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Travel tips & advice

When you travel it is important to not only think about the sorts of diseases & infections you might meet, but about the other potential problems that might arise too.

This list of tips is not intended to be exhaustive and much advice will vary depending on the place you are visiting, but there are a few sensible precautions that are relevant wherever you go.

  • Alcohol is often freely available and very cheap abroad, but excessive consumption can lead to all sorts of problems. You will become less observant and may fall victim to petty crime, may be assaulted or assault someone else when drunk, be involved in a road accident, engage in dangerous pranks or games that go wrong, have unplanned sexual intercourse without protection etc etc etc. So, drink responsibly.
  • Drugs can seem like fun, but in a lot of places you might end up with massive fines, long or life sentences in grim prisons or even a death penalty that absolutely no-one can get you out of.
  • Sex is also often freely enjoyed but multiple partners without a condom mean you will bring home more than just a tan...
  • Sun is completely free and plentiful in hot climates, but very damaging to skin. Always wear sun screen and be sensible about how long you spend in the sun.
  • Drinking water is safe at home but in many parts of the world it may give you gastroenteritis, cholera or typhoid. Ice-cubes, a quick rinse of your tooth brush under the tap or a salad washed in tap water are all easy ways to become unwell.
  • Crime is everywhere and the local criminals are not on holiday. Bag snatches, pick pocketing and muggings are common place in tourist areas because tourists are relaxed and having a good time. Take simple precautions, such as carrying only the money you need, leaving your passport in the hotel's safe, not showing large amounts of money in public, using money belts and avoiding unlit streets or known trouble spots to reduce your chances of falling victim. It is usually safer not to resist violent crime.
  • Road safety is important. Every year fatal accidents occur on scooters, motorbikes and in cars. Always wear seatbelts and never ever ride a motorbike without a helmet.
  • Fire kills so think about how you would leave your room if the corridor was chocked with suffocating smoke and you didn't know the way out.
  • Hitch-hiking is cheap but dangerous, even if there is more than one of you - don't do it.
  • Money or travellers' cheques should only be changed at reputable banks and organisations - watch out for hidden charges or devious ploys that leave you short changed at booths and street vendors.
  • A credit card is a valuable back up in case you lose your money or travellers' cheques, but know how to cancel it from abroad in case you lose it or it is stolen. If you have two, leave one in a secure place like the hotel's safe.
  • Local laws may be different to UK law, so obey them. Get a good guide book.
  • Local customs and dress codes may be different, so try to avoid offence, which might lead on to other problems like fights or assaults. Get a good guide book.
  • Don't carry anything through customs for anyone else or leave your bags unattended at the airport, train station or bus station. Never ever make 'jokes' about having dangerous articles in your luggage - they won't seem so funny after the strip search...
  • Get a European Health Insurance Card if you are travelling to one of the countries covered by a reciprocal agreement.
  • Don't forget to get your EHIC card renewed before its expiry!
  • Travel insurance is essential where reciprocal agreements for healthcare do not exist and is advisable even where they do.
  • Written evidence of a crime reference number or report will be needed by most insurers to make a claim for a theft or loss, so get one when you go to the police station.
  • Copy your passport, tickets and visa as it will make getting a replacement easier. Leave one copy at home with someone you trust.
  • Make sure passports and visas are in date and wont expire during your trip.
  • Spare passport photos are useful in case you need to get a replacement passport. Extra photo idea also helps.
  • Important telephone numbers should be taken with you - e.g. local consulate or embassy contact details, insurance telephone numbers, the telephone number to contact to cancel your credit card it is lost or stolen, contact numbers for trusted people (home, work, mobile) etc.
  • Contact someone you trust if something goes wrong - they can be an extra pair of hands to sort things out, even at a distance.
  • Give your itinerary to someone you trust and call them at planned intervals if you are going off the beaten track or no-one will even suspect you're lost for a long time.
  • Take some health products with you, such as paracetomol, sting and bite relief, plasters, anti-diarrhoea tablets (e.g. Imodium), oral rehydration sachets (e.g. Dioralyte), travel sickness tablets, hay fever relief etc.
  • Large volumes of prescription drugs or any quantity of a controlled drug (e.g. methadone) will need a letter from the surgery vouching for why you are carrying them. Carry drugs in your hand luggage so you don't lose them and can explain why you have them.
  • Deep vein thrombosis (clots in the leg) are more likely if you are travelling long-haul (e.g. over 4 hours in-flight) - wear flight socks, drink plenty of non-alcoholic fluids, walk around the cabin or move your feet.
  • Have a return ticket or keep enough money to buy one!
  • Check the Foreign Office website before you travel for country-specific advice and warnings.

The Foreign Office says the five places you are most likely to be injured whilst travelling are:
  1. On the road - road accidents are the biggest cause of injury and death;
  2. On the beach - drowning, jet-skis, parascending, diving into shallow water from piers or rocks, and sub-aqua diving are all causes of death or significant head and neck injuries, paralysis, limb loss etc;
  3. In your hotel - alcohol-related falls from balconies and swimming pool accidents causing neck injuries. NEVER never never attempt to dive from a balcony, to jump between balconies or climb off balconies - you may have the rest of your life to regret a drunken decision;
  4. In a remote location - even 'simple' illnesses like appendicitis or food poisoning might require a long journey to get help or hospitalisation, to cross borders or even being evacuated;
  5. On the piste - ligament injuries, back injuries, dislocated shoulders and fractures abound!