take some time to gather your thoughts and ask for advice from others.

Read More: Phone Scams.

Back to Top.


What are some common scams in my destination?

When it comes to scams, knowledge is your ally. Each place will have a different set of common scams, so it’s worth spending a few minutes researching the most common ones aimed at newcomers. Discussion boards on many travel sites have sections devoted to travellers warning each other of the scams that they have encountered abroad, and your destination’s Travel Advisory may also have some information.

Read about a few examples: Common Travel Scams.

Back to Top.

If you find you are the victim of theft while overseas, you should:

  • Report the theft to the local authorities and to your hosts.
  • In an emergency, call International SOS.
  • Report the incident to Safety Abroad, and ask for further advice.
Sexual Harassment & Violence

While abroad, behaviours that are illegal or  socially unacceptable in Canada such as lewd comments, groping, or even sexual assault may not be viewed the same way. Travellers may be particularly vulnerable because of their unfamiliarity with the local environment and separation from support systems such as family and friends.


Sexual harassment is uninvited and unwanted sexual attention. It could be both direct or indirect, obvious or subtle. What is considered sexual harassment also varies from culture to culture. For example, a sign of friendliness in North America might be seen as sexual invitation in other cultures. Conversely, a sign of friendliness in another country may be seen as a sexual invitation in North America. To reduce the risk of sexual harassment and protect yourself from accusations, make sure to research norms in your host culture.

That being said, “It’s a cultural difference” should never be used to excuse a situation in which you feel unsafe. If you feel uncomfortable or unsafe, do not feel guilty for removing yourself from the situation.


According to the University of Toronto’s Policy on Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment, sexual violence is “any sexual act or act targeting a person’s sexuality, gender identity or gender expression, whether the act is physical or psychological in nature, that is committed, threatened or attempted against a person without the person’s consent…and includes…Sexual Harassment”.

Sexual violence thus includes a broad scope of behaviours. It can be physical in nature, or it can be non-physical as in the case of cyber sexual harassment or gender identity harassment.

In these cases, a defining feature of sexual violence is the absence of consent. To read more about sexual violence and consent, visit the University of Toronto Sexual Violence Prevention and Support Centre here.

As you will note when signing your waivers before travel, the University of Toronto’s policies regarding sexual violence and sexual harassment still apply overseas. However, the University is unable to discipline non-members of the University community.

If you find yourself in a difficult situation, contact U of T Safety Abroad In an Emergency or your host organization for support.


Useful Links:

https://www.svpscentre.utoronto.ca/learn/understanding-consent/

https://www.svpscentre.utoronto.ca/learn/what-is-sexual-violence/

 

 

Different cultures may handle harassment differently, and governments may not have the same laws and policies that are in place in Canada. In order to stay safer while overseas, you may want to use a combination of research, conversations with locals, and paying close attention to your surroundings.

Some things to consider:

  • Sexual harassment and violence can happen to anybody, no matter your gender or identity.
  • Research cultural norms, especially those related to interactions between men and women. Do men and women have friendships? Are there different rules for greeting or behaving around men versus women? Do these rules change based on your own gender? Understanding these social norms can help you navigate challenging situations and help you decide when a behaviour is beyond the level of intimacy you accept. This can also help you avoid misunderstandings about your own behaviour towards others.
  • No behaviour or clothing is an excuse for sexual violence. However, consider adopting local communication cues, be aware of how your clothing is perceived by others, and consider whether it is safe to walk alone at night.
  • Pay close attention to how locals behave, especially those who identify with the same gender as you. If you are wondering about taboos or about whether a behaviour is considered acceptable, local contacts may be your best source of information.
  • When meeting people for the first time, try to meet in a public space if possible. Avoid inviting new friends back to your place. If you are invited to travel to a location you do not know, check how to get there and back if you need to travel by yourself. Check with a trusted local contact that the location, and the decision to travel there with that person/those people, is a safe one.
  • Think twice about higher risk activities, especially those involving alcohol. Pay close attention to anything you consume, especially to your drink. If someone offers you a drink, make sure you can watch it being made, or even better, ask for one that is unopened. If going out, especially with new acquaintances, make sure someone else knows where you are and when you plan to come back.
  • Trust your gut. Be aware of vulnerable situations, especially in the classroom, workplace, or home, and trust any perceived warning signs. Even if the behaviour is accepted or normalized by others, it does not have to be acceptable to you.
  • Know who to contact if something happens. In some countries, survivors of sexual violence can be blamed for what happened or can be treated as criminals, which means calling the police may not be an option. Research ahead of time laws around the treatment male and female survivors of sexual violence so you will know who to contact. If you are still unsure, reach out to trusted local contacts.

Members of the LGBTQ+ community can find additional resources in Adjusting, under the ‘Identity’ tab.

Travellers who identify as female may find the Global Affairs Canada’s ‘Her Own Way – a woman’s self-travel guide’ helpful.


Useful Links:

Government of Canada – Travel Advisories

Government of Canada – Safe Travel Guide for Women

 

If you are a survivor of sexual harassment or violence, or if you suspect that you may be one, remember it is not your fault and that you have options for dealing with the situation while overseas.


If you are in crisis or immediate danger, call local authorities or International SOS.

Reach out for help:

If you have experienced sexual violence, remember that:

You may blame yourself for what happened, but it was not your fault. You deserve to be treated with respect and kindness.

There is no “right” emotional reaction. Everybody is different, and there is no “right” way to react.

Getting help is not a sign of weakness, but rather a sign of strength.

Healing may take longer than you expect – everyone is different. You can choose if, when, and how to tell others. Sharing what happened is your choice.

If you choose to share, we are here for you. Even while you are overseas, the University of Toronto’s Safety Abroad can help connect you with resources to help. You can reach us 24/7 via the Campus Police emergency number (+1 416-978-2222). If you are on exchange, your host institution may also have resources available.

If you are experiencing sexual harassment or feel uncomfortable, you can always reach out for help. The University of Toronto has policies and procedures in place to address sexual harassment and sexual violence for members of the University of Toronto community. The University cannot discipline non-members of the University community, however, Safety Abroad can connect you with expert supports on campus to help support and guide you with your preferred course of action, even while you are abroad.

 

 

Whether you are overseas or at the University of Toronto, there are many resources that you can access.


Overseas – Emergency/Crisis

Local emergency authorities – check your local emergency numbers through the Travel Advisory for your country.

International SOS: +1 215 942 8478.

MySSP: 001 416 380 6578.


Overseas – Counselling/Ongoing Support

MySSP: 001 416 380 6578.

International SOS: +1 215 942 8478

Your host institution may also have ongoing support options available for you.

Contact Safety Abroad for additional support.


In Toronto – Emergency/Crisis

Call 911.

