Sometimes things happen. And the best way to calm your anxieties is to know what the risks are and how to reduce or avoid them.

By Jason Daley
October 13, 2016
Illustration by Michael Brandon Myers

Cyber Theft

Up to 17 percent of Web users are victims of cybercrime, the UN reports. Travelers are at an even greater risk—hackers often use public and hotel Wi-Fi networks to gain access to phones and laptops. To prevent a data breach abroad, disable Bluetooth and auto-connect on devices, and don’t transmit sensitive info on shared networks or computers.

Car Accidents

According to the CDC, about 25,000 tourists die in road accidents each year; most occur in low- and middle-income countries with poor roads or lax enforcement of traffic laws. Stick to marked taxis with working seat belts, and stay off scooters or motorcycles—which account for 25 percent of global traffic deaths—especially if you don’t have a helmet.

Air Pollution

Short-term exposure to severe air pollution can trigger a range of reactions, from itchy eyes and headaches to cardiac and respiratory problems, says the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travellers (IAMAT). If your destination has dirty air, check for smog warnings and stay indoors on bad days. If you have asthma or COPD, consult with your doctor.


Zika has reached the mainland U.S. The virus is spread by mosquitoes, so avoid exposure by wearing long sleeves and pants and applying deet when going outside. The CDC also advises that anyone who may have been exposed to Zika should practice safe sex, and that pregnant women should avoid travel to affected areas.

Political Uprisings

It’s difficult to predict exactly when and where violence may occur, but watching the news before a trip can give you a sense of whether something is brewing. If gunfire or a riot breaks out on the street, stay in your hotel and keep away from windows and doors. If you’re caught in the street, lie low and play “the tourist” just trying to make it back to the hotel.


An earthquake or the rapid rise and fall of water along the coast could indicate that a supersize wave may be on the way (some areas have warning sirens, too). The U.S. Geological Survey says to move quickly to high ground or, as a last resort, the top floor of a sturdy building. Tsunamis can travel miles into shore, so don’t assume safety just because you’re inland.