Travelling is great, in fact it is bloody fantastic! However, unfortunately sometimes things go wrong and when that happens it can feel pretty crap. Missed flight connections can cause you hours or days of delays. You could lose your camera with all your pictures on it. Or it can be due to more horrible circumstances. You could get mugged or worst case, end up in a country at the time of a major political or terrorist event. Here are 5 important travel safety steps to take before you leave. By following these, you can avoid certain types of crises and stay as safe as possible while you travel.
Safety Whilst Travelling: The Reality
Travelling may seem scary and full of risks, but so is life. We tend to be more aware or scared of these risks when we are going to new places. Especially when you only hear scary or negative things about places from the news.
Don’t Be Afraid To Travel
Life back home is also risky. We just tend to be overly familiar with home and therefore forget that it can be risky. We lived in London before going travelling and felt perfectly safe walking around at night and all over the place. But let’s actually look at the facts:
Despite These Statistics We Never Really Worried
We didn’t even think about it. My point is that being anywhere is risky and that this shouldn’t put you off travelling.
99.9% of the time absolutely nothing happens to you when at home or abroad. Worrying about it will mean you’ll end up either not seeing the amazing world around us, or not enjoying it when you do.
Don’t Take Unnecessary Risks
However, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be aware, prepared or take unnecessary risks.
There are obviously different risks in different places and sometimes more risk than you face back home. Not to mention you are further away from your loved ones. Being aware of these and preparing for the worst can mean you are more likely to avoid something bad happening or reduce the impact if it does happen.
Travel Safety: Easy Steps To Take
There are many things that can go wrong, so we won’t go through everything here. But there are easy steps you can take before you head off around the world, once you are away and certain things you can buy that will also protect you.
1. Buy Travel Insurance
Travel insurance is one of those things that may seem like a total waste of money if nothing happens. But, it’s one of those things you literally want to be a waste of money because it means nothing horrible has happened.
Don’t Scrimp & Save
I am all for scrimping and saving, but when it comes to travel insurance. Don’t! Usually the less you pay, the less you will be covered. There’s no point just paying the absolute minimum because if you actually need it you’ll probably find it doesn’t cover you properly.
Be super careful when using price comparison websites not just to go for the cheapest option.
You Might Need Proper Backpacker Cover
If you are going away for an extended period of time, usually more than a month, you’ll have to get proper specific backpacker cover. This is because the annual policies available to cover a few holidays a year, will not cover you.
Things You Should Consider When Buying Travel Insurance:
- Does it cover all the places you want to visit?
- Does it cover the period of time you plan to be away?
- Can you extend it if you need to, whilst you are away? Most policies state you have to be in the UK when they start.
- Does it cover your age? Some policies only cover people between certain ages.
- Go for the maximum health cover you can afford. £1m may seem like a lot, but in countries like the USA health care comes with a hefty price tag.
What If You Die?
- It sounds morbid, but do you have body repatriation cover in case you die? It can cost your family £10k or more to fly your body back home. That’s why you see people crowdfunding for their loved one’s body to be repatriated.
Are You Jumping Out Of A Plane?
- Does it cover all the activities you want to do, like scuba diving, mountain trekking above 5,000m, bungee jumping, skiing, skydiving? You’ll probably have to add activities or activity packs to make sure you are fully covered.
- Are flight connections covered?
- What gadget and cash cover is there?
What Is Not Covered?
- There will be specific exclusions. Anything that isn’t listed as being covered, will not be covered.
What Excess Will You Have To Pay?
- This is how much of each claim you have to pay yourself before the insurance kicks in and can mean that the amount you get back on small claims is very little or none at all. You can usually pay a higher amount to get zero excess. But the excess for things like helicopter evacuation if you are planning to go trekking in the Himalayas cannot be reduced down and can be a lot higher than excesses on other parts of the policy.
- How do you make a claim and what evidence do you need?
- What are customer reviews of the company? These can be very important to see how good the customer service is. Trustpilot is a useful site to check this.
Before You Buy Travel Insurance
If you have any questions or if you have special circumstances then you should speak to an advisor or underwriter at the insurance company you are considering BEFORE you purchase a policy.
30 Day Cooling Off Period
Remember that you get a 30 day cooling off period if you change your mind or find you do not have as much cover as you thought you did.
Read Those Damn Terms & Conditions
Read through all the boring T&Cs from beginning to end, this is really important!
Keep Your Documents With You
Take your policy documents with you and have them on you when you do an activity, or if you organise an activity with a tour agency, give them the details. That way if something happens, whoever helps you out will be able to know who to call in an emergency.
