Khalida Cox, communications officer for the Foreign Commonwealth Office (FCO), gives some helpful travel advice and answers your questions about safe and sensible travel.
I’m really worried about keeping things like money and other valuables safe. What should I do?
Pack light – think about where you are travelling to and how long you will be carrying your things for. Prioritise the essentials for your trip, consider leaving behind expensive gadgets or jewellery which has high financial or sentimental value and ensure you have all the required documentation and contact details in case of an emergency. For further details on what to pack and what to leave behind, take a look at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) Gap Year Checklist www.fco.gov.uk/gapyear
I’m a female about to go travelling on my own – am I at a much greater risk than a male traveller?
Travelling can be a great experience however there are some risks involved, especially if travelling as a female solo traveller. Plan ahead, don’t tell strangers where you are staying, consider how your clothing will fit in amongst local women and avoid travelling on your own where you can to help reduce unwelcome attention. For more information, visit the FCO travel advice page for women travellers: www.fco.gov.uk/womentravellers
How can I avoid money scams?
Before you travel it is important to consider how much you will need, how you plan to withdraw it and how much to allow for emergency reserves. Take at least two cards with you, leaving one for emergency requirements, and keep them apart from each other somewhere safe. Don’t forget to contact your bank before you travel to ensure that your card can be used in the countries you are visiting.
What steps can I take to keep as safe as possible on my gap year?
Travelling to any destination carries a certain element of risk however you can reduce this by following some simple safety tips. Keep details of your hotel address and directions on you in case you get lost and be sure to keep copies of all important documents, (including passport, visas and insurance details) on you at all times, as well as a list of emergency numbers.
What do I do if something does go wrong?
There are a number of events which could go wrong when travelling abroad and it is vital that you purchase comprehensive insurance to cover you for some of these. However it is important to remember that there are likely to be costs involved when things go wrong abroad so ensure you have access to emergency funds. In the case of an emergency such as arrest, theft or injury, contact the local Embassy or Consular team for advice and information. Alternatively, you can contact a team in the UK by calling +44 20 7008 1500 from abroad.
How much help is available if something does go wrong?
Unfortunately you cannot plan for every possible event and occasionally things do go wrong. It is important to keep emergency details on you for such an event and to be aware of the situations which the FCO would be able to assist you with. Passports can be replaced at a fee and friends and family can be contacted on your behalf, but the FCO cannot get you out of jail or pay for your ticket home! For more information visit www.fco.gov.uk/cando
What’s the biggest danger when on a gap year?
There will always be a number of unpreventable problems which could occur when travelling abroad, regardless of how much you plan. However you can influence the potential impact these problems can have by making sure you have comprehensive travel insurance and access to emergency funds for such a situation.
I’m worried about the language barrier – how much will this impact me?
You don’t need to be fluent in the local language of the country you are visiting but knowing a number of key phrases can go a long way to enhance your travel experience and earn you respect in the country you’re visiting. Being able to communicate in the local language will be particularly useful in the case of an emergency so it is always good to learn some basics beforehand.
What sort of things should I be aware of in foreign countries to make sure that I fit in and don’t do anything disrespectful?
Do some research before you travel on the local laws and customs, it will help prevent you from offending people or breaking local laws, however unwittingly – what is legal here may not be legal overseas.
For more information about all of these issues and more, including up to date country specific travel advice, visit www.fco.gov.uk/travel and www. fco.gov.uk/gapyear. For the latest information on the go, like the FCO on Facebook: www.facebook.com/fcotravel and follow them on Twitter: @fcotravel