MySSP: 844 451 9700.

Good2Talk: 866 925 5454.

Campus Police: 416 978 2222.

More options specific to situations.


In Toronto – Counselling/Ongoing Support

MySSP: 844 451 9700.

Good2Talk: 866 925 5454.

On-Campus Health & Wellness Centres: St George, Mississauga, Scarborough.

More options.

 

 

What is MySSP? When would you use their services?

MySSP offers support in how many languages?

I’m already receiving treatment in Toronto, or I used to receive treatment. What should I do before going overseas?

What should I do if I am a survivor of sexual violence overseas?


What is MySSP? When would you use their services?

My Student Support Plan (MySSP) offers 24/7 immediate and/or ongoing support for any concerns that you may have. You can talk with somebody any time of day or night, including from overseas, whenever you are looking for somebody to talk with.

For example, you can get advice about:

  • Being successful at school
  • Practical issues while studying
  • Relationships with friends and family
  • Language and cultural barriers
  • Stress, sadness and loneliness
  • Balancing work and school
  • Difficulty adjusting to life in Canada

Back to Top.


MySSP offers support in how many languages?

My Student Support Plan (MySSP) offers ongoing support in 146 languages over the phone. Immediate support is available by phone in 35 languages, and by chat in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Korean, and Spanish.

Phone (call): International: +1-416-380-6578 | Canada: +1-844-451-9700.

App (chat): Apple App Store | Google Play.

Back to Top.


I’m already receiving treatment in Toronto, or I used to receive treatment. What should I do before going overseas?

If you have had mental health issues in the past, and especially if you are currently receiving treatment, you should speak with a healthcare provider before going overseas. Travelling can increase mental strain, change access to support systems, and/or make it more difficult to receive treatments. It’s important to consider these potential changes before going abroad, so that you can continue to maintain your mental health while overseas.

Back to Top.


What should I do if I am a survivor of sexual violence overseas?

What you choose to do is entirely your decision. You should not feel pressured to act in a certain way.

Whatever your decision, you can keep in mind the following resources:

If you are in immediate danger or in crisis, you can call local authorities (find the number here) or International SOS for immediate support. MySSP also offers immediate support over the phone.

If you are looking for advice, you can contact MySSP for confidential support. International SOS can recommend local resources that may be of help. You can also reach out to Safety Abroad.

You can find more University of Toronto resources via this page.

Back to Top.

Digital Safety

Physical safety risks may be easy to envision, but what about safety in the digital world?


A fairly new territory for travelers overseas involves ensuring the safety of electronic data. From bank transfers, to credit card information, to passwords, much of our personal information is shared online. However, while overseas, it can be more difficult to ensure our information stays safe.

In general:

  • Choose strong passwords for your accounts, and change them as soon as you suspect there’s a problem.
  • Do not share your passwords or usernames with others.
  • Avoid sending sensitive information, including credit card details, over public wifi connections.
  • Monitor your credit card and banking information in case of fraudulent charges.
  • Be aware that, depending on your location, authorities can ask you to unlock your devices or show them social media accounts. If you have information on your device, such as photos, apps, message histories, contacts, documents, data, etc., that might raise questions from authorities, make sure to clear them off before crossing borders, or regularly, depending on your situation.
  • Be aware that in some locations your communications may be monitored, and act accordingly.

Useful Links:

https://securitymatters.utoronto.ca/resources/students/

 

 

Before crossing borders, make sure to clear your devices of any information that may be deemed illegal or problematic by officials. Keep in mind that this data could be in the form of photographs, videos, articles, books, audio recordings, and/or messages on messaging apps or emails. Be aware that border officials have the right to access all of your devices, including those that have password protection.

In some countries, police officers or other authorities may have the right to access your devices without prior approval, and not cooperating (e.g. not providing passwords) may be illegal. If you are regularly moving around or going through checkpoints, make sure that you regularly clear your devices of anything problematic before going out for the day.

Back up your data to a cloud server in case of any issues. If you are storing potentially problematic information on the server, remember to look into how it could be accessed or linked to you.

Know that social media, phone calls, text messages, and other forms of communication may be monitored by authorities. Especially if you are connecting to public wifi, assume that everyone can read your messages and act accordingly. Just as how you wouldn’t send your credit card information over public wifi, do not share any information that may get yourself or those around you into trouble.

The University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab has a Security Planner which can tailor security advice according to your particular concerns and situation.

University of Toronto Libraries also offers a guide to Research Data Management, including guidelines for encrypting information,  data storage, and the safe transfer of files.

If you are concerned about how your research may affect your safety while overseas, make sure to discuss the situation with your supervisors and/or hosts before travelling. You can also contact Safety Abroad for advice.

 

 

A key part of digital safety is to reduce the risk of having your personal information, including passwords, usernames, and credit card details, stolen online.There are several steps you can take to reduce the chances of this happening.

First, you shouldn’t share your passwords or login information with anyone, including through messaging services. Be aware that instant messenger services (e.g. Facebook) are not necessarily encrypted, so your messages can more easily be read by others. Check the encryption of your message before you send it. If in doubt, wait until you are connected to a more secure WiFi service (e.g. at your hotel or host university), or use a landline telephone, and then call the person with whom you wish to share your information.

In general, you should not provide your credit card or banking information over the phone.

You should also check that you are calling the correct person. Always assume an unknown person asking you for personal information is a scammer, and never hesitate to ask them to prove their identity. If they claim to be from a bank or credit card company, tell them you will call them back, hang up, find the number you would usually call, and call that. If you are unsure if the caller is your friend or relative, either ask them a personal question, or hang up and call them back. See the Phone Scams section for more information.

Similarly to phone numbers, websites can also be faked. Avoid clicking through links on unexpected emails claiming to be from your financial institution or an authority, especially if they ask you to enter personal information once on the website. You should check if the website address is correct before entering any information, or access the website without clicking through the link.

You should also ensure that you have a secure connection for WiFi. As you travel, you will connect to many different WiFi networks in public places, many labelled “public”. How much do you know about these networks? If you need to access sensitive information, using public networks is a huge security risk. These networks are open to “man-in-the-middle” attacks, where a hacker redirects your search to a fake website that looks like the one you are searching for.

Some tips for avoiding insecure networks:

  • Use a VPN to secure your network connection.
  • Check if the website address starts with HTTPS (many websites use SSL certificates to encrypt your data) – don’t send credit card information via a non-encrypted site.
  • Use a hard-wired connection (e.g. an Ethernet cable).
  • Rely on a cellular network, which will likely be more secure than WiFi.

If you realize that your passwords have been accessed, immediately create new login information for all accounts connected with that username/email address and/or password.

If your credit card information is stolen, or if you notice any odd transactions on your bank account, call your financial institution immediately to report the issue.


