How to stay safe on your gap year

How to stay safe on your gap yearTravelling abroad can be an amazing experience; a gap year’s  are a great time to celebrate a break from education and go and explore whatever corner of the world takes your interest. However, before you run off on your gap year adventure, it’s important you take a moment to consider your safety abroad. Whilst this may not be as exciting as planning at the fantastic attractions you’re going to visit, it’s an essential part of your gap year organisation and at the very least it will keep your parents happy.

People often make the assumption everything will be fine on their gap year and hopefully it will, but there are genuine risks involved when travelling.  You will probably travelling alone, out of your element, in a different culture and in a location where you don’t know your way around; it puts you at a massive disadvantage.Data from insurers implies that roughly a third of individuals on their gap year are victims of crime, traffic accidents or poor health.This is not to discourage you from travelling – most people who have been on a gap year will tell you it’s well worth it. But it’s important to be aware of the risks, how to avoid them and how to best deal with an unfortunate situation should it occur. So, here are some simple points to consider to when it comes to staying safe on your gap year:

Travel Insurance

It may seem obvious but travel insurance can offer you peace of mind and replace anything that may be lost or stolen during your travels. The price and exact what’s covered will vary depending on where you’re travelling, how long for and who you get the insurance from. So it’s a good idea to look at a few places and try to get the best coverage for the least money. It’s also worth checking if it’s included as part of you or your parents back account – sometimes extras like this can be included on certain types of account. Whether it’s worth getting travel insurance depends on how many valuable items you are taking with you. It might be worth leaving your smart phone at home and digging out you’re old Nokia 3310 to take with you, if you don’t want to pay too much for travel insurance. Although it’s probably worth getting some kind of travel insurance that covers medical considerations because if you get into an accident abroad it can be incredibly expensive!

Keeping in Contact

Making sure you keeping everyone at home updated on your whereabouts and general well-being will reassure them and mean someone is keeping track of you. Skype and Whatsapp are great free ways for keeping in contact with family and friends when you’re abroad. However, they do rely on you having regular access to Wi-Fi/3G so it might be worth informing your mobile network for your travels and seeing if they have any deals for reducing the cost of call and text.

You can also get instant cheap international call services from landlines and mobiles, which can be helpful if you’re parents aren’t tech savvy and want to call you to make sure you’re alright. For example, companies like Call Happy offer cheap calls to Uganda as well as a wide range of other locations and you don’t have to change networks or service providers.

General behaviour

There are a few general tips can be helpful for avoiding trouble wherever you’re travelling; it’s important to act confident and not attract too much attention, nothing says easy target like a clueless, lost tourist. Another consideration is to not advertise your valuables – especially passports and cash, keep them as close to you as possible and don’t have a bag which is easily accessible by others. Also, just use common sense and if you wouldn’t risk it at home, don’t do it abroad.

Be careful when drinking, of course you want to have fun when travelling but while you may be able to handle copious amounts of alcohol back home it’s likely your tolerance will be lower abroad. Part of your alcohol tolerance is your body recognising familiar circumstance to when you’ve been drinkingbefore (e.g. your local pub and favourite drink) and taking physiological steps early to limit your reaction to alcohol – this is known as acontext specific condition compensatory response (CCR). So when you’re in a new place, probably trying new drinks your tolerance for alcohol is lowered.


Information and understanding of a culture/location are the most useful things for staying safe abroad, admittedly if you’re being mugged they won’t help you fend off a the perpetrator, but they could help you know what to do to get out of or diffuse the situation as quickly as possible.

The fact you’re reading this article is a good start – find out all the information you can about your location before going. Even if your destination is generally considered a safe place to go a little information and preparation won’t hurt anyone, especially in terms of finding about the local customs and area which are probably going to be a part of your trip research anyway. Guide books are always a good idea and you can even get ones offering advice about travelling safely from people who’ve been there and done it all before – providing invaluable insight.

If you venturing out to somewhere that’s known for being a little more risky or is further afield than you’re accustomed to travelling, then it might worth going on a day course about safety on gap years or travelling abroad. There are various courses around and it’s guaranteed to help give you and your parent’s peace of mind.

Hopefully you’ve found this informative and will have fun wherever you plan to travel to. J


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