Some hospitals won’t help you out unless they know they are going to get paid by you or a travel insurance company. Not helpful if you are unconscious…
2. Check Foreign Office Travel Advice
This will tell you if a country is safe to visit. There might have been a recent natural disaster like an earthquake that you weren’t aware of, or an unstable political situation which makes visiting just too risky.
You are of course still able to go visit these places, but you will at least be forewarned of the risks. You can back this up with staying up to date with the news in the places you are going to.
Your Insurance Can Be Voided
Remember that if you do go to places the Foreign Office advises you not to visit, then if anything happens there, your insurance will likely not cover you. This is unless you have very specialist cover that people like war journalists and aid workers get.
The Foreign Office website will also helpfully remind you what the visa requirements are.
3. Make Sure You Get Vaccinated
It is worth making a nurse’s appointment at your GP to discuss what vaccinations you already have and what you may need. Some of these will be free, some you will have to pay for.
We found that for ones we had to pay for, some were available at the GP, some at a local pharmacy and others at a travel clinic.
If you have previously had some of the jabs you may need another round or a booster.
Some vaccinations like Rabies need multiple shots (3) and you have to pay for each one. It is worth shopping around for the best deals as the prices can be very different for the same jab!
Include Vaccinations In Your Budget
A lot of people forget to include this in their travel budget, which is a massive mistake as they can set you back up to £500.
Time Your Jabs Well
You should organise getting your travel vaccinations well in advance as you often need to leave a period of weeks or months between each shot of one vaccination course. If you are away for a long time then the vaccinations may run out before you return if you get them too early.
It pays to be organised when it comes to timing your jabs!
Don’t Take The Risk
Get the ones that are definitely recommended. It really isn’t worth the risk.
We also got the ones that were only rated as ‘worth considering’. It set us back a bit more, but we thought it was worth paying a couple of hundred quid more rather than getting something horrendous like Japanese Encephalitis. If you can afford it I would recommend doing the same. In fact I would argue that you can’t afford not to.
Yellow Fever: Updated Research
Remember that some countries require you to prove that you have had the Yellow Fever vaccination before they will let you in.
It used to be thought that this jab only lasts 10 years. However new research shows that the yellow fever vaccination now lasts for life. So you shouldn’t need to get it done again. You might want to get your certificate updated before you leave if it only says 10 years on it.
Remember to check whether you need antimalarials as well. These can be expensive if buying them from a travel clinic, but you can get good deals online. We used the Travel Nomad Pharmacy.
Closely linked to vaccinations is to make sure you have all the medication you will need before you leave. In a lot of places around the world, medication is a lot more widely available over the counter than in the UK.
However it is always good to have a supply of ibuprofen, paracetamol, imodium, rehydration sachets and antihistamines to hand.
Also if you take prescription medicines, make sure you are fully stocked up on these.
If you are going to be visiting places at extreme altitude (such as the Himalayas or parts of South America) you should consider altitude sickness medication too. Diamox (Acetazolamide) is one of the best medications you can get.
Dealing With Border Control
Usually border control in most countries won’t care about your medicines. But the rules are to have them in clearly labelled bottles or packets and have copies of any prescriptions to hand as well, in case they ask any questions.
Contraception is not always widely available. And if it is, can be quite costly, so you may want to take some with you for those extra special travel moments / hazy hostel memories. Maybe consider bringing the morning after pill as well (in case of accidents).
5. Do You Need Life Insurance?
Now this is something that most travellers don’t consider. I guess it’s a bit morbid.
Loved Ones That Rely On You
It might not be relevant for most travellers. However, if you have any loved ones that rely on you, or a partner, then life insurance can be worth considering. This is as true for life back home as much as when travelling. If you were to die, what position would it leave your loved ones in?
If someone dies, it is hard enough for those closest to them to deal with the loss and grieving. But it may also put them in a very precarious financial position. Life insurance can help.
It Can Be Really Cheap
Now if you are relatively young then life insurance will likely be very cheap for you. It won’t ruin your budget and you can pick up some good long-term cover for very little.
If you are planning on travelling you may not know what your situation will be when you get back, you can just get a year-long policy and then get something more specific on your return.
It Can Take Ages
A word of warning, it can take blooming ages to sort out life insurance. You may need to give access to medical records and have a health check-up. So if this is relevant to you, give yourself at least 4 or 5 months before your planned travel date.
Life Insurance & Travelling
Some companies won’t be interested in covering you because of your travels, but there are some out there that will. Also some people will not be able to get cover and cover will not be relevant for other people. It all depends on your personal circumstances.
Vitality offers really good cover, and your premium can actually reduce the more exercise you do!
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