Useful Links:

Online Shopping Safety

Reducing the risk of cyber theft.

Identity Theft

 

A border official asks you to show them your social media posts. Can you refuse?

What kind of risks do public wifi have?

My research may have additional risks where I am going. Where should I go for advice?


A border official asks you to show them your social media posts. Can you refuse?

Probably not.

If the laws of the country you are visiting permit border officials to access social media accounts, you may risk penalties for not complying with the request.

Read More: Research & Data Security.

Back to Top.


What kind of risks do public wifi have?

Public wifi should not be used to send sensitive information, and can be spoofed relatively easily.

Read More: Digital Theft.

Back to Top.


My research may have additional risks where I am going. Where should I go for advice?

If you are concerned about how your research may impact your safety overseas, you should speak with your supervisors and hosts about any potential concerns or mitigation strategies. You can also reach out to Safety.Abroad@utoronto.ca for additional advice.

Back to Top.

Security Risks

Many factors can increase the possibility of security threats, most of them beyond an individual person’s control. As a result, you should know what to look for and how to respond in order to keep yourself safe.


In general, no matter whether your destination has a high or low risk of security incidents, you should try to stay alert in public areas, especially in large gatherings.

If you see something suspicious, make sure to report it to local authorities.

Pay attention to what is going on around you, especially in crowded places. Not only does this help reduce the chances that your valuables will be stolen, but you can also stay alert to changes in the atmosphere around you and keep an eye out for any odd behaviours. Paying attention will also help you remember where the exits in buildings are, if you need to leave suddenly.

If you are in a higher risk area:

  • Have an emergency plan, not only for yourself, but for whoever may need to leave with you as well.
  • Keep a “grab bag” in case of emergencies, so that you don’t have to search for your passport, keys, medicine, etc. in a hurry.
  • Know which number to call for help in an emergency, and talk over with locals/your hosts any procedures that might already be in place.

In the event of a physical security incident, do your best to stay calm and make a plan.

  1. Quickly move away from any imminent danger.
  2. Follow the advice of local authorities, including any curfews or travel restrictions.
  3. Stay inside where you are, unless it is unsafe to do so.
  4. Try to stay in a group – unless the group is not acting safely or if your own assessment of the situation contradicts the group.
  5. Call the local emergency number if you need assistance (find the local emergency number). If you can’t and need immediate assistance, call International SOS.
  6. Contact Safety Abroad as soon as possible to let us know you are safe.

 

Before leaving, you should have a general understanding of the political culture in your destination. Research the situation in your host country and any attitudes towards foreigners, particularly towards someone with your nationality, or any nationality associated with your appearance

Are there any specific dangers arising from the local political situation? Is there a history of riots or strikes that may impede your safety or disrupt your travel?

Is there an election being held while you are there? How has the country historically responded to elections?

As a traveller, you may not be fully aware of the politics behind any demonstrations that occur while you are overseas. Carefully consider the implications, not only for yourself, but also for locals, if you decide to participate or even just go to protest areas to take pictures.

If demonstrations occur:

  • Follow local news and monitor Global Affairs Canada for updates.
  • Avoid areas where demonstrations are taking place. Ask locals where demonstrations are likely to occur and make efforts to avoid those areas.
  • If you come across a demonstration, or a large gathering of people who seem upset, you should leave the area as quickly as possible. In some locations demonstrations are illegal, and authorities may consider you to be participating if you remain in the area.
  • Avoid photographing or videoing protests. Think twice about posting any images online – depending on the situation, social media may be used to determine who was participating in the event. Keep in mind, also, that others may not wish for their presence to be publicized.

If you are detained:

  • Comply with authorities.
  • Contact the embassy associated with your travel documents as soon as possible.

Useful Links:

https://travel.gc.ca/travelling/health-safety/mass-gatherings

 

Robbery is when a person steals your valuables using a weapon. A mugging is a quick robbery that usually occurs in a public place. Check the Travel Advisory for your location for information specific to your location, but in general, to reduce your risk of being a victim of robbery:

  • Choose secure accommodations.
  • Be careful when withdrawing money. Try to choose ATMs in secure locations (e.g. inside banks, in well-lit areas), and pay close attention to your surroundings both before and after withdrawing money. Be sure not to show how much money you have withdrawn. If you have a travel companion, ask them to watch your surroundings for you.
  • Do not dress or act as though you are wealthy, and be aware of how you may be perceived by those around you. Avoid looking like a tourist as much as possible.
  • Keep your valuables hidden when in public areas. These may include cameras, laptops, branded goods, jewellery, or certain brands of cellphones. In general, avoid bringing valuable items with you, and do not frequently bring them out in public (e.g. to take pictures).
  • Do not accept food, drinks, or cigarettes from strangers or new friends.
  • If you see someone or something that looks suspicious, make sure to report it to staff at your accommodation, place of work/study.
  • When travelling by road, make sure the doors are locked and keep the windows closed, especially when you are frequently stopping or travelling slowly.
  • In higher risk areas, or if you are in a higher risk group, do not travel alone and be especially wary after dark. You should also avoid hailing taxis on the street, and instead call ahead to book them.

If confronted by someone who is armed:

  • Comply with their instructions.
  • Avoid any sudden movements – keep your movements slow and steady.
  • Avoid resisting or antagonizing them – try to keep your voice calm and follow instructions.
  • Avoid eye contact, in case this is interpreted as a challenge.

Once you are safe, report the robbery to local authorities, your hosts, and Safety Abroad.

 

If the Travel Advisory for your destination notes a risk for terrorist attacks, you should keep the following in mind:

Stay Aware: You should be especially vigilant in areas that are at a higher risk of terrorism. Such incidents will often occur during large public gatherings, in places of significance, or during public events. Some places that may be particularly high risk include airports, train or bus stations, landmarks, sports venues, concert halls, government or military buildings, or religious sites. In some locations, usually noted in the Travel Advisory, this list includes hotels, restaurants, shops, and marketplaces where large numbers of foreigners can be found.

Be vigilant whenever you are in a crowded place. Being aware can also help when you need to remember where things are, such as exits. Try to avoid visiting places during peak hours – this may also help reduce your risk of theft and pickpocketing. Pay close attention to the attitude of the crowd. If the atmosphere becomes tense, if you sense something is wrong, or if you see something suspicious, follow your gut and leave.

Stay Informed: Pay close attention to government warnings that relate to your location. These warnings can also include information about specific areas or routes. Talk with trusted local hosts for their recommendations of places or routes to avoid. Monitor local media, and ask your hosts, to keep updated on the local security situation.

