Language barrierWhen you travel abroad on vacation, you look forward to exciting scenery, exotic foods and the experience of a lifetime. However, you’re probably aware of the fact that not all vacations go off without a hitch. Especially when traveling to a foreign country, you need to be aware of circumstances that could turn your dream vacation into a nightmare.

Following are some tips for staying safe and healthy while you’re overseas.

Food poisoning

Depending on where you’re vacationing, food safety standards may be inferior to standards that apply to restaurants in the United States. An unsanitary kitchen could lead to food poisoning – but often, there’s no way for you to see inside the kitchen. You can tell a great deal about a restaurant’s cleanliness by observing the dining area. An empty dining room at peak dinner hours may indicate that locals tend to avoid this particular establishment. And dirty floors or tables should be a red flag, too.

If you order meat, order it cooked well-done to kill any parasites. Foods that come with their own protective layer – bananas and shelled nuts, for example – are generally safe to eat.

Swimming accidents

You probably already know never to dive into water if you don’t know how deep it is. But equally important in other countries is making sure a lifeguard is present, no matter where you’re swimming. Even if you have a friend with you, could you count on that person’s ability to save you if you were drowning?

Always heed warning signs near beaches. Strong tides can easily overcome even expert swimmers.

If swimming in a hotel pool, make sure the water looks clean. Stagnant or off-color water could be contaminated and cause illness.

Theft and crime

When you’re traveling abroad, the loss of your passport, credit cards and other important items can be devastating. You can protect yourself against theft by using some common sense.

Never carry a wallet in your back pocket, and never store valuable items in a backpack that a thief could easily access. Keep your money and important documents in a small messenger bag or other bag that’s in front of you. You can also buy a travel wallet that fits under your clothes, making it even more difficult for pickpockets to steal from you.

Above all, pay attention to your surroundings. If you are approached by people – especially children – asking for money, they may be working with a partner who will attempt to steal from you as the other diverts your attention.

Prepare and be aware

You can never prepare for every unexpected occurrence on a vacation, but you can be aware of common problems tourists may face and attempt to avoid them. Remember that many of the same precautions you exercise at home – such as choosing restaurants carefully and keeping your wits about you in public – are the same precautions you should take while abroad.

For added peace of mind, get international travel insurance so you can get medical attention while overseas, if needed. Some policies may also cover you in the event of theft. Above all, relax and have fun!