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Information on how to stay safe and healthy abroad. About us.

Personal Safety

The World Health Organisation (WHO) asserts that travellers are more likely to be killed through accidental injuries or violence than by infectious diseases.

Gathering up-to-date knowledge of intended destinations may increase your awareness of potential risks and enable you to best prepare yourself in advance of travel.

The following precautionary measures may help keep you safe abroad:

  • check Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) website for travel safety warnings, details of the nearest British Embassy or Consulate and information on local laws and customs
  • ensure your travel insurance includes cover for all planned activities, accidents, emergency medical treatment, medical evacuation and repatriation
  • photocopy your passport and other important documents such as travel tickets and consider storing details online using a secure data storage site
  • tell a trusted person your intended itinerary; give them your contact details and insurance policy details
  • carry next of kin details

Personal Safety (Mugging, Theft, Assault, Terrorism)

Criminals may view travellers as wealthy, inexperienced targets that are unfamiliar with local culture and not best able to seek assistance if they are victimised.

  • Low and middle-income countries have the highest rates of violent assault; if possible avoid travelling alone, avoid travelling at night, limit alcohol consumption and avoid illicit drug use. This may reduce your risk of assault.
  • Follow your instincts; leave if you feel threatened by another persons mood or behaviour, and avoid verbal arguments that could progress into physical violence.
  • Wearing culturally appropriate clothing may help avoid unwanted attention:
    • ideally clothing should be conservative, and arms, shoulders and legs should be covered when visiting places of worship or national monuments
    • in some countries it may be appropriate for women to cover hair with a headscarf
  • Never leave your belongings unattended.
  • If confronted, travellers should give up valuables. Resistance may prove futile and could result in injury.
  • Remain vigilant to the possibility of muggings during the day as well as at night. Points to consider:
    • where possible report incidents of mugging, theft and violence to the police as soon as you can after the event
    • insurance companies are likely to require an official incident report before paying out for associated claims.
    • if you choose to report to the police, where possible take a trusted person with you, many people find it is helpful not to be alone
  • Be aware of vehicle hijacking; be particularly alert when waiting at traffic lights, keep car doors locked, make no attempt to resist and keep hands where your attackers can see them. 
  • Inspect accommodation before agreeing to stay and, where possible, avoid staying on the ground floor. Remember to:
    • inspect the quality of locks on all windows and doors
    • thieves are less likely to target upper floors of buildings
  • Remain vigilant in public places and other crowded areas. Report anything that seems out of place, unusual or suspicious, such as:
    • unattended packages or bags
    • someone checking security arrangements, for example filming CCTV cameras at a station
    • someone avoiding officials such as security staff and police officers
    • someone who could be concealing something under their clothing

Sexual Assault and Rape

Sexual assault and rape can happen to anyone, of any age and background; it may be extremely traumatic and could be even more difficult to deal with if it occurs abroad. Freedom from usual social restraints and increased alcohol/drug use may lead you to drop their usual guard and leave you more vulnerable to sexual assault and rape. Issues such as language barriers and/or lack of awareness about where to get help may leave victims more vulnerable, details of the nearest British embassy, high commission or consulate can be found on then Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) website

  • Follow your instincts and seek help if you feel uncomfortable, scared or pressured by someone's behaviour.
  • Remain vigilant; be aware of your surroundings at all times. Knowing where you are and who is around may help you find your way out of a bad situation.
  • If travelling alone avoid situations that may leave you isolated with someone you do not know or trust, tell a trusted person your intended itinerary and arrange a time to check- in with them.
  • Plan how you will get home in advance, enquire about reputable taxi firms and do not accept lifts from people you do not know or trust.
    • If travelling with friends or in a group look out for each other; arriving together, checking-up on each other and leaving together may help keep you safe.
  • Drink responsibly, alcohol impairs judgement and may make you more assault.
  • Reduce the risk of your food and drink being spiked with drugs by avoiding leaving them unattended:
    • do not accept drinks from people you do not know or trust
    • if you think you have been spiked consider seeking medical attention, if possible tell a trusted person and ask them to take you to a safe place

If you are sexually assaulted or raped abroad:

  • get to a safe place as soon as you are able, if possible somewhere there are people that you trust
    • tell someone about the attack, if possible try to speak to someone you can trust
    • sexual assault can leave you feeling powerless, it is important to feel in control and feel empowered to make decisions that are right for you
  • seek assistance from the British Embassy, High Commission or Consulate; all of their offices operate an answer phone service which gives an emergency contact number
    • the British Embassy, High Commission or Consulate can help you contact family and/or friends, provide a list of medical facilities with English speaking doctors (if available) and help you report the crime to the local police should you choose to do so
  • if you require medical treatment you may need to provide details of your travel insurance policy, and if in Europe your European Health Insurance Card
  • cultural attitudes towards sexual assault and rape may vary greatly in different countries and this could affect how a case is dealt with, this may impact your decision to report the crime to the local police
    • the British Embassy, High Commission or Consulate will provide assistance regardless of whether you decide to report to the police or not
    • if you decide to report to the police try to do so as soon as possible, if you can avoid washing and changing clothes, this may help preserve forensic evidence
    • if you choose to report to the police, where possible take a trusted person with you, many people find it is helpful not to be alone
    • foreign police forces are under no obligation to open a case
    • UK police cannot investigate an attack that has taken place abroad or ask that an alleged crime be investigated

The trauma of sexual assault and rape affects people in different ways and you may experience a range of emotions such as fear, anger, guilt or shame. Emotional responses may be experienced soon after the assault or they may develop later, both are normal reactions to trauma and you should consider seeking help from a counsellor and/or support group if you need this.

Further Information

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