Have A Plan: Have an emergency contact outside of town and share their contact information (including email) with everyone in your household. Decide a meeting place in case something happens, and know the evacuation procedures at your accommodation and place of work/study. Prepare an emergency kit, including medicine, copies of important documents (e.g. your passport, health insurance information), first aid supplies, some cash, and a battery powered radio and flashlight. You should also include non-perishable food and bottled water, in case you have to shelter in place.

If there is an act of terrorism:

  • Be especially vigilant in crowded areas and avoid them as much as possible.
  • Avoid or be vigilant on public transportation.
  • Consider moving to accommodation with heavier security.
  • Have a plan should you need to evacuate quickly.
  • If something happens near your home and you are there, check for damage using a flashlight. Do not turn on the electricity or light matches. Check for fire hazards and gas leaks. If there is a gas leak, open the windows and move to a safer location.
  • Call International SOS for advice if needed.
  • Once you are safe, contact Safety Abroad to let us know you are okay.

If you are in a higher risk area:

  • Have an emergency plan, not only for yourself, but for whoever may need to leave with you as well.
  • Keep a “grab bag” in case of emergencies, so that you don’t have to search for your passport, keys, medicine, etc. in a hurry.
  • Know which number to call for help in an emergency, and talk over with locals/your hosts any procedures that might already be in place.

Useful Links:

American Red Cross – Terrorism Safety

 

If the location you are visiting has an increased risk of kidnapping or robbery, especially for foreigners, then you should take some precautions.

  • Pay close attention to any government warnings about areas or routes to avoid. You can also ask trusted locals for their recommendations of areas to avoid or precautions you should take.
  • Make sure you have secure accommodation, and keep your door locked even when you are inside the room. Don’t leave windows or balcony/patio doors open.
  • Regularly change your daily habits: avoid travelling at the same time every day and change routes frequently if safe to do so.
  • Do not dress or act as though you are wealthy by the host culture’s standards. Avoid looking like a tourist as much as possible.
  • Keep your valuables hidden when in public areas. These may include cameras, laptops, branded goods, jewellery, or certain brands of cellphones. In general, avoid bringing valuable items with you, and do not frequently bring them out in public (e.g. to take pictures).
  • If you see someone or something that looks suspicious, make sure to report to staff at your accommodation, place of work/study.
  • Never get into a taxi with people other than the driver inside. For more taxi safety tips, see Transportation.
  • When travelling by road, make sure the doors are locked and keep the windows closed, especially when you are frequently stopping or travelling slowly.
  • In higher risk areas, or if you are in a higher risk group, do not travel alone and be especially wary after dark.

Once you are safe, call local authorities and/or International SOS. Report the incident to Safety Abroad and your hosts.

 

 

Should I have an emergency “grab” bag? What should be in the bag?

Dressing or acting wealthy may negatively effect personal safety, but what does “wealthy” mean?

Where can I find more information about the security situation in my area?


Should I have an emergency “grab” bag? What should be in the bag?

If your area has a high risk of security incidents, or if there is a possibility that you may need to leave your accommodation in a rush, you should keep a grab bag for emergencies. What you have in your grab bag will vary depending on what you will need in an emergency, but in general should have items such as your passport, keys, any medications you take, a change of clothes, and emergency contact information.

Back to Top.


Dressing or acting wealthy may negatively effect personal safety, but what does “wealthy” mean?

What is considered looking “wealthy” will be different depending on where you are in the world, or where you are within a country or even city. No matter where you are, foreigners tend to be perceived as wealthy targets for thieves. In general, pay attention to how locals dress and try not to stand out too much.

Back to Top.


Where can I find more information about the security situation in my area?

The Government of Canada’s Travel Advisories are a good start, and you may want to consider following your local Canadian embassy or consulate on social media. These social media accounts can be found through the Travel Smart app, or from this directory.The Travel Smart app also contains up-to-date information on safety and security, as well as other useful information.

Another good source is International SOS. Their Assistance app is regularly updated with information, and the your location page will show active alerts if there are issues.

Back to Top.

Transportation Safety

No matter where you are, you should be considering how to stay safe while travelling around your location.


Note: Students travelling on University of Toronto international activities are not permitted to drive.

  • Unregistered taxis sometimes overcharge customers, do not maintain vehicles, or bring you to a completely different destination than you asked.
  • For these reasons, use registered taxis, but always do a small risk assessment before climbing in the cab. Is the vehicle in good condition? Is there a meter scale or should you negotiate a price? Keep in mind that a registered taxi uses a scale instead of negotiating.
  • Research the destination’s public transportation system: How much does it cost for one fare? Are there transfer policies? Will you receive a proof of payment each time on a ride? What kind of transit pass works best for you? Do you pay when boarding, or when exiting?
  • Do not assume you can use ride-sharing apps like Uber everywhere you travel. Some places, such as London, Copenhagen, Austin and Vancouver have banned the Uber ride-sharing app.
  • If you’re traveling to a higher risk region, have a budget for registered taxis.
  • When walking near traffic at dusk or at night, make sure to wear reflective and/or bright clothing.
  • Do not get into a vehicle if you suspect the driver has been drinking or taking drugs.
  • Look both ways when crossing the road! Remember that cars or bicycles may be coming from a different direction than you expect.

 

Before travelling, you should check which methods of transportation are most common in your destination, and which are considered the safest.

Do not assume that you can use ride-sharing apps like Uber everywhere you travel. Some places, such as London, Copenhagen, Austin, and Vancouver, have banned the Uber ride-sharing app. In other places, there are regular physical fights between taxi drivers and ride-share drivers, making a ride-sharing trip more risky than usual.

In other places, ride-sharing options may be safer than regular taxis, so this is an important step in your research. As always, knowledge is your most powerful ally for a safe trip.

Before getting into any taxi or ride-sharing vehicle, you should first quickly check over the vehicle for any potential problems.

  • Are similar-looking taxis or taxis from the same company easily found at official taxi stands? What kind of characteristics (e.g. colours, designs, logos) are on taxis at taxi stands? Generally taxis at these stands are part of official companies, so knowing what they look like is a huge advantage.
  • Unregistered taxis sometimes overcharge customers, do not maintain vehicles, or bring you to a completely different destination than you asked. For that reason, you should always use registered taxis.
  • If you are travelling to a higher risk area, make sure you have a budget for registered taxis.

When getting into a vehicle, keep the door open and one leg outside the door until you have decided it is safe. Keep your luggage with you on the back seat as much as possible in case you need to exit the vehicle in a hurry. Check for:

  • The condition – is the vehicle in good condition?
  • A two-way radio, a meter, and a driver’s ID – these are hallmarks of a legitimate taxi.
  • Are there door handles on the passenger doors? Do they work?
  • Ask the driver if you will use the meter or if you have to negotiate. Keep in mind registered taxis use scales instead of negotiating.
  • Do not share with others. If the driver wants to pick up another passenger, refuse, and if the driver insists, get out and find another taxi.

