Travel Safety

The University of Kansas Study Abroad & Global Engagement office is committed to student safety abroad.

Student Health and Safety Assessment

All programs undergo a student health and safety assessment and are continuously monitored while in operation. In addition, participants on KU-affiliated international study, intern, research and service programs are provided with:

  • Online resources and pre-departure orientations to prepare you for safe travel abroad.
  • Travel health consultations through Watkins Health Services in advance of travel.
  • Access to 24/7 health, safety and security information as well as AIG Travel Guard Global Assistance Services coverage.
  • Access to 24/7 telephonic counseling services through Telus Health Student Support for mental health and wellness care.
  • An on-site contact (KU faculty member, resident director, partner institution staff member, etc.) for administrative support and emergency response.
  • A 24/7 contact at KU Study Abroad for emergent and/or immediate needs.

Most of us overestimate the danger of rare events over which we have no control (such as a natural disaster or terrorist attack) and underestimate the danger of common events over which we have at least some control (like petty theft or alcohol-related injuries).  Your day-to-day choices and behaviors will have the greatest impact on your time abroad, so it is important to understand the context of your destination(s) so you can make informed decisions to manage your personal health and safety.

The sections below provide information on security risks and recommended strategies to maintain your personal safety. Always assess if a situation is okay to do and/or to do alone (for example, eating from a street vendor or ocean swimming) and exercise good judgment. Do not take unnecessary risks, particularly when your access to resources and support networks may be more limited.

safety resources

While safety and security guidelines may differ based on destination, the following guidelines will help you to reduce your risk. 

  • Be cognizant of your surroundings at all times.  Be extra vigilant in high risk and crowded areas such as train stations and tourist sites.  Avoid high crime areas or unsafe neighborhoods.
  • Use your common sense to assess a situation. Trust your instincts. If something doesn’t feel right, leave or speak up.
  • Keep a low profile and try to blend in as much as possible.
  • Travel in small groups and avoid walking alone in an isolated area or after dark.
  • Keep your on-site contact informed about your travel plans.
  • Do not drive motorized vehicles of any kind.
  • Carry only what you need and leave your valuables (computer, large amounts of cash, etc.) locked in your accommodations.
  • Consider using a money belt, neck pouch, or undergarments with a security pocket. Divide the contents of your wallet between various pockets.
  • Lock up your belongings whenever possible during travel.  Use luggage locks on suitcases and backpacks during bus or train rides.
  • If you choose to drink, use moderation. Don't accept drinks that you don't see prepared. Avoid drugs entirely.
  • Keep informed about what’s happening in your local environment. Read local newspapers and/or websites and watch the local news.
  • Avoid crowds, protest groups or other potentially volatile situations. 
  • Develop a communication plan with your family and friends abroad and at home.
  • Don't allow your sense of adventure to make you feel invincible.


Accidents and injuries are more common among those who consume too much alcohol. Alcohol impairs judgment, coordination, perception, and concentration. Impairment of these skills can result in a range of accidents, from minor to severe.   Students electing to consume alcohol must also consider the local context.  In some cultures, it is forbidden completely and in others, it is part of common traditions and social norms. However, it is rarely acceptable to drink heavily and binge drinking is viewed as disrespectful and problematic in most cultures.  

You can take steps to increase your safety in situations where alcohol consumption is taking place:

  • If you choose to consume alcohol, drink responsibly, in moderation, and in compliance with local norms.
  • Keep an eye on your friends and have them watch out for you.
  • Know what you are drinking; if you don’t recognize an ingredient, don’t drink it.
  • Never leave a drink unattended.
  • Do not accept drinks from people you don’t know or trust.
  • Check in with yourself and know your limits – alcohol may affect you differently in a different environment.


While abroad, you are subject to the local laws and cultural norms of your host country. Drugs are illegal in most countries. In fact, in many places drug laws are much stricter than in the U.S. If you break the law abroad, you will be subject to the local legal system and may not have access to the same protections that you would be afforded in the United States.

  • Do not use drugs abroad. This includes marijuana. 
  • Do not transport drugs, including prescription medication in quantities larger than considered necessary for personal use.
  • The University of Kansas has a zero tolerance approach to drug use abroad.  Illicit drug use is grounds for immediate dismissal at your own expense from a KU study abroad program. 

KU is committed to supporting students affected by Title IX incidents, including sex discrimination, sexual harassment, sexual assault/violence, interpersonal violence (including domestic violence and dating violence), sexual misconduct, and stalking abroad.  Incidents can happen to people of all genders anywhere in the world but may be particularly difficult to identify abroad because cultural norms are often very different from those in the United States. Trust your judgment and intuition. If a situation makes you uncomfortable, it needs to be addressed.

Study Abroad can assist you in understanding the resources available to you and your options for seeking medical or psychological support, filing a police report, filing a complaint, or seeking accommodation. Please be aware that all reports of sexual harassment/assault made to Study Abroad personnel, KU faculty directors, or program support staff will be forwarded to the KU Title IX Coordinator for review as required by federal law. All efforts will be made to preserve your privacy; this means that only people who need to know about an incident will be given your name and other limited information as necessary.

Students who wish to speak with someone on the KU campus who can provide complete confidentiality can contact one of the following offices:

  • KU Campus Assistance, Resources and Education (CARE) Coordinator - +1-785-864-9255.
  • KU Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS) - +1-785-864-2277
  • 24/7 telephonic counseling services through Telus Health SSP.

