Following are policies and procedures used by Alumni & Family Travel staff to assess risks and promote the safety of participants and program leaders during Alumni & Family Travel programs. We have included common sense tips to help avoid safety-related problems and to promote a positive Alumni & Family Travel experience. All travelers are responsible for familiarizing themselves with and following these policies and procedures.
St. Olaf Alumni & Family Travel Policies and Procedures
- Program and assistant program leaders are prepared to handle problems that arise during a Alumni & Family Travel program. They are directed to get in touch with Travel staff immediately should there be concern for the group’s safety.
- All participants are registered with the United States embassy at each destination. United States diplomatic personnel can assist the group if the need arises.
- In case of a crisis, re-arrangements of travel plans could be necessary, and steps would be taken accordingly. Informed on-campus personnel, U.S. State Department personnel, and on-site advisers would be included in making decisions. Alumni & Family Travel has an Emergency Response Plan in place to assist program leaders and staff at home in handling various situations.
- Safety is everyone’s responsibility. Participants and college staff have roles to play in minimizing potential dangers. The college cannot:
- Guarantee or assure the safety and/or security of participants or eliminate all risks from the Alumni & Family Travel environments
- Monitor or control all the daily personal decisions, choices and activities of participants
- Prevent participants from engaging in illegal, dangerous or unwise activities
- Assure that United States standards of due process apply in overseas legal proceedings or provide or pay for legal representation for participants
- Assume responsibility for the actions or events that are not part of the program, nor for those that are beyond the control of the travel provider and its subcontractors, or for situations that may arise due to the failure of a participant to disclose pertinent information
- Assure that home country cultural values and norms will apply at the destination
- Assure that participants will be free of illness or injury during the program
- Assume responsibility for acts and events beyond the college’s control
- Ensure local adherence to United States rights, political correctness and sensitivity, relationships between the sexes, or relations among racial, cultural and ethnic groups
Participant Responsibility for Safety
You, the participants, have the biggest impact on your own health and safety through your choices and behavior before and during the Alumni & Family Travel program. Participants on St. Olaf Alumni & Family Travel programs must:
- Assume responsibility for all elements necessary for personal preparation for the program.
- Prior to departure, read all materials issued by St. Olaf that relate to safety, health, legal, environmental, political, cultural and religious conditions at the destination.
- Conduct your own research on the destination(s) with particular emphasis on health and safety concerns, as well as the social, cultural and political situations.
- Consider your personal, emotional, physical and mental health and safety needs when considering participation in a program.
- Make available to St. Olaf accurate and complete physical and mental health information and any other personal data necessary in planning for a safe and healthy Alumni & Family Travel experience.
- Immediately report any emergencies or concerns to your program leaders.
- Obtain and maintain appropriate insurance policies and abide by any conditions imposed by the carriers.
- Inform family members or others who may need to know about your participation in the Alumni & Family Travel program. Provide them with emergency contact information.
- Understand and comply with the terms of participation, codes of conduct, and emergency procedures of the program.
- Learn the culture and laws of the country in which you will travel, to the extent possible. Comply with local codes of conduct and obey host-country laws.
- Be aware of local conditions and customs that may present health or safety risks when making daily choices. Promptly express any health or safety concerns to the program staff or other appropriate individuals before and/or during the program.
- Behave in a manner that is respectful of the rights and well-being of others and encourage others to behave in a similar manner.
- Accept the consequences of your decisions and actions.
- Refrain from using illegal drugs and avoid excessive or irresponsible consumption of alcohol.
- Become familiar with the procedures for obtaining emergency health and legal system services at the destination.
- File your important documents in a secure, password-protected site that you can access while overseas. Important documents include but are not limited to your passport information, airline schedules, emergency contacts, your personal medical information, current prescriptions, and credit card numbers.
- Leave your itinerary and contact information with the program leaders if you leave the program for 24 hours or more.