While in the taxi:

  • Above all else, know where you are going. If possible, follow the route on your phone and pay close attention to any landmarks outside of your windows.
  • If the driver chats with you, do not reveal that you are new to the area. Do not share personal information, such as your travel companions’ names. For solo travellers, you might also want to give the impression that you will be meeting a local friend at your destination point.
  • Keep your valuables tucked away, out of sight of the windows.
  • Ride with the windows mostly rolled up, especially when the vehicle is moving slowly or frequently stopping – this stops possible thieves from reaching inside to steal bags and/or valuables.
  • If you feel uncomfortable, trust your gut. If you decide to leave the taxi, tossing the fare into the front seat may mean you are less likely to be followed.

 

Before using public transportation in your destination, you should do a quick check of how the system works.

  • Is public transportation generally a safe choice?
  • How much is one fare? Do fares vary? Are there transfer policies?
  • Will you receive a proof of payment each time you use the transportation?
  • How do most people pay? If there are passes, can you get one for the length of time you need? If you can avoid frequently taking cash out, passes might be a better choice.
  • No matter your payment method, try to keep your payment close at hand, especially if public transportation tends to be crowded. Prepare your payment ahead of time. Avoid keeping your transit pass or cash payment in your wallet so you don’t have to keep bringing it out.
  • Do you pay when entering, or when leaving? In some countries, this will be very clear, but in other countries you may need to check how to “tap off” the transportation system when using transit passes.
  • If you have a transit pass, check whether you will have to pay extra for detouring from your regular route.
  • If you have accessibility requirements, you should research ahead of time whether the system can support your needs (i.e. whether taking a taxi might be better), and if there is anything you need to know ahead of time.

While you are in the transportation system:

  • Pay close attention to the culture: Do people line up in a specific way when boarding? Do they give priority to certain groups in seating? Are there norms about personal space?
  • Bring only what you need, and keep valuables close to you, preferably against your body so you can feel them move.
  • If travelling with luggage, try to keep it manageable – the fewer bags, the better. If you can’t put it in a luggage rack close to your seat, consider keeping the luggage with you or under your seat. In general, smaller bags will need more attention than larger bags.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. Avoid dozing off or becoming too distracted by your phone, music, or thoughts. The more aware you are, the easier it will be to spot potential issues.
  • Standing or sitting in the middle of a vehicle tends to be less risky than being close to the doors, as door areas are usually more crowded – something thieves generally use to their advantage.

 

While travelling, you should be aware of potential scams involving transportation, especially involving drivers. The following are common scams involving transportation:

Taxi Without a Meter – This is perhaps the most common scam in the world. In these cases, either the driver will claim that they don’t have a meter or it’s not working, or they will offer you a “better deal” than it would be if the meter was working. In these cases the driver knows you don’t know the local prices, and takes advantage of your lack of information to charge you much more than usual.


Taking a Long Route – Perhaps the second most common scam in the world! The driver is on the meter, but takes a longer route than he could have taken, thus ensuring you pay more. After winding through the town, passing the same places multiple times, and taking hours to get somewhere that was supposed to be close by, you receive a bill that shocks you.


“I Don’t Have Change” – You’ve withdrawn money from the ATM, but you haven’t yet had the chance to break those larger bills into smaller amounts. Once you arrive at your destination, you offer the driver a large bill and ask for change. The driver apologizes, he doesn’t have any change. You are left with a choice: overpay or get into trouble for not paying at all!


Sleight of Hand – The driver accepts your cash, but then turns around to show that you’ve given her the wrong bill. Oops! You were sure you were handing her the right amount, but after all, she is the local. You must have made a mistake. You quickly hunt around in your bag and hand over another large bill. It’s only afterwards that you realize you were right – you’ve just overpaid.


Avoiding the Scams:

The best way to avoid these kinds of scams is to be prepared. Look for registered taxi drivers – If you don’t know, ask staff at hotels, universities, conference centers, airports, etc. to call a taxi for you, or to recommend a company. Avoid drivers who approach you and instead approach drivers yourself. If you get inside the cab, check for the meter before closing the door, and ask the driver to use it. If he refuses or claims to give a better price without it, get out and find another taxi driver.

Before setting off, make sure to check the route on a map. Ask the driver how long he thinks it will take to get there, and compare the time with your map. While on route, keep looking out of the windows. See the same landmark twice? Ask the driver if he is lost and perhaps choose another taxi. Route not lining up with the map? Question the driver and consider getting out or calling a friend.

When paying for your bill, make sure to have smaller amounts of currency on hand. Avoid only carrying large bills, even if you have to split them quickly by buying something small before catching a taxi. Carefully count out the amount and say out loud the amount of the bill that you are giving the driver. Watch the driver carefully to make sure there are no sudden changes in what you’ve given them. Paying in smaller amounts will be especially helpful in avoiding slight of hand scams, as it’s not as valuable to switch out smaller bills.

 

True or False? Ride sharing apps are safer than taxis?

True or False? When riding in a taxi, you should keep your valuables in the trunk, to avoid theft.

You’ve decided to take a public bus. Where is the most risky place to stand in terms of theft?

What is the “I don’t have change” Scam? What can you do to avoid it?

True or False? Keep your transit pass or tickets in your wallet, to ensure they don’t get lost.

What should you do when renting a car?


True or False? Ride sharing apps are safer than taxis?

Which transportation method is the safest choice will depend on your location and your own characteristics. Depending on your location, ride-sharing apps may be banned. In most places, registered taxis will be the safest option, but this also depends on your location.

Read more: Taxis & Ride Sharing.

Back to Top.


True or False? When riding in a taxi, you should keep your valuables in the trunk, to avoid theft.

While the correct answer may depend on your personal situation and what you are carrying, in general you should keep valuables with you in the vehicle as much as possible, in case you need to exit the vehicle in a hurry.

Read more: Taxis & Ride Sharing.

Back to Top.


You’ve decided to take a public bus. Where is the most risky place to stand in terms of theft?

Standing near the doors may not be your best option.

Read more: Public Transportation.

Back to Top.


What is the “I don’t have change” Scam? What can you do to avoid it?

This scam is closely related to having and using large bills to pay.

Read about the scam and how to avoid it: Transportation Scams.

Back to Top.


True or False? Keep your transit pass or tickets in your wallet, to ensure they don’t get lost.

False. Keeping your transportation tickets and/or passes in your wallet means that every time you board public transportation, you will need to bring out your wallet. Instead of bringing attention to your wallet, keep your transportation tickets and/or passes in a separate place.

Read more: Public Transportation.

Back to Top.


What should you do when renting a car?

Students travelling on University of Toronto activities overseas are not permitted to drive.

