It’s your parents’ biggest worry, and something that you should take seriously too. Whether it is your first time away from the nest, or whether you are a seasoned traveller, gap year safety is something you should research well before you leave home. Sure, some places offer more risk than others, but everywhere has certain points that you should be aware of.
On this page, we’ll be looking at the different aspects of gap year safety you should be aware of, and why they are vitally important. You aren’t just doing this for your parents – you’re doing it for your own welfare…
Crime comes in many different forms, and it appears in every single country. While you can’t completely eradicate the risks of crime – either at home or abroad – there are some things you can do in order to minimise the risk. Here are some things to remember before and during your gap year:
- Be sensitive to national beliefs, especially in the way you dress. Dressing inappropriately will make you stand out and any offence caused could make you a target.
- Don’t flaunt your wealth, meaning that you should avoid wearing jewellery and other flashy items. Also, don’t carry expensive technology on show – grabbing a camera or iPad is an easy opportunity for many would-be thieves.
- In the event of being robbed, do not resist. Your life is much more important than your wallet. Stay calm and hand over anything demanded of you – your insurance should cover any losses.
- As exciting as they seem, stay away from any large public demonstrations, as you might get caught up in them. Some governments are not particularly tolerant to those demonstrating on many issues.
- Make sure you always know how to contact the emergency services, should you need to call them in an emergency. We’ve found a great list of all emergency service numbers right here.
- Always use official channels when changing money. If you don’t, the best case scenario is that you’ll get a bad rate; the worst case is that you’ll get robbed for all your cash.
- Make sure you leave some spare cash in a safe place, such as a safe. That way, you’ll always have something left over should you have the rest of your cash taken from you.
Getting around is one of the biggest challenges facing any traveller, but also one of the most fun as well. In many countries, standards of road safety are not particularly high, so you must take some steps in order to stay as safe as possible. Here’s some important tips:
- Research road laws before you arrive in any country if you plan on driving or hiring a moped. Try to make a mental plan of the main roads as well, so that you always have an idea of where you are.
- Hitchhiking is not recommended, as you simply have no idea who you are going to be sharing a lift with. Use reputable transport options instead. If you are driving, don’t pick up hitchhikers either, for the same reason.
- Always wear a seatbelt and use other available safety options, even if everyone else seems to be ignoring them. Simply putting a seatbelt on could be the action that saves your life.
- Road quality in many countries is not particularly great, so make sure you take your time and watch out for things like potholes and other hazards.
- Don’t speed: stick to the speed limit and give yourself the chance to react to any hazards that might materialise on the road. This is especially important if you haven’t been driving for a long time.
- Only use reputable taxi firms. You should research these before you arrive in any country and preferably book a taxi to pick you up from the airport in advance. If you haven’t, many airports have taxi desks offering reputable taxis for hire.
- Lastly, and possible most importantly, never drive while under the influence of drink or drugs. The drink drive limit doesn’t even matter – you should really only drive when you are completely free from alcohol, as even half a pint will make driving more dangerous.
- Avoid driving at night, when conditions will become more difficult and it is easier to get disoriented in your surroundings. Crime also increases during the night, and being inside a car isn’t a barrier to this.
Accidents and injuries commonly befall travellers, and they are often down to the injured person acting irresponsibly prior to the incident. Even accidents that aren’t life-threatening will put a hold on any gap year fun, so follow these tips to keep yourself safer…
- Balconies are a common cause of serious injury. This is mainly due to reckless acts, such as jumping from them into a swimming pool. Only use a balcony for its intended purpose, and stay away from them when you’ve been drinking.
- Research where the nearest hospitals and other medical facilities are before arriving in the country, and make sure you write down their addresses to keep in your wallet/purse.
- Never swim alone, especially after drinking. Additionally, if you plan on diving into water, make sure you know that it is deep enough before taking the plunge.
- Remember that any injuries gained through sports or adrenaline activities are probably not covered on standard insurance, so make sure you include it on any insurance policy before leaving.
- Make sure you have details on you regarding who to contact in the event of an emergency. Perhaps the best place to store this is on the back page of your passport.