Stay safe: Make your trip memorable for all the right reasons
Most visits abroad are trouble free, but we want you to be prepared for every eventuality. Remembering a few simple things could prevent something from going wrong before it even happens.
Don’t make yourself a target, leave the designer watch and sentimental jewellery at home. Only carry around the money you need and a camera, which you can easily be stowed away, out of sight. Be wary of people trying to distract you for a spot of pick-pocketing. If you’re carrying valuables around with you, it may be an idea to keep them in separate parts of your bag. That way, on the off chance a pickpocket tries their luck, they won’t find everything they want in one pocket.
Most hotels and hostels have a safety deposit box in their rooms. Consider putting items like passports, tickets or cameras in there while out on day trips. It may also be wise to invest in a ‘can safe’. These look like normal tins of food or drink, but the bottom unscrews to let you hide small items out of sight.
Even if you leave your bag on a seat at the airport for just 5 minutes, this could be just the amount of time an opportunist needs to either steal your belongings or plant some contraband in there with the hope of being able to retrieve it at the other end. If you get caught with it in your possession, you’re the one who’s going to get into trouble no matter how much you tell security that you had no idea it was in there.
Make sure you’re clued up on local laws and customs because they vary in each country and something that is legal in the UK could be illegal elsewhere e.g. drinking alcohol.
Be particularly vigilant if you’re a solo traveller. While you’re bound to make lots of friends, there will be times when you’re on your own so just make sure you’re aware of your surroundings and take sensible precautions.
Just like the bag advice, never leave your drinks unattended, and always make sure cocktails are prepared in your sight. This should always be a rule of thumb anyway, but getting into the holiday spirit can cause travellers to be more careless and end up in serious danger.
Be careful of scammers looking to swindle you out of your hard-earned cash. For example, if you’re getting a taxi, familiarise yourself with the average cost from and to your destination before you go so that you can agree on a price beforehand.
Be on the ball with people trying to sell you things. The usual is to demand you pay for whatever is in your hand, even when you attempt to give it back. Learn to say ‘no thank you’ instead of being pressured into buying something that you don’t want.
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Make yourself aware of the public transport situation in each country you’re visiting, and what you need to be aware of. Be vigilant and only ever use a legitimate taxi company.
In the eventuality that something does go wrong — maybe your luggage gets stolen or you are admitted to hospital — you’ll be glad of the travel insurance you purchased before your trip.
If something doesn’t feel right, follow your instinct and leave wherever you are as quickly and carefully as you can. If you are a victim of crime on your travels you should report it to the local police as soon as possible. Once you’ve done that, get a written confirmation of your report and any statements you may have given — it all helps when trying to claim on your insurance.
The Government provides a range of services to help British nationals who have found themselves in a bad situation outside of the country. According to the FCO British Behaviour Abroad Report 2014, Consulates were called upon 17,517 times in the previous year to help struggling tourists. While they are there for you, there are limits to what the Consulates can do. It’s important to know how they can and can’t help you.
The list of what the local British Embassy/ High Commission/Consulate can do includes:
• Helping you to get replacement emergency travel documents if your passport is lost or stolen.
• Sending a representative to you if you’ve been arrested or are in hospital.
• Providing a list of local lawyers, translators, doctors and funeral directors.
• Contacting your relatives and friends (at your request) to let them know something has happened to you.
• Offering help and support if you are the victim of crime.
• Providing information about transferring money.
• Making arrangements to help in emergency situations — for example, as a result of terrorism, natural disasters and civil unrest.
But what they can’t do includes:
• Giving you legal advice or acting on your behalf.
• Investigating any crimes, collecting evidence or searching for missing people.
• Getting you out of prison or influencing the outcomes of any court hearings.
• Getting you better medical treatment than the local people.
• Paying any bills for you or loaning you money to cover costs.
• Making arrangements for you in terms of travel, work or accommodation.
• Providing you with a new passport or helping you to enter a country if you don’t have the appropriate visa.
To find out more about your destination’s British Embassy and how they can help you, visit the Foreign & Commonwealth Office website here.
Also, make sure you check out the FCO’s travel advice for each place before you go and keep up-to-date with news reports while you’re there.