If you believe that driving may be the only option available to you overseas, please contact Safety.Abroad@utoronto.ca.

Back to Top.

Natural Disasters

If your destination is at a high risk of natural disasters (e.g. earthquakes, floods, hurricanes), you should have a good idea of what signs to look for and a general idea of how to respond. Your local contacts will be the best sources of information, but the following tips may also help.


The Government of Canada’s Travel Advisories helpfully provide a section for each country listing the most common natural disasters and climate events for that destination. In order to be prepared for the worst, you should research ahead of time which are more common and how you should act in each worst-case scenario.

Since all countries are susceptible to some type of natural disaster, put a plan in place before you go. How would you contact family and friends at home? How would you reach your local contacts in an emergency? Where are the safe places to go in an emergency?

If natural disasters or climate events are common in your destination, then it is highly likely that locals already have a system in place for dealing with them. Your local contacts may be great sources of information. Upon arriving, you may want to talk to locals about what you should do and any procedures that you can follow. Keep in mind that if such events occur frequently (e.g. frequent earthquakes, monsoons every year), locals may consider this kind of information common sense, so you may have to ask directly for explanations. Do not be afraid of asking multiple times until you fully understand.

If you find yourself in a natural disaster or climate event:

  • Follow the advice of local authorities. Following the guidance of local authorities is extremely important in the aftermath of a disaster.
  • Connect with the nearest Canadian consulate (or your home country’s consulate) for assistance.
  • If you find yourself in a particularly dangerous situation, call International SOS: +12159428226.

Following a natural disaster, stay safe while cleanup efforts are underway. Avoid any fallen power lines, damaged gas lines, or debris. Be aware that food and water can be unsafe and pose serious threats to your safety.


Useful Links:

https://www.getprepared.gc.ca/

 

Earthquakes occur when there is a shift in the earth’s crust and can occur at many different levels of intensity. Certain areas experience earthquakes more frequently: this map shows recent seismic activities worldwide. You can check whether your destination commonly has earthquakes through the Travel Advisories.

To prepare for an earthquake, your first step should be to talk with your hosts or with local contacts about any procedures that are in place. Keep in mind that if earthquakes are common, locals have likely had training since they were young and might consider these procedures common sense. You should be proactive in asking what to do. You should also learn how to turn off gas or electricity in your accommodation, in case you are asked to do so by authorities.

In general, you should make sure that heavy items are stored at ground level, and that any furniture or shelving is secured and won’t tip over. Do not hang any heavy objects over your bed. You may also want to consider how to secure computers and other appliances.

A crack in a road, marked by traffic cones.

If an earthquake happens….Drop, Cover, Hold!

Drop under something solid, such as a heavy table or desk. If you can’t get under a table or desk, stand against an inside wall or hallway. Avoid standing in doorways in case the door slams into you. Avoid being near windows, lights, and tall furniture. If you are outside, stay low and stay away from overhead power lines and tall trees. If you’re in a car or other vehicle with a roof, pull over and stay inside it. Most injuries occur when people run outside and are hit by debris.

Cover your head. If possible, grab some pillows or blankets and hold them over your head to protect yourself against falling debris. If not, use your arms to protect your head from falling debris. If you are in a wheelchair, lock the wheels and protect the back of your head and neck.

Hold on. Keep a tight grip on whatever object you are under to prevent yourself from sliding around.

After an earthquake:

Remember that aftershocks can occur, especially after larger quakes. Listen to the radio or television for any news or instructions from local authorities. If you are near an ocean, monitor the news for any tsunami warnings. Do not light any matches until you are sure there are no gas leaks or spilled flammable liquid.

If tap water is still available, fill your bathtub or other containers. Put on your shoes to protect your feet from any debris. Check your accommodation for any structural damage (e.g. cracks). If you suspect it is unsafe, do not go back inside. If you leave your accommodation for any reason, post a message in clear view indicating where you have gone and when you should be back.


Useful Links:

https://www.getprepared.gc.ca/cnt/hzd/rthqks-en.aspx

https://www.emsc-csem.org/#2w

 

Tsunamis can happen with little warning and are caused by large, high energy disturbances in the sea floor. These disturbances can be the result of earthquakes, volcanic activity, landslides, or less commonly, meteoric impacts. The Government of Canada’s Travel Advisories will have information if tsunamis are common in your destination.

When staying somewhere with a potential for tsunamis, you should ask locals for any procedures you should know about. If tsunami warnings are common, locals may have had this training since childhood and consider it common sense, so be proactive in asking what you should do if one happens. You should also know how to turn off gas and electricity in your accommodation, in case authorities ask you to do so at some point. In high risk areas, you should ensure you have an emergency kit in your accommodation (read more in the Emergency Kits tab).

A wave cresting, so white spray is rising above the water.

One possible sign of a tsunami risk is a strong earthquake that lasts more than 20 seconds. If an earthquake occurs and you are in a coastal area, you should monitor the news and any messages about a tsunami risk. If you can see the ocean, another sign of a tsunami is a sudden recession of the water, even further than when there is a low tide. If there is a tsunami warning and it is safe to do so, move to higher ground immediately. DO NOT go to the shore.

If you cannot get to higher ground, move to the side of your building furthest from the water and away from any windows. Listen for any warnings or instructions from local authorities. Remember that tsunamis often occur in multiple waves, sometimes as much as one hour apart. If you are safe when the first wave hits, remain in place until authorities announce it is safe.

After a tsunami hits, you may encounter flood waters. Avoid walking or driving through flood waters as much as possible, as you will not know what is in the water (e.g. power lines, debris). Before travelling anywhere, you should listen to instructions from local authorities, who will be coordinating evacuation plans.


Useful Links:

https://www.getprepared.gc.ca/cnt/hzd/tsnms-bfr-en.aspx

https://www.getprepared.gc.ca/cnt/hzd/tsnms-drng-en.aspx

 

Avalanches occur when a layer of snow gives way and snow rapidly travels downhill. The speed of the snow can reach more than 90km/h.

If you are travelling to a destination with a risk of avalanches, you should learn how to recognize the signs of an avalanche and pay close attention to local news and weather forecasts.

A village nestled at the foot of snowy mountains during the winterside.

If you are travelling when an avalanche hits and you’re in a vehicle, stay inside the vehicle and keep your seatbelt on. It’s easier to find a vehicle than a person, and you will have an air pocket around you.

When travelling in avalanche-prone areas:

  • Always travel with a buddy or guide, preferably one familiar with the area.
  • Ask about local alert systems and sign up for them if available.
  • Get training on how to stay safe in an avalanche.
  • Have proper equipment to protect yourself and create air pockets.
  • Avoid any areas with higher risks.

Read more.


