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Water safety abroad

Everyone, no matter how strong a swimmer, should exercise extreme caution when swimming abroad. This is particularly important in developing countries where emergency services may not be readily available, or in locations where rip currents are a known danger, but is relevant everywhere as accidents involving water are one of the most common causes of death among young Americans abroad.

Remember that river and ocean currents have the potential to be swift and dangerous, which may be difficult for individuals from non-coastal areas (like Arizona) to recognize. There may be no lifeguards or signs warning of dangerous beaches. Also, in locations that experience heavy seasonal rains, currents can rapidly change in strength and speed.

If swimming is a part of your experience abroad:

  • Do not swim alone
  • Do not swim where no lifeguards are present
  • Heed all warning signs/flags
  • Be clear about your swimming abilities
  • Never dive head first into an unfamiliar body of water
  • Develop a “safety plan” with fellow swimming companions
  • Stay in areas designated by your program provider, travel agent, or other responsible party administering your travel experience
  • Refrain from consuming alcohol prior to swimming activities
  • Wear a life jacket
  • Understand how to manage rip currents, a very common water danger

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