Heading off on your gap year is exciting but a concern that lots of people have is whether or not they will be safe. We answer lots of questions on this all the time so we thought we would put together our top tips to help you stay safe when you are travelling.
- Try to avoid getting lost. When you are in a new place it is really easy to get lost, especially when you first arrive. The first thing to remember is to try not to look like a tourist and never look lost. This will draw unwanted attention. Try to be discreet and ask for some help from a policeman, a shop keeper or a friendly looking family.
- Keep your possessions safe. Being flash, carrying expensive possessions and generally drawing attention to yourself will make you more likely to have things pinched. Keep your wits about you. If you have to carry lots of money split it between different wallets (but it is better to only carry small amounts of cash). Make sure that you keep your accommodation locked and that you don’t leave valuable possessions lying around. It is also worth checking that your accommodation is secure and that windows close and that doors lock. Make sure you stay with people that you trust.
- Don’t commit crimes. Do not take drugs and make sure that you drink responsibly. Do not agree to carry packages or luggage for other people and keep a close eye on your things when you are at the airport. Penalties in foreign countries can be harsh and you do not want to end your gap year in a jail cell.
- Be sensible when taking part in activities. When doing thinks like hiking, snorkelling or going on safari the best way to stay safe is to listen to the advice your guide gives you. Don’t wander off or ignore warnings.
- Be careful when choosing your transport. When there is a seat belt make sure that you wear it, even if the driver or others in the car choose not to. Agree the price of a taxi ride before you head off and be clear about where you want to go.
- Avoid getting involved with politics. If there is any politic trouble going on when you are overseas make sure you avoid it. Stay in your accommodation if you have to. If you are out and about avoid any demonstrations. Avoid riding motorbikes as they are the most dangerous mode of transport. If you are travelling on a boat wear a life jacket where appropriate and be aware of evacuation routes. With regards to buses it is often best to avoid the cheapest option. If you can avoid it don’t travel at night. It is a good idea to pack drinks and snacks if you are travelling long distances as buses can break down and you will be a lot happy if you have some food with you.
- Be culturally aware. Avoid offending locals but learning about the culture where you are going before you go and also by being culturally sensitive. If you aren’t sure whether something is acceptable play it safe. It is also good to learn some of the local language.
- Act sensibly in case of natural disasters. Make sure you know the risks of different natural disasters where you are going to be and find out what you should do in case of emergency. In an earthquake get away from the windows, try to shelter in the corner of a building or in a doorframe. If you can’t do that then take cover under some sturdy furniture. In case of an avalanche ski across the avalanche. If you can’t do that remove your equipment and tumble with the avalanche. Try to ‘swim’ to keep yourself on the surface. If you encounter a forest fire try to get upwind even if that means crossing the fire. In the event of a tsunami try to get to higher ground. If you find yourself in a lightening storm lie flat on the ground and avoid areas with conductors such as trees and bodies of water.
- Avoid travelling alone after dark. You are always safer when you are with a group so avoid walking or getting taxis alone, especially after dark.
- Follow advice on places to avoid. If you are warned that areas are unsafe by the FCO, your travel orgnisation or locals then it is best to avoid those ares.
Just remember that whilst it is important to keep your wits about you and to be sensible that you are unlikely to be in any greater danger than you are at home.