Useful Links:

https://www.ready.gov/avalanche

https://www.getprepared.gc.ca/cnt/hzd/vlchs-en.aspx

 

If heavy rains or floods are common in your destination (find out here), you may want to know how to prepare and what to do if a flood happens. You should carefully monitor the local news and talk to local contacts about any procedures that might be in place.

If a flood is possible, or if your area is experiencing heavy rains, you should talk with your landlord or hosts about how to prepare your accommodation for flooding, especially if you are staying in a room on the ground floor or in a basement apartment. If possible, you may want to ask about staying on a higher level of the building temporarily.

If flooding is imminent, move anything that could be damaged or dangerous (e.g. electronics, appliances, belongings) to higher levels, either in the building or inside your room. In some cases, you may receive emergency instructions to prepare sandbags to block flood waters. Pay close attention to any instructions from authorities.

Read more about what to do before a flood.

A picture of a tree submerged in flood waters.

During a flood, keep your radio on and your emergency kit close by in case you are asked to evacuate.

If you are asked to evacuate, follow authorities’ instructions closely. If you are asked to leave and it is safe to do so, leave and follow the routes specified by authorities. Do not attempt to take shortcuts. If you have time, leave a note informing others when you left, where you are going, and when you hope to arrive there. If possible, let someone know your plans.

DO NOT attempt to cross floodwaters. If you are on foot, fast moving waters can sweep you away. Even in shallow water, you run the risk of being injured by debris. Floodwaters can also be heavily contaminated with sewage and other pollutants from flooded sewers.

If you are in a car, do not attempt to drive through floodwaters, especially in underpasses. The water may be far deeper than you thought and the car may get swept away.

Read more about what to do during a flood.

After a flood, if you left your home, do not return home until permitted to do so by local authorities. Do not enter until you are certain that it is safe to do so – if the electricity was on when you left, ask someone (e.g. hosts, landlords, an electrician) to check that it is safe for you to enter. Check that the building itself has not been damaged.

Do not use any appliances that were damaged in the flood waters until they are completely dry and have been checked over by an electrician. If you are unsure if they were damaged, but know that they were in the floodwaters, consider buying replacements.

Be careful of any debris and check for damage. Be cautious around any remaining flood water, as it may be contaminated with sewage or other pollutants. Be sure to thoroughly clean and sterilize your space and anything that was in the floodwaters. Make sure to record any damage by photograph or video if you are planning to file an insurance claim or if you need to discuss it with your landlord.

Read more about what to do after a flood and how to safely clean up your space.


Useful Links:

https://www.getprepared.gc.ca/cnt/hzd/flds-en.aspx

 

Hurricanes, tropical storms, cyclones, typhoons…all of these categories refer to storms that consist of high winds, heavy rain, and severe thunderstorms. You can check whether these kinds of storms regularly occur in your destination via the Government of Canada’s Travel Advisories.

If a hurricane, tropical storm, cyclone, or typhoon is forecast:

  • Monitor local news for emergency information and alerts.
  • Stock up on water, ready-to-eat food, heating fuel (if applicable), battery powered radios and flashlights, as well as extra batteries.
  • Secure any loose items on balconies or immediately outside of your accommodation.
  • Prepare a grab bag of valuables, medicine, ID, and other things you will need if you have to evacuate.
  • If asked to evacuate by authorities, do so immediately.

A swirling circle of clouds during a hurricane, as seen from space.

During a hurricane, tropical storm, cyclone, or typhoon:

  • Stay indoors and avoid going out. Do not go down to water to watch the storm approach.
  • Stay in an interior room or storm shelter, away from windows and doors.
  • During the eye of the storm, there will be a period of calm, which can last from a few minutes to as long as half an hour. During the eye, stay in a safe place, and only make emergency repairs if necessary and be aware that the storm will return.
  • If there is lightening, avoid using landline phones. Cellular phones should still be safe to use.
  • Listen for reports from authorities.
  • If told to evacuate by authorities, do so immediately. If you encounter flood waters, do not attempt to cross them, either by foot or by vehicle.

After the storm:

  • Listen to the instructions of local authorities and only return if it is safe to do so.
  • Use text messages and social media to contact family and friends. Phone lines tend to be overwhelmed after disasters, so avoid making phone calls unless in emergencies.
  • Be careful during cleanup efforts – wear protective clothing and do not touch any wet electrical equipment, especially when standing in water.
  • Avoid flood water, even if it seems shallow, in case of debris, sewage, or other dangers.

Read more.


Useful Links:

https://www.getprepared.gc.ca/cnt/hzd/hrrcns-en.aspx

https://www.ready.gov/hurricanes

 

Landslides can occur as a result of heavy rains or earthquakes and can cause significant damage to infrastructure, including roads and buildings. As always, research your destination before travelling and pay close attention to local news, especially after earthquakes or during periods of heavy rains.

Pay close attention to any warning signs: Listen for sounds of rushing water, increasingly loud rumbling, and other unusual sounds, such as trees breaking or rocks grinding together. If there is a high chance of a landslide occurring in your area, try to stay alert and avoid sleeping, or take turns sleeping.

If you are asked to evacuate, do so promptly and follow local authorities’ instructions.

If a landslide occurs

…and you are indoors: take cover in the part of the building furthest from the landslide. Take shelter under a table or other solid furniture and hold on tightly.

…and you are outdoors: move away from the path of the landslide as soon as possible, and especially away from any trees or power lines. It’s recommended to move uphill. Never attempt to cross in front of a landslide, even if you think you can be faster. Never try to cross a road with mud or water flowing across it.

After a landslide:

  • Stay away from the area where the landslide occurred, in case there are further slides.
  • Listen to local radio or television stations for updates.
  • Do not re-enter buildings that were in the path of the landslide until authorities confirm it is safe to do so.

Useful Links:

https://www.getprepared.gc.ca/cnt/hzd/lndslds-en.aspx

https://www.ready.gov/landslides-debris-flow

 

If a storm warning comes on the news while you are in your destination, what should you do?

Severe storms can take many forms, including blizzards, hail, thunderstorms, and the weather events with further information in this section. While you may not be able to predict that a storm will occur while you are overseas, you should have an emergency kit on hand in case of any issues (read more in the ‘Emergency Kits’ section).

In general, if a severe storm is forecast, you should move inside, stay away from windows and doors, and monitor local news for any updates.

During the storm, pay close attention to local news. If there is a thunderstorm, stay away from anything that might conduct electricity, including showers, baths, sinks, landline phones, metal pipes, and radiators. If you are outside when lightening begins, seek shelter immediately in a building or enclosed vehicle. If in a vehicle, make sure that you are not near trees or power lines that may fall on you. You should wait at least 30 minutes after the last lightening strike before you go outside again.

