A Student Abroad: How to Stay Safe

Are you heading abroad for an internship, research project, study abroad program or vacation this summer? Now that most countries have reopened their borders, everyone is eager to get back to travelling and exploring the world, whether that is for academic, work or leisure purposes! 

Organising and preparing for an internship or study abroad can be stressful, but the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) travel advice has made it easy to understand what you need to do to prepare and be safe whilst abroad. Whether you have already organised your trip abroad or still thinking about your next destination, there are some general safe travel tips that you should be aware of: 

1. Read the Entry Requirements and Travel Advice

Before deciding on your chosen destination it is wise to check all the entry requirements to ensure that you meet the criteria, have the correct VISA and are aware of the local laws. Country specific entry requirements are explained clearly on the FCDO travel advice website. All you need to do is search on Google [‘Your destination’ FCDO travel advice]. It is helpful to sign up to get alerts to your email when the travel advice page is updated and changed.

Make sure to read the country’s local laws and customs page on the FCDO travel website which will make you are more aware of how to be respectful and not get yourself into any trouble! For instance, did you know that it is illegal to feed the pigeons in Venice, it is an offence to wear any form of camouflage in Barbados and bringing chewing gum to Singapore is prohibited?

2. Purchase the right insurance 

The Foreign Office have easy to follow guidance on purchasing the appropriate travel insurance. Purchasing good travel insurance is just as important as your flights and accommodation. Getting the right insurance is necessary to ensure that you are covered abroad for any coronavirus related events, medical treatment, travel disruption and all your planned outdoor activities such as climbing, diving, or skiing. This means you can partake in water sports like swimming with turtles or riding on a jet ski abroad knowing that you are insured in case of any accidents or emergencies.

If you’re travelling with expensive valuables such as your mobile phone, laptop or tablet, it is worth insuring these items to protect them if they are lost, stolen or damaged.

3. Vaccinations and Testing

As we are still emerging out of a pandemic having the correct COVID documentation is necessary for travelling abroad. You can read more about your chosen destination’s specific testing entry requirements on the FCDO travel advice website.  You might need proof of your COVID vaccinations, a negative COVID test result or completion of a passenger locator form. 

Each country has differing requirements which can change at any time; therefore, it might be helpful to keep checking the FCDO guidelines before travelling and sign up for email updates. 

It is crucial to check that you have all the necessary vaccinations for travelling to another country where you might need them such as rabies or yellow fever. Before travelling to Colombia, I met with my travel health clinic to check what vaccinations are necessary for my trip – you should do the same for your next destination!

4. Check your passport is valid 

There have been numerous stories in the news recently about people being denied boarding at the airport due to their passports being invalid. Don’t get caught out! Emergency travel documents (ETD) are very expensive (over £100), and some countries do not allow entry with ETD!! Most countries require six months left on your passport – it is best to check the date of your passport well in advance before travelling. 

Printing copies of your travel documentation, insurance, and passport could be helpful in the case that you lose these documents. Leaving photocopies of these documents at home with someone you trust like your family or friends, will be useful if your copies are lost or stolen. Whilst abroad, some hotels require your passport to confirm your identity and therefore, having a printed copy of your documents can be helpful in case you need to prove who you are (such as at checkpoints or bars). 

5. Travel in a Group

If you are travelling alone at any point, it might be helpful to download a personal safety app for your phone such as bSafe which has an SOS button that you use to call for help in an emergency. 

It is always much safer to travel in a group. If you are travelling in a group, make sure you always stick together, especially on a night out and if you do separate at any point make sure you contact each other regularly, whether that be via a phone call or Whatsapp group chat!

Whilst abroad you might be in a situation where you need to contact someone in an emergency. Therefore, it is a good idea to have an in-country contact number such as a relative or friend. It is also wise to know the contact number of the embassy in the country you are visiting. I would write these numbers down and also store them in the contacts of my phone.

To add to this, instead of checking in with your family and friends every now and then, let them know your travel itinerary, flight and hotel information so they know where to find you in an emergency! 

Visit navigatingneedham.wordpress.com or @navigatingneedham on Instagram for more travel tips and guidance on how to stay safe abroad this summer!