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Gap Year - Travel Safety

Before you begin your backpacking trip, put all your important addresses into your email address book. Have a photocopy of important documents like your travel insurance documents, passport, work permit etc. If you are unlucky enough to have bag stolen, at least you will have all the details and addresses you need.

Where you can, use traveller's cheques. This is because if they are lost, stolen or damaged you can claim them back. There are now traveller's cheque cards that work on the same premise as cheques and are easier to keep safe. See our Money Advice page for more information. Wiring money is a good emergency option, using companies like Western Union for example. For a small commission, money can be faxed over to you.

You may be travelling through countries where poverty and deprivation is rife and to locals, Westerners are perceived as rich. Avoid drawing unwanted attention to yourself. Don’t flash cash around and never wear expensive jewellery or watches.

There are some common theft scams to be aware of. A good example is the ketchup trick - someone pours sauce all over your rucksack then offers to help clean it, once you have it on the ground they take off with it. Don't take off your pack, a dirty rucksack is better than no rucksack. Thieves tend to watch out for the nervous and innocent so get clued up and they'll keep clear of you. Don't leave your bags lying about in bus or train terminals

Be aware and respectful of dress codes if you are travelling in an Islamic country or where religious traditions strongly applt to daily life. Men should avoid appearing without a shirt in public in areas such as Iran.

In some countries, female travellers in particular, may encounter behaviour towards them which would be unacceptable to them at home. Street whistles, being ignored in a shop or even unwanted physical contact are all unfortunate hazards in some parts of the world.

There are always places abroad that even the locals stay clear of at night! Ask at your hostel, local cafes and tourist information offices. Check out any hot spots of political tension by looking on the internet and, if possible, reading local papers. If you have done your research you will be well aware of troubled areas and can plan around them.

Be 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 your hostel and save enough money for a taxi home. Your insurance policy will not pay out if you are injured in an accident whilst under the influence of drink or drugs

An obvious note - never agree to take any packages on planes or over borders - penalties for possession of drugs can range from months in a rancid jail to the death penalty in some countries. In some areas of the world, even analgesics that are readily available through your local GP or over the counter can be on a country's prohibited list. Always check that your regular medicines do not fall in to this category.