If there is hail, do not try to go outside to get things. Stay indoors and away from windows, glass doors, and skylights. If you are outside, find shelter and avoid low-laying areas that might flood.

During a blizzard or other winter storm, avoid going outside. Be aware that your visibility may be so far reduced that you may get lost, even in short distances. Avoid travelling during blizzards. If going outside, don’t assume you will be able to stay in a warm vehicle and make sure to dress appropriately for the weather. If you are in a vehicle, remain calm and stay inside the vehicle. If the vehicle is unable to move, stay inside and beware of exhaust fumes that may result from a blocked exhaust pipe. Keep your body moving to stay warm, especially your hands and feet. DO NOT fall asleep, and keep watching for other traffic or rescuers.

Read more about what to do in severe storms.

 

Wildfires may be common in areas with forests, grasslands, or brush. Before travelling, you should check your destination’s Travel Advisory to see whether wildfires may be common in your destination.

In order to be prepared for a wildfire, you should make sure you have a clear plan for what to do if a wildfire occurs and how you would get out of the building. Keep an emergency kit on hand. You should also make sure that your building and room have working smoke detectors, and that you keep escape routes clear of any objects. If wildfires are common in the area, you may want to ask locals about any procedures that are already in place. Keep in mind that locals may have had training in such procedures since they were young and consider it common sense. Be proactive and ask around.

Evacuate immediately if authorities tell you to do so.

Smoke rising from a forest in the valley of a mountain range.

If you hear that a wildfire may be approaching:

  • Close all windows and doors and cover vents with duct tape to block the smoke, if possible.
  • Have everything ready to go in case you need to evacuate.
  • Turn off the gas, turn on the lights, and move anything that might burn easily away from the windows.
  • Fill your bathtub and/or containers with water.
  • Monitor local radio stations for updates.
  • Evacuate immediately if told to do so. If trapped, call local emergency authorities, but be aware that a response may be delayed.

After the wildfire passes:

  • Only return if authorities say that it is safe to do so.
  • Avoid any hot ash or smouldering debris.
  • Use text messages to reach out to others – phone lines will likely be overloaded immediately after a disaster, so only make emergency calls.

Useful Links:

https://www.getprepared.gc.ca/cnt/hzd/wldfrs-bfr-en.aspx

https://www.getprepared.gc.ca/cnt/hzd/wldfrs-drng-en.aspx

 

If you are in a place where natural disasters can occur, you should carefully consider what to include in your emergency kit.

The purpose of an emergency kit is to ensure that you have enough supplies to survive during an emergency, even without electricity or running water. It should have necessities that you might need while you are waiting for help, or for you to survive in the immediate aftermath of a disaster.

Your kit should be easy to move (e.g. in a suitcase), and the Government of Canada recommends having enough supplies for 72 hours, including:

  • Two liters of water per person per day
  • Dried or canned food that won’t spoil (don’t forget a can opener!)
  • A flashlight
  • A battery powered or wind-up radio
  • Extra batteries
  • A first aid kit
  • Some cash, especially coins for payphones or vending machines

You should also have a clear plan for what you will need to take with you, such as keys, travel documents, and any prescription medication. You might consider having a reminder on or near your emergency kit to make sure you remember to bring them with you.

These are recommendations from the Government of Canada for emergency kits for disasters in Canada. Depending on where you are, you may need to modify what the kit contains. No matter your destination, you should consider preparing an emergency kit upon arrival.


Useful Links:

https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/emergency-preparedness/making-an-emergency-kit.html

Canadian Red Cross – Disaster Prep on a Budget

 

Where can you find information about your destination’s most common natural disasters?

During an earthquake, where is a good place to take shelter?

What is a good warning sign of a tsunami? How long does it usually last?

During a hurricane, you look outside and see everything has become calm. Is it safe to go outside?

Your hosts don’t mention an earthquake procedure, even though you are in an earthquake zone. Does this mean there aren’t emergency procedures?

What can be a warning sign of a landslide approaching?

True or False? If floodwaters are shallow, and if you are wearing solid footwear, they are safe to cross.

How much water should you have in an emergency kit?

After a natural disaster, what is the best method to contact family and friends?


Where can you find information about your destination’s most common natural disasters?

Your destination’s Travel Advisory is a good place to start.

Read More: General Information.

Back to Top.


During an earthquake, where is a good place to take shelter?

You should find shelter under something solid, such as a desk or table.

Read about other options: Earthquakes.

Back to Top.


What is a good warning sign of a tsunami? How long does it usually last?

One good warning sign of a potential tsunami is a prolonged earthquake.

Find more information: Tsunamis.

Back to Top.


During a hurricane, you look outside and see everything has become calm. Is it safe to go outside?

The answer to this question depends on whether you are inside or outside the storm.

Read more about the eye of a hurricane: Hurricanes.

Back to Top.


Your hosts don’t mention an earthquake procedure, even though you are in an earthquake zone. Does this mean there aren’t emergency procedures?

In places where certain natural disasters, such as earthquakes, are common, locals have often been trained on what to do since they are children. As a result, they may view emergency procedures as common knowledge and assume you already know what to do. If nobody has mentioned an emergency procedure and you know natural disasters are common in your area, make sure to ask for details of what to do in an emergency.

Back to Top.


What can be a warning sign of a landslide approaching?

Landslides usually make a unique noise as they approach.

Read more: Landslides.

Back to Top.


True or False? If floodwaters are shallow, and if you are wearing solid footwear, they are safe to cross.

False.

Read why: Floods.

Back to Top.


How much water should you have in an emergency kit?

Two liters per day.

Find out for how many days: Emergency Kits.

Back to Top.


After a natural disaster, what is the best method to contact family and friends?

After a disaster, telephone lines are usually full of emergency calls. Save the phone calls for an emergency and text or email family and friends instead.

Back to Top.

More Topics:

There are many factors that can effect your personal safety overseas. Check out the following topics for more information!


LGBTQ+ Safety

LGBTQ+

For more information about LGBTQ+ safety overseas, see Adjusting.

 

 

Families and Children

Families and Children

Read more about safely travelling with children, or while pregnant.

Food & Water Safety

Food & Water Safety

To learn more about Food & Water Safety overseas, see Health & Wellness.

 

Mental Health

Mental Health

Learn what might affect your mental health while overseas: Health & Wellness.

Extreme Temperatures

Extreme Temperatures

To read more about staying safe in extreme temperatures, see Health & Wellness.

Identity

Identity

Learn more about how your unique personal identities may interact with local differences: Adjusting.

Taboos & Laws

Taboos & Laws

Read more about how different taboos and laws can affect your safety: Adjusting.

 

 

Physical Health

Physical Health

Learn about illnesses that might affect you during your trip: Health & Wellness.