The excitement of travel and the unfamiliar environment can make it easy to become careless or distracted. The following suggestions offer no guarantee of safety and are mostly common sense. Be aware of where you are and what is around you at all times.
- Protect your valuable documents. Wear them under your clothing in a money belt or neck wallet at all times.
- Never leave your baggage unattended. A thief will take advantage of even a few seconds of inattention. This holds true no matter where you are — in a hotel, at the train station, on a train or bus, at a restaurant or resting in a park.
- Think and act confident and self assured. Do not look like a target. Avoid flashy dress, jewelry, luggage, or conspicuous behavior that draws attention to you.
- Avoid demonstrations, especially in politically volatile countries. Read the local newspaper and learn about potential civil unrest. What appears peaceful can suddenly become dangerous, and you could be caught in the middle.
- Travel with a companion at night and stay in populated, well-trafficked areas. In some countries it is important to have a male companion in the group. Use common sense if confronted with a dangerous situation. At times it may be best to attract attention by screaming or running. Yet, if confronted by superior or armed force, it may be best not to fight attackers, but rather to give up valuables. Your personal safety is more important than property.
- Plan where you are going in advance and be aware of your surroundings. If your instincts tell you a situation is uncomfortable, trust them and move along.
- Use banks and authorized money exchanges. Learn currency upon arrival in a country. This will keep you from being a target as you handle money.
- Taking photos of police or military installations is usually prohibited — your camera could be confiscated. A sign depicting a camera with a line through it means “Don’t take pictures.”
- Do not swim at an unfamiliar beach unless you are positive it is safe. Watch the waves and other swimmers. There may be dangerous undertows. Beaches may be contaminated, which only the locals might be aware of. If no one is in the water, think twice.
- Stay healthy by eating well and getting sufficient rest. If you become ill, get the proper care as soon as possible. Don’t be afraid to visit a doctor or hospital because you don’t speak the local language. Someone usually speaks English.
- Do not open your door to people you don’t know, and don’t give your room number to persons you don’t know well. Meet visitors in the lobby. Let someone know when you expect to return, especially if you will be out late at night.
- Know your exit options (stairways and exit doors).
- Keep valuables in a safe place — this may be different for each place you stay. When in doubt, carry money and valuables with you under your clothing.
- Close curtains after dark, and lock ground floor windows.
- Learn the traffic signals and signs when you arrive in a country (or before if possible), even if you are not driving.
- In some countries traffic moves on the left side of the road. Be aware of your natural reaction to look to the left and then right.
- Lock taxi doors if possible, especially at night in cities.
- Put your name and address inside and outside each piece of luggage. Bright string or tape around your luggage will make it easier to find and harder for someone else to mistake it as their own. Make sure you receive a claim check for each piece of luggage you check.
- NEVER carry packages or letters for strangers or agree to watch a stranger’s luggage.
- Do not carry on your person or in your hand luggage anything that could be regarded as a weapon. Matches and lighters are forbidden in baggage. If you need them, purchase these items once you arrive at your destination. Metal objects in your suitcase may activate security devices, causing delays in the arrival of your luggage.
- On the plane, check under your seat and in overhead baggage compartments. Report anything suspicious to flight personnel.
Safety in Cities
- While you may not directly encounter thieves, they will have their eyes on you. We recommend using a money belt or neck safe to hold passports, cash and other valuables.
- Beggars may approach you with children or may offer to carry your bags. Giving money is a personal decision, but use common sense and caution. If you are hassled or uncomfortable in a situation, speak confidently and move away.
- Pickpockets usually do not work alone. Be aware of distractions by strangers; the “lift” often follows.
- If your possessions are lost or stolen, report the loss immediately to the police and other appropriate authorities. Keep a copy of the police report for insurance claims and an explanation of your plight.
- If someone tries to take your purse, backpack or other property by force, let them have it. Your personal safety is far more important than any property.
- A camera is the most often stolen item. Carry it inconspicuously.