The best way is to simply encrypt your traffic from/to the country. Using a VPN tunnel, or a SSH socks5 tunnel are the two most common solutions. They will encrypt the traffic from your laptop to the server, before it reaches the internet. Of course someone could sniff the servers traffic, but it would be out of reach to whatever country you're visiting.
You can get a VPN account from many different providers for a monthly/yearly fee if you don't want to set up a server yourself (which is quite difficult). They will provide step-by-step guides to get you going, and it's really easy to get it installed. Many of them also promises anonymity.
A SSH-tunnel requires that you have access to a shell account. You can easily set up a SSH-server in your own home. It would encrypt the traffic from your laptop to your home network before it reaches the internet. The traffic will seem as it came from your home network. This is the simplest solution if you want to do it yourself, and you can specify the applications that should run through your secure tunnel, wheras with a VPN-account everything will run through the tunnel.
My own solution is to run all my browsing traffic through a ssh tunnel, and have a portable, slimmed firefox installation that I use when I want to browse around for fun (youtube, reddit, ...).
If you don't use a tunnel, make sure you only login to websites using secure https. Never download and run any files using your unsafe connection. Use a safe dns provider such as opendns or google dns to protect yourself from dns-spoofing. Preferably an encrypted DNS-provider. I'm not sure if encrypted DNS is very common (but I know that opendns provides it).
Some email providers, such as gmail, use full HTTPS by default. While others like yahoo only use HTTPS during the log in. Keep that in mind aswell (and enable it if you are using hotmail because it's not enabled by default).
I could expand indefinitely on this subject. But if your knowledge is slim, just get a monthly VPN account from a safe provider. This is the safest and easiest solution to protect yourself.
If you decide to get a VPN-account, I recommend that you do some research before choosing which one. Here is a link to torrentfreak with a list of VPN providers.