Pitfall #1: Using dated or overly anecdotal information to assess your destination.
The world is a dynamic place. When planning travel to a particular location it’s important to use current information. Beirut today – while it has its security issues, some fairly significant – is not the Beirut of 1983 when the city was carved up by warring militias. At one time Abidjan,Cote D’Ivoire was considered the Paris of Africa but that is no longer the case. Caracas,Venezuela is much more dangerous today than it was even a few years ago.
Pitfall #2: Being too trusting of strangers.
Many travelers are much too accepting of approaches by strangers. While developing friendships with people in different countries is one of the great advantages of foreign travel it must be done judiciously and sensibly. When a stranger approaches you unfortunately there is sometimes an ulterior motive at work.
Pitfall #3: Being too trusting of local contacts
In addition to strangers, even local contacts should be treated with a degree of caution. Occasionally local contacts and partners will have a separate and hidden agenda. This doesn’t mean that you should be rude to your local contacts or be excessively paranoid about them. It does mean that you should not follow them blindly or believe everything they say.
Pitfall #4: Believing your individual rights go with you when you travel overseas
For many of us living in western democracies we have come to accept our individual freedoms and rights as immutable and inalienable and as something that goes with us when we travel. This is a dangerous misconception. When you are in another country you are subject to the laws of that country which may be very, very different from your own.
Pitfall #5: Having too much confidence that your Embassy can assist you or solve all your problems.
The Embassy or Consulate is usually very limited in what they can do for you if you run afoul of local authorities. Typically this is confined to visiting you to check on your welfare and perhaps recommending or arranging for local legal representation.