Tips to stay safe while travelling in the United States

The United States is a safe country but it’s worth taking sensible precautions especially around the big cities and bad neighbourhoods. Petty crime in crowded areas is common and night time in the cities can be dangerous. The US also can experience unpredictable weather and large-scale natural disasters.

Opportunistic thieves have been known to snatch unattended belongings. Use common sense and stay alert of your surroundings. Be careful not to flash around large amounts of money or expensive possessions such as mobile phones. Popular tourist locations often have a police presence and are quite safe except for the occasional pickpocket.

Home Break-ins

Canadians living in holiday homes have been the victims of break-ins and burglary. Whether you are staying in either private or commercial accommodations, make sure you lock windows and doors securely at night and when you are away.

The US has a couple of diseases that you will need to be mindful of during your travels:

Rabies - contracted from the animal bites of dogs, raccoons, skunks, bats, foxes and coyotes. It’s not always possible to tell if an animal has rabies just by looking at it, so see a doctor right away if you are bitten. Rabies is potentially life-threatening.

Lyme disease - spread via the deer tick, which is prevalent in the woodlands and open fields of many rural areas. Lyme disease appears as a rash after an infected tick bite and infected people start to exhibit flu-like symptoms such as fever and body aches. If left untreated it can lead to arthritis and nervous system problems.

Healthcare in the United States of America is among the best in the world, but it is also the most expensive. Travel insurance is a must-have as medical bills can be 5 or 6 times that of other countries.

Despite what you may see on TV, gang and drug-related muggings tend to occur in areas that are of little interest to visitors, like the inner city or poorer neighbourhoods. Always try to travel in groups or with friends, avoid deserted parks and use bathrooms in busy shops such as fast food chains or department stores rather than an empty subway station. If you do find yourself lost in a bad neighbourhood, remain on main roads or freeways and avoid confrontations.

Street or bar fights are a particularly bad idea—many states in the USA allow licenced people to carry guns, so you could easily end up in a much worse situation.

Keep your belongings with you and supervised at all times, as your travel insurance may not cover luggage that is left out of your sight or reach, or left with someone you didn’t know before you started your journey.

Hurricanes

Parts of the US experience hurricanes, which are violent, windy storms (Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy were particularly devastating). If you experience a hurricane, you should:

  • Stay away from flood prone, low lying areas.
  • Stay indoors to avoid strong winds.
  • Follow all instructions from emergency workers.

Snow Storms

Winter can bring blizzards and snowstorms, which cause dangerously low temperatures, strong winds, ice, sleet and freezing cold rain. Stay indoors if the weather is bad and make sure you have some food and bottled water in your accommodation. When travelling to the US during winter ensure you have packed adequate warm clothing, including gloves.

You can’t control the weather, but you can check whether your travel insurance covers you if your plans are disrupted or cancelled due to unexpected weather.

The US has many famous streets and highways, and whether you’re a road tripper or a day tourist there’s a few things to be aware of.

Failure to obey the right of way signs causes nearly 20 percent of all accidents in the US. Priority isn’t always clearly indicated by the signs or there may be no line indicating where to stop. Due to this confusion, cars from opposite directions may attempt to move through the intersection at the same time, leading to accidents.

If you’re driving during winter, check that your car and especially the tyres are in good working order. Carry snow chains and be wary of ‘black ice’ that may have formed on the road. Leave plenty of room between you and the car in front of you and brake early as the road may be slippery. If you do get stuck, stay inside your car to keep warm.

If you are renting a car, ask your travel insurer about Rental Vehicle Excess cover to help you cover the cost of your insurance excess if you are in an accident.

NOTICE: While the Information is considered to be true and accurate at the date of publication, changes in circumstances after the time of publication may impact on the accuracy of the information. We strongly recommend verifying the travel advisory of your destination prior to departure.

DISCLAIMER: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of all information as at the date of publishing, Allianz Global Assistance does not accept liability for any errors or omissions. Allianz Global Assistance strongly recommends seeking the guidance of a professional travel agent/agency for further information on a specific destination. On your next trip, whether to another province or country, ensure you have travel insurance as it may assist you in cases of unforeseen medical emergencies and other types of mishaps that can happen while you travel. Travel insurance does not cover everything, please always refer to the policy document for full terms and conditions, including limitations and exclusions. Allianz Global Assistance is a registered business name of AZGA Service Canada Inc. and AZGA Insurance Agency Canada Ltd.

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