Travel Security


Foreign travel may attract attention from entities or individuals who are interested in finding out more about you and the purpose of your trip. Occasionally, surveillance is used to target individuals for crimes, such as robbery. Travelers who spend a substantial amount of time in countries whose relationship with the U.S. is strained (e.g. Cuba, China, Russia, etc.) and fail to vary their daily routine or cause attention to themselves are at a higher risk for surveillance.

There are two main types of surveillance: fixed and mobile. Fixed surveillance usually involves a stakeout and/or the electronic monitoring of activities. Mobile surveillance is conducted on the move in the form of a walk-by, drive-by, or the following of a target.

Become a hard target for surveillance

  • Be suspicious if you have repeated accidental interactions with a local individual who is not involved in the purpose of your visit; or a stranger wants to begin a “friendly” relationship with you (e.g. practice English, talk about the U.S. or politics).
  • Be aware of your surroundings and trust your instincts; it is important to be aware of your surroundings when you are in a public space.
  • Be unpredictable; avoid patterns and routines by varying your daily activities.
  • Predetermine safe areas along your commute routes; examples include embassies/consulates, hospitals, schools, and police stations.
  • Limit the amount of personal information you divulge to strangers or new acquaintances; refrain from discussing political viewpoints, family details (e.g. names of parents or siblings, etc.) and itinerary information.
  • If you are staying in a hotel in a country with heavy government surveillance, consider the possibility that your room may be equipped with voice or video recording devices; do not do or say anything in your room that would cause you trouble or embarrassment if made public.
  • If your accommodation site includes a safe for your valuables, put electronic devices, such as your phone or laptop, in it while sleeping or not in use.
  • Become familiar with the normal activity in your area; any behavior that triggers your suspicion should be avoided and reported to the nearest consulate/embassy.
  • If you are traveling to a country that has strained relations with the U.S., be aware that interactions with someone from the host government may be unavoidable; however, do not let the relationship become more than the professional level.

If someone is following or watching you, do not confront them, as this could lead the surveillance team to believe you are not a normal traveler; move quickly to a populated area or a safe space, and report the incident to the nearest embassy/consulate.


Evaluating the U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory System

Florida Atlantic University pays close attention to U.S. Department of State (DOS) consular announcements, which are disseminated to the public to help assess travelers’ risks. It’s important for Florida Atlantic University travelers to understand the different announcement types and sources.

The Consular Travel Advisory System

Under the DOS Travel Advisory System, every country is assigned a color-coded risk rating from one to four, defined as:

  • Level 1 – Exercise Normal Precautions: This is the lowest advisory level for safety and security risk.
  • Level 2 – Exercise Increased Caution: Be aware of heightened risks to safety and security. The Department of State provides additional advice for travelers in these areas in the Travel Advisory.
  • Level 3 – Reconsider Travel: Avoid travel due to serious risks to safety and security. The Department of State provides additional advice for travelers in these areas in the Travel Advisory.
  • Level 4 – Do Not Travel: This is the highest advisory level due to the greater likelihood of life-threatening risks. During an emergency, the U.S. government may have very limited ability to provide assistance. The Department of State advises that U.S. citizens not travel to the country or leave as soon as it is safe to do so. The Department of State provides additional advice for travelers in these areas in the Travel Advisory.

Additional country-specific information is provided in each advisory, including clearer, actionable steps that travelers can take to mitigate risk. (See Risk Indicators below). The DOS will update the advisories as needed, based on changes to security and safety information.

Risk Indicators

By using established risk indicators, the Travel Advisories at levels 2-4 provide clear reasons for the level assigned:

  • C – Crime: Widespread violent or organized crime is present in areas of the country. Local law enforcement may have limited ability to respond to serious crimes.
  • T – Terrorism: Terrorist attacks have occurred and/or specific threats against civilians, groups, or other targets may exist.
  • U – Civil Unrest: Political, economic, religious, and/or ethnic instability exist and may cause violence, major disruptions, and/or safety risks.
  • H – Health: Health risks, including current disease outbreaks or a crisis that disrupts a country’s medical infrastructure, are present. The issuance of a Centers for Disease Control Travel Notice may be a factor.
  • N – Natural Disaster: A natural disaster, or its aftermath, poses danger.
  • E – Time-Limited Event: A short-term event, such as an election, sporting event, or other incident that may pose a safety risk.
  • O – Other: There are potential risks not covered by previous risk indicators.


