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Traveling Abroad: 13 Tips To Roaming Freely And Safely

10/21/2013 02:56 pm ET | Updated Oct 25, 2013

These days, it's almost impossible to imagine leaving the house, not to mention traveling to a foreign country, without a smartphone. How would you avoid getting lost without your built-in GPS? Or know which neighborhoods to visit (and which to avoid) without a handy phone travel guide? And don't forget everyone needs social media apps to share experiences with friends.

While your smartphone can help you keep in touch and stay street smart while traveling abroad, the costs of international roaming, data and messaging can make staying connected very expensive (just ask this guy). That's why our friends at T-Mobile added global data coverage in over 100 countries at no extra cost to their Simple Choice plan.

So, now that it won't break the bank to stay safe and make sure everyone knows your trip is going a-OK, we teamed up with T-Mobile to put together some other crucial, but very often-overlooked, traveling tips to protect you from worst-case scenarios. Read on for 13 safety tips every globetrotter should heed while traveling the world.

  • 1 Enroll In STEP
    The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) is a government initiative to keep Americans safe abroad. This free service allows you to register with STEP to get travel warnings and alerts for a particular country, and will help the government assist you better in an emergency.
  • 2 E-Mail Someone A Copy Of Your Itinerary
    Keep mom up to date while still maintaining your freedom by sending her a detailed itinerary of your trip beforehand. No need to call and check in every day, but try to post updates to social media sites or send quick e-mails so that everyone knows you are safe and happy.
  • 3 Separate Your Money
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    Do not keep your credit cards and cash in the same place. Keep some cash in your wallet, and leave some in a zippered pocket in your luggage or another safe location. In addition, store credit cards in a separate pocket of your purse or day bag from your carry-around cash.
  • 4 Scan Your Passport (And Other Important Items)
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    If something happens to your passport or other documents while you are out of the country, it could take up to 6 weeks for a new one to arrive. Although you might already know to make a copy of your passport, consider downloading a scanning app, like TurboScan, to keep your important documents organized and safe in the cloud.
  • 5 Give Charity Smartly
    In many large metropolises, beggars are everywhere. However, giving them your money directly may not be the smartest, or safest decision. Instead of handing money out on the street, donate to Kiva or another charity relating to the city of your travels.
  • 6 Get Traveler's Insurance
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    Accidents can happen anywhere -- and your home insurance may not cover you abroad. Check out Lonely Planet's traveler's insurance quote tool to find the best plan for you.
  • 7 Avoid A Cultural Faux Pas
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    Every country has their own specific customs and traditions. Although being immersed in a culture is the best way to learn what is appropriate and what is not, try to research some of the major faux-pas Americans commit in your destination. Even if it seems normal to you, it could be highly offensive to locals. For example, some places, like China and South Korea, shy away from tipping, while the French would be shocked by a hug (although kisses are totally fine).
  • 8 Clear All Credit Card Hurdles
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    Before your trip, call your credit card company and explain where you are going and for how long in order to avoid a freeze on your account. In addition, find out exactly how much credit is left on your card so that you do not exceed your limit.
  • 9 Don't Use Shortcuts
    Even if you are starting to feel comfortable in a new city, do NOT try and find a shortcut just to lessen your travel time. Download a travel guide, like the app mTrip, to keep you on the straight and narrow.
  • 10 Keep Track Of All Local Emergency Numbers
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    Although your mom's number may be etched in your memory, here are some important emergency contacts to store in your phone: -- The nearest US consulate or embassy. You can find a list here. -- Local police and fire stations -- Nearby hospital or medical center -- A local cab company -- Any other numbers you may need in a pinch!
  • 11 Stay Healthy
    Double-check that you have brought any and all prescription medications with you, including extras if possible. Get all necessary travel shots, and make sure you are aware of local medical laws that could differ from the U.S. (such as which prescriptions are legal or illegal in your destination). As mentioned, find the nearest hospital or medical center, and keep the phone number on you at all times.
  • 12 Don't Pet Stray Animals
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    Even if you are an avid dog-lover, what may seem like a pet to you could be a very dangerous animal in another country. Romania, Thailand and Ethiopia are just a few countries struggling with stray dogs and other animals that have mauled and killed humans.
  • 13 Invest In A Cellphone Plan With Free Roaming
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    Getting in touch with the people you love can be the most important part of staying safe, and a global data plan can make staying connected easier and cheaper than ever before. Check out T-Mobile's Simple Choice and avoid a giant bill like the one this guy is racking up.
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