Motor vehicle accidents are among the leading cause of injury to U.S. citizens abroad. As a road traveler and pedestrian in a new country, it is important to learn about road culture and safe transportation in your destination country(ies). The Association of Safe International Travel (ASIRT) recommends the following:

For Travelers

  • Select the safest form of transportation in your area.
  • Avoid late-night road travel, especially in countries with poor safety records, poor road conditions, and/or mountainous terrain.
  • Understand how seasonal hazards affect road conditions.
  • Know the dates of local holidays when road accident rates rise.
  • Read the Travel and Transportation section of the U.S. Department of State’s Country Information page for your destination(s).
  • Always wear a helmet if traveling by bicycle or motorbike.

For Pedestrians

  • Learn local traffic patterns and regulations.
  • Do not assume traffic will stop for you.
  • Wear reflective clothing at dusk and dawn.
  • Do not walk where you cannot easily be seen.
  • Never hitchhike.

For Passengers

  • Always wear a seatbelt.
  • Ride in the back seat of taxis or rideshares (e.g., Uber, Lyft).
  • Do not assume that rideshare services are legal and safe in your destination.
  • Do not get into a taxi with an unknown passenger. Do not use the rideshare pool option.

Additional Resources

Attitudes, tolerance, support, and laws regarding religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender expression, and political activism vary widely around the world. It is important to choose a program in a location that takes into account your personal identity so that you can safely and fully participate in your study abroad program. 

Research the laws and cultural norms of your host country before you depart. Keep in mind that rural areas of some countries may have more conservative attitudes than urban areas. Be aware that spaces where marginalized people gather (online or in person) can become targets for discrimination and harassment.

Visit our Identity Abroad section to learn more and find resources to help you travel abroad safely.

Water Safety

If you are studying in a country with access to beaches, rivers, lakes, or waterfalls, exercise extreme caution when swimming or wading. Tides and currents can rapidly change and there may not be adequate signage to indicate dangerous areas. Understand how to navigate rip tides, check with locals about safe swimming areas (especially if you notice very few people in the water), and do not consume alcohol before or during swimming.

More information and resources:

Fire Safety 

Fire safety standards and emergency response procedures vary greatly around the world. Buildings may be constructed to minimal standards and not equipped with fire safety devices such as smoke alarms and fire extinguishers. Older buildings may be constructed of combustible materials and be difficult for emergency responders to access. Always consider fire precautions when booking accommodations during your time abroad.

Plan to conduct a fire safety check of your accommodations and ensure you have multiple escape routes mapped out.

  • Use the Residential Fire Safety Checklist (.pdf).
  • Know the local emergency number for your location abroad.
  • Ensure there are working smoke detectors and fire extinguishers easily accessible.
  • Identify the number and location of all exits and always know the nearest exit.
  • Ensure windows can be easily opened.
  • Avoid staying above the 7th floor (developed countries) or 3rd floor (developing countries).
  • Observe any obvious fire hazards such as exposed wires or malfunctioning heating and cooking equipment.
  • Plan and practice multiple escape routes.

More information and resources:

Accommodation Safety

Plan to conduct a safety check of your accommodations abroad. If you are booking short-term accommodations, consider location and safety during your travel planning.

For all accommodations:

  • Ensure accommodations are located in a safe area of town and near transportation options.
  • Know the local emergency number for your location abroad.
  • Ensure the room contains basic safety features such as a smoke detector and fire extinguisher. Consider traveling with a portable smoke detector.
  • Identify the number and location of all exits.
  • Observe any obvious fire hazards such as exposed wires or malfunctioning heating and cooking equipment.
  • If your accommodation has a balcony, exercise caution and never lean over, sit or climb on the balcony wall or railing.
  • Review the evacuation plan. If not available, create your own.

For short-term accommodations such as hotels or home shares:

  • Use guest reviews and international travel guides to make informed decisions about selecting your accommodations.
  • Only rent vacant apartments or sites where the host does not live on site.
  • Do not share an apartment with strangers.
  • Do not stay on the bottom floor.
  • Ensure the room has a properly working deadbolt.
  • Lock up your valuables when leaving the accommodation.

Natural Disasters and Environmental Concerns

Consider if the region where you are studying experiences extreme weather or seismic events such as flooding, hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanic activity, or other natural disasters. Familiarize yourself with recommended procedures for evacuation.

Some locations abroad may have poor air or water quality. Be aware of the conditions in your location abroad and recommended safety precautions to avoid unnecessary exposure to air pollution or poor water quality.

More information and resources:

Information Security 

Your mobile phone, laptop and other personal communications devices transmit and store your personal information, which is as valuable to a thief as the contents of your suitcase. Unlike the U.S., most countries do not have legal restrictions against surveillance. Particularly in internet cafes, hotels, or public spaces or offices, information you send electronically can be intercepted. Follow these steps to safeguard your personal information:

  • Sanitize your laptop, cell phone or other devices prior to travel.
  • Backup your data before traveling.
  • Install and use up-to-date antivirus programs and firewalls while abroad.
  • Turn off file and print sharing and disable automatic connections to open Wifi networks.
  • Review the FCC Cybersecurity Tips for International Travelers.

Export Control

University-affiliated international travel is subject to federal export regulations. To comply with all export and custom requirements while traveling abroad, you should ensure that no export controlled materials or information is carried, transmitted, or made available to unauthorized persons (“deemed export”) without a proper license or other government authorization. As violations can result in substantial penalties for both KU and the individual, you should review the information on export compliance available through the Global Risk and Security prior to departure.