This almost goes without saying, but snakes tend to be very muscular and strong, so you don’t want to loop one around your neck, even if it happens to be a pet you have had since it was a baby. Ok, maybe you do want to loop it around your neck, because it looks cool like that, but always make sure that you have another person with you when you do it. Our official stance is, don't do it at all.
Besides, snakes aren’t really touchy-feely creatures, they don't like to be handled much and get stressed after too much handling. They’re more the look-but-don’t-touch-I-can-admire-you-from-over-here sort of creature – sort of like that pretty girl you never had a chance with in High School.
With that in mind, you do want to handle a pet snake for a few minutes a day so that it is accustomed to human contact and is not fearful of your presence. Five to ten minutes of handling a day should be sufficient. Snakes are not naturally aggressive and generally will not bite unless they feel threatened or fearful. Taking care to create a safe environment for your snake, and making sure that it is familiar with your contact should minimize any chances of being bitten. Learning how to handle a snake before you bring one into your home will make you feel much more confident about how to do it without anyone getting hurt (and that includes the snake).
Before getting a snake, consider where you are going to get it from. Nowadays, it is rare, and not recommended, to get a snake from the wild. There are plenty of breeders to choose from, and it is agreed that snakes bred in captivity are safer to handle than snakes from the wild. Only highly trained professionals deal with wild snakes and snakes that are venomous, owning snakes like these should never be attempted by a non-professional.
Make sure you find out all you need to know about your chosen snake's habitat, temperature needs, and any other physical needs it might have. Snakes are low maintenance pets. All they really need is clean water, food, and a clean and spacious tank with a place to hide away when it needs its own space (like a box with a hole cut into it). They’re solitary creatures, but that doesn’t make them boring. They’re fun to watch as they eat, explore and sleep, and if you get really ambitious, you can create a snake world, with tubes and tight spaces, so that you can watch the different ways in which snakes get around. It's really quite fascinating. (Really!) Just make sure that the tank and any other space you keep your snake in is escape proof. This is essential. Snakes can quickly disappear into the vents, or even out the window. Remember, it's a snake, and it will always behave like a snake.
A well looked after snake can live for up to 40 years, so make sure you’re willing to commit to having a scaled, mouse eating companion around for a long time before fully plunging into snake ownership. Good luck, and happy slithering!