So you want to broaden your horizons? Make sure that you venture away from home and come back in one piece.
Photocopy all your documentation
This includes passport details, flight tickets and hotel reservation confirmation. Basically, anything with your name on it. Make two copies - one set to leave at home, in case family need to come to your rescue, one set to take with you. Keep the copies separate from the real thing. Also, put all your important addresses into your email address book before you go.
Set up a web-based account (i.e. one you can access from any computer such as Hotmail or Yahoo) and mail yourself any info you may need in case of an emergency, such as insurance helplines, address of the British consular where you're staying, plus emergency numbers for lost or stolen cards. That way, you can access it all from a cybercafe should you lose your photocopied documents as well as the real McCoy. Just be sure to remember the password for your email account - there's no point adding that to the mail, if you think about it.
Buy a padlock and chain
You never know when it might come in useful - from stashing your luggage while you take a pee at the airport, to gaining a little privacy in the shower with the busted door. If you think you might lose the key, buy a combination lock instead.
Find a guidebook for your destination
Ideally, suss out a place to stay for your first night, and know how to reach it once you hit town. You really don't want to be wondering around the local 'hood, asking for directions from large men with prison tattoos.
Be aware of local customs as well - and respect them. If you're travelling in a country where religious traditions strongly influence daily life, you'll need to think about dress codes. Don't wiggle down the main street in a skimpy two-piece, or flash your pecs at elderly ladies in Iran, for example.
Wherever you are, there are places even the locals stay clear of at night. Ask at your hostel, local cafés and tourist information offices. Check out any hotspots of political tension by looking on the internet and reading local papers. If you've done your research you'll be well aware of trouble areas and can plan around them.
Know the law
You might assume that it's OK to drink or buy drugs in certain locations, especially where there appears to be a lot of the stuff about, but many countries have harsh penalties for this sort of thing, including death in some cases. Most guidebooks have a section on local laws and regulations, so do your research and don't take risks.
Pack your own bag
When it comes to passing through customs, you're effectively responsible for anything on you - so don't accept strange packages (no matter what persuasive story you hear) or let someone else mess with your luggage.
... and keep your eye on it
There are some common robber tricks that will not fool you if you are aware of them. Like the ketchup trick - someone pours sauce on or over you then offers to help clean it. Once you've taken off your coat or put your rucksack on the floor, you'll be robbed. Robbers tend to watch out for the nervous and innocent so get clued up and they'll keep clear of you. Also, remember not to leave your bags lying about in places you're waiting in, like bus or train terminals.
Consider taking a percentage of your cash in traveller's cheques - if these get lost or nicked, all you have to do is phone your bank to get them cancelled, and a new set dispatched - though they won't be quite so obliging if you lose a wallet stuffed with cash. Also consider splitting up your money (keeping some in the hotel safe and some in your pocket). That way, you won't be left completely strapped if you're done over in a dark alley.
You may be travelling through countries where poverty and deprivation mean Westerners are perceived as rich, so avoid drawing unwanted attention to yourself. Don't flash cash around and never wear expensive jewellery or watches.
Drink and drugs
Stay aware of your surroundings at all times, especially if you're out drinking. Whatever state you get yourself into, know how to get back to where you're staying and save enough money for a taxi home.
An obvious note - don't carry drugs with you and never agree to take any packages on planes or over borders - penalties for possession can range from months in a rancid jail to, well, death. It just isn't worth it.
Avoid dark alleys
Stands to reason, both home and away.If the worst happens and you feel you need help and assistance beyond that provided by the local police, contact The Foreign Office's Diplomatic representative for the area (also known as The British Embassy or Consulate). Their role is to protect the welfare of citizens from the UK. Whether you've lost your passport or your mind, they are duty-bound to make sure you get home safe and well.
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