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Safety when travelling

Travelling abroad is exciting but it can also be dangerous. These basic safety tips should stop you running into trouble, whether you're going to Frankfurt or Fiji.

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Photocopy all your documentation

Before you go anywhere make two photocopies of your passport, flight tickets and hotel reservations. Keep one set separate from the original documents and leave the other with a friend or family member. That way if you lose everything they can fax or scan and email the information over to you.

“I lost my passport in a river in Laos,” says David Johnson, 23. “It’s one of the few places in the world without a British embassy, so I had to go to the Australian embassy and get a temporary document of travel to get back into Thailand. If my girlfriend hadn’t photocopied my passport I think I’d still be there now.”

Email yourself you details

Another insurance policy against losing all your details if you’re robbed or lose your baggage is to email yourself with important emergency information. To do that you’ll need a web-based account like Hotmail or Gmail, then simply send yourself an email with things like your passport details, the address of the British consulate where you’re staying, and phone numbers for your insurance company, credit card issuers and close family or friends that you don’t know off by heart.

Get travel insurance

It might seem like an extra cost you could do without but if things go wrong, good travel insurance will be worth its weight in gold.

“We had to cancel a round-the-world trip because of a complication with my pregnancy,” says Chin Maguire, 26. “The tour operator gave us most of our flight money back but we’d also booked hotels and a camper van. We claimed all that money back through our travel insurance, which was an amazing relief. This one claim made it worth paying for insurance all those times it wasn’t needed!”

Know where you’re staying before you arrive

You don’t really want to be pitching up to a new city with no idea where you’re staying or, just as importantly, what areas you need to avoid. Buy a guidebook or use an online resource like Lonely Planet to work out a place to crash on your first night, how to get there from the airport, bus or train station and which parts of the city you’re likely to get shot in. The Foreign Office will advise on potential risks and no go areas.

Know the local laws

Feast your eyes on the local laws section of a guidebook or website before you travel. You might think it’s OK to act on holiday as you do at home, but many countries have far stiffer penalties for misdemeanours than we have in the UK. Messing about with drugs can get you executed in Thailand and even seemingly innocuous gestures are offensive to some. In March 2010 a middle-aged Indian couple were jailed for three months for kissing in Dubai.

Just say no

If someone sidles up to you and asks you to carry a package through customs for them, follow the decades-old anti-drugs advice and just say no. It might seem face-smackingly obvious but there are people rotting in foreign jails right now who claim to have fallen for this routine, only to discover that the harmless package is, in fact, jammed full of mind-bending illegal drugs. Who’d have thunk it?

Wear a helmet

Hiring a moped abroad can be a fun and cheap way of exploring. It can also be a fast track to the local hospital.

“You wouldn’t ride a moped at home without a helmet so why should you when you’re on holiday?” Asks Lonely Planet travel editor Tom Hall. “It might be nice to feel the wind in your hair but a rock through the skull will bring your trip to an abrupt halt.”

Split your finances

Don’t put all your financial eggs in one basket. Put some of your loot onto a pair of pre-paid currency cards so you can manage your budget and make free withdrawals. Keep one of the cards with you and leave the other in the hotel safe or hidden in your luggage, so if your main card gets lost or stolen you can cancel it and still have a back up.

“If you’re going outside the Euro zone it might also be worth taking some US dollars with you,” says Tom. “Lots of people take them and they’re useful for changing small amounts in places that don’t have ATM.

“Wherever you go you should familiarise yourself with the local currency before you get there. Websites like Oanda have currency cheat sheets, which you can use to work out what the equivalent of a pound is so you don’t get ripped off.”

Avoid dark alleys

Seriously, you don’t hear many good stories about dark alleys do you?

If the worst happens

If you feel you need help and assistance beyond that provided by the local police, find The Foreign Office’s diplomatic representative for the area you’re in. Also known as The British Embassy or Consulate, these guys are there to protect the welfare of citizens from the UK so whether you’ve lost your passport or your mind, they can help you get home safe and well.

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Updated on 07-Aug-2014

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