U.S. embassies and consulates will now issue Alerts to replace the Emergency Messages and Security Messages. Alerts will inform travelers of specific safety and security concerns in a country and will be labeled according to their issue: Security Alert; Health Alert; Weather Alert; or Demonstration Alert. Recent Alerts for a country appear below the Travel Advisory. Alerts can also be found on individual embassy or consulate websites.


Managing Finances while Traveling Abroad

There are several methods of accessing funds while traveling abroad. Always be prepared with more than one option in case one method fails.

Tips for managing money and accessing funds while abroad:

  • Familiarize yourself with the local currency and exchange rates used at your destination(s) abroad. Currency may fluctuate daily.
  • Plan to carry at least small amount of cash in U.S. dollars ($100 -- $250) to cover expenses such as transportation, snacks, and similar expenses.
  • Understand what credit cards you may be able to use while abroad and learn about what venues may or may not accept credit cards. Notify your financial institutions about your upcoming trip dates and locations to ensure that you will be able to use your cards while abroad.
  • ATMs are usually available to withdraw cash in local currency. Be aware of limits and fees.
  • Research options to use mobile payment apps in your host country.
  • Most likely, you will not need to open a bank account in the host country.
  • If exchanging U.S. dollars (cash) into local currency, use official venues such as banks.
  • Traveler’s checks and personal checks are not recommended.

For students traveling abroad, this may be a first experience with managing finances in a complex setting. This topic will be covered during the mandatory pre-departure orientation.


Securing Electronic Devices

Customs and Border

  • In general, belongings are subject to search at most international borders.
    • Laptops, hard drives, flash drives, memory chips, and cell phone storage could all become targets for data exfiltration.
  • Certain data and devices are restricted from leaving the United States due to federal regulations.
    • Before travelling, visit the Department of Research's U.S. Export Control website to understand how to classify data and determine what can be taken abroad. If a device or storage media is not needed for travel, leave it behind.

Device Security

  • Make sure to password protect and encrypt all devices, cell phones, and storage media, including personal equipment.
  • Devices should be encrypted to least 8 characters using a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols (e.g. %/]+#^&).
  • Since each device and application should have its own unique password, it is also recommended to use a password manager to store the passwords safely.

Network and Wireless Security

  • Assume that all network connectivity has the potential to be compromised.
  • Encrypt internet communications by using the University's VPN service.
  • Public or GUEST Wi-Fi access should be avoided, but always used through the VPN connection.
  • Make sure to disable Bluetooth and the Wi-Fi auto-connect feature to prevent devices from automatically connecting to untrusted hotspots.
  • Shared devices (at cafes, kiosks, or hotels) should not be used to communicate sensitive or personal information, including passwords.
  • Avoid usiing "charging" USB ports in public areas or hotel rooms since they could actually be data transfer devices.


Security Information Resources

The U.S. Department of State (U.S. DOS)

The U.S. DOS’s Travelers website provides a variety of travel safety resources, including country-specific Travel Advisories.

Travelers can also signup for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). STEP is a free service provided by the U.S. DOS to those who are traveling to, or living in, a foreign country. All University travelers should enroll in STEP (some travelers are required as a condition of their programs).

  • Follow directions on the STEP website to “create an account” and then “add a trip” to your profile. This is a two-step process. Enrolling in STEP allows the United States government to act quickly in concert with other governments if you go missing or are a victim of a serious crime.
  • By providing your email address, you will also be added to a consular listserv to receive local security updates related to road closures, transportation strikes, civil unrest, and more.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides Travel Health Notices to inform travelers and clinicians about current health issues that impact travelers’ health, like disease outbreaks, special events or gatherings, and natural disasters, in destinations around the world. The CDC also provides COVID-19 travel recommendations and advisories.


Communicating while Traveling Abroad

In case of emergency, please contact FAU Police Department at (561) 297-3500, and your call will be routed to the appropriate department as needed.

Using your cell phone while abroad:

Contact your cell phone service provider to find out about charges related to using your device outside of the U.S.

Low cost or free mobile applications:

If you bring your cell phone and have access to WIFI while abroad, these are some applications you may be able to use if both you and the recipient have the technology available on your device.

Skype: allows vide calls, voice calls, and texting for free while connecting to WIFI.

WhatsApp: allows texting, messaging, and calling.

Facebook Messenger: allows messaging and file sharing.

Other useful contacts:

Education Abroad: (561) 297-1039 or

Global Safety and Security