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Gap year travellers urged to plug personal safety gap

26th August 2010 Print

With many students currently planning a year out, intrepid gap year travellers are being urged to take basic travel safety precautions before they travel and while they are away.

According to specialist insurer Hiscox, while many gap year travellers spend a great deal of time researching their itinerary, more should consider what they should do to protect their personal safety when abroad.

To help gap year travellers safely plan their trip of a lifetime, Hiscox has published the following travel tips:

Before the trip

Research the security situation at intended destinations - the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is a great source of advice ( as well as other web sites such as Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree

Investigate the health situation in the countries being visited and ensure you have the appropriate vaccinations (the NHS site is a good source of information)

Understand the cultural, religious and legal aspects of each country being visited - not dressing appropriately in some countries can cause offence and behaviour acceptable here might be an imprisonable offence elsewhere

What documents are needed and how will they be kept safe? Keeping photocopies of important documentation in a separate place is essential

How are you going to keep in touch when you're away? Consider taking a cheap mobile phone (checking it will work in the countries you intend to visit)

Check the weather (it's a shame to go to India in the Monsoon season or Southern Chile in mid-winter)

Consider going on a one day travel safety course with a provider such as Objective Travel Safety who offer courses on keeping safe on a gap year

Make sure you are covered by a comprehensive travel insurance policy covering medical expenses and any other financial loss, such as lost or stolen possession or loss of credit card or passport.

When travelling

Trust your instincts - if a situation feels wrong or uncomfortable you need to move away quickly

Avoid becoming a victim of crime; lower your profile, keep aware and look confident

Be discreet with any valuables such as jewellery as well as gadgets such as ipods and mobile phones

Don't be a hero - if someone demands cash/valuables then hand them over (spread your cash and valuables between your luggage and security belt)

Carry a medical pack

Store useful numbers on your mobile such as for the local police and the nearest embassy or consulate

Use a padlock for your luggage and consider buying a specialised lock/alarm that can be used on any hotel room doors

Be wary of uncooked food and stick to bottled water (check the seal on bottles you buy). Shower with your mouth shut!

Austyn Tusler, home and travel insurance expert at Hiscox, said: "For many gap year travellers, the real gap could be in their knowledge of how to keep safe while travelling in different countries. A gap year trip can be the experience of a lifetime but it needs to be remembered for the right reasons. Thousands of travellers set off with a backpack of clothes and possessions but have little idea about some of the simple precautions they can take to avoid becoming the victim of crime or falling foul of local laws and customs.

"Safety should begin at home before leaving on the trip itself. By following some basic safety tips or going on a safety course, travellers can minimise the chances of getting into dangerous situations or being the victim of theft. Access to an emergency helpline such as that provided by specialist risk consultancy Control Risks can also be invaluable when away."