How to Travel Safe as a Volunteer Abroad
Whether you are going to travel to a popular tourist spot or to a far off place you have to be ready for safety issues during the trip and throughout your stay. The situation is not very different for when you are traveling as a volunteer abroad. You have to understand that the communities you will be living in may have fewer communication facilities and higher crime rate compared with your local country. There is no reason for being overly anxious because the local communities are usually very friendly and very hospitable towards volunteers who are there to improve things for them. However, at the same time it will only help you if you take some precautions.
When you sign up with an organization that provides quality volunteer programs in foreign countries, they will provide you safety tips and give you advice and support whenever you need. Thus, you will not be left off in the foreign community to fend for yourself, but it is recommended for you to do some research about your host community on your own before departure. Do get some information about the crime rate in the community and what types of crimes are the most common.
Then you can try to do some research on the factors that promote such crimes. For instance, after what time in the day is it not safe to venture outdoors unaccompanied. You can also try to find out what type of clothing and behavior can be perceived as offensive by the local people and invite hostility. When you have all of this information with you try to make sure that you act wisely and avoid saying or doing anything that can make you a vulnerable target.
Also, it helps to find out what the local emergency number is and where the local police station or law enforcement authority office is located so that you may file a complaint when necessary. Also, register with your embassy and keep their number with you so you can contact them at any time that is necessary.
Moreover, try to blend in with the local crowd and do not go very far off from your group (which can be your host family or your workplace coworkers or other international volunteers). You will increase your chances of being safe against crime if you move around in a group as compared to venturing out on your own. If you do want to go out make sure to ask a trusted person (such as a host family member or program supervisor or workplace coworker) about what is the right time for going out and how far away you can go.
In addition, when you go out, try to avoid wearing expensive jewelry (such as gold or diamond) and expensive items (such as laptop or Ipad). If you have to take your jewelry or your laptop with you, avoid flashing them on the street in broad sight for everyone to see. Otherwise, you may be attacked by a robber which might even put your life at risk.
Last but not least, avoid getting into arguments with the local people (especially strangers). Sometimes you may find it tempting to criticize the local culture and get into a right versus wrong debate with the local people. It is usually ok to discuss the differences with your host family or your coworkers as it can be a good cultural exchange experience, but aggressive debates (especially with strangers) can be perceived very negatively by some conservative communities and they may feel threatened by your presence. As a result, you may become a target of crime.