Self-catering holidays can be a great option if you like to do your own thing. Whether you’re renting a room, apartment or villa, they can give you more flexibility and space than you usually get in a hotel.
As with any holiday accommodation there are certain safety precautions you should take. Here are some tips to help you stay safe in your accommodation.
Balconies are great for relaxing on but there are a few safety precautions you should take.
- Always supervise children on balconies
- Keep all furniture away from balcony walls and railings and never stand on it
- Don’t lean over, sit or climb on balcony walls or railings
- Never jump off a balcony into a pool
- Don’t try and pass things from one balcony to another
For more on balcony safety see our guide.
Bathroom floors are often tiled so condensation and water spray can make them slippery. Use non-slip floor mats on the floor and remember not to use electrical appliances near water.
If the water from the taps or a shower is very hot or the flow is irregular you may want to point this out to anyone else staying with you, particularly children.
Barbecues can be great fun but to avoid accidents the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents recommends the following:
- Only use a barbecue if it is in good condition
- Make sure it is on level ground away from fences, sheds and overhanging trees which could catch fire
- Never light a barbecue in an enclosed space
- Prepare the barbecue early to ensure it is at the right temperature by the time you want to cook
- Don’t pour petrol or other accelerants on to a barbecue as this could cause the barbecue to explode in your face
- Use long-handled tools
- Be careful of steam when opening foil parcels
- The metal parts of a barbecue get very hot so don't move it until it has cooled down
- Children need to be supervised at all times if they are near a barbecue
- Make sure the barbecue is fully extinguished before you leave it and that the coals have completely cooled down before you put them in the bin
Most accidents happen in the home. If you have children you’ll be used to casting an eye over any new place you take them to check for potential hazards. Depending on how old they are you could take them on a tour of the house and point out where to take care. Here are some things to look out for.
- In the kitchen check out what’s on the worktops, where the electrical appliances are and how quickly the cooker cools down.
- Check there are no curtains or blind cords hanging down that children could get caught up in.
- Test out free-standing furniture such as book cases, occasional tables and the tv to see if they can be easily be pulled over.
- Lay down some ground rules about only using the pool or balconies if there is an adult supervising.
- If there are glass doors make sure children check these are open before running through them. It may seem obvious but in bright sunlight it’s often hard to tell if they are open or closed.
- Check the windows – are these at a height where they could be a potential danger for children if left open?
- Are there electrical sockets children may play near? If you are concerned about little fingers finding their way into these you may want to buy some plug protectors.
- Look at outside areas – are there steep steps, areas around the pool or plants where children need to be careful?
Take time to read the instructions before you use any electrical appliance in your accommodation.
If you are using any of your own electrical appliances abroad, such as a phone charger or hairdryer, make sure you have the correct adaptor suitable for the local voltage. And don’t leave any item charging unattended.
And just like at home, don’t overload sockets!
If you have children with you it’s a good idea to supervise them when they are using electrical appliances or playing near plug sockets. If you are concerned about them touching the sockets you may want to buy safety plug protectors.
If you are staying in a room or apartment in a building find out where the fire exits are, which escape route is nearest to you and how to raise the alarm if there’s a fire. Make sure everyone in your party knows this too.
- Walk from your room to the nearest fire exit and then along the escape route until you get outside. If there are any obstacles along the way such as blocked doors or faulty lights report it immediately.
- Count the number of doors between your room or front door and the exit. It might seem straightforward but in the middle of the night and with a smoke-filled corridor it will be good to know.
- Keep your room or apartment keys by your bed or near the front door at night so you can find them easily and take them with you if there’s a fire.
- If the fire alarm sounds, leave immediately and close all the doors behind you. Use the stairs and remember to never use a lift during a fire.
- If there’s a lot of smoke, get low (this could mean on your hands and knees) and go under the smoke to your exit.
- Raise the alarm
If you’re unable to leave your room or apartment:
- close all the doors
- close the windows
- turn off any air conditioning
- cover the door seals with wet towels or wet clothes
- call reception or whoever manages the building and tell them you’re unable to leave your room or apartment
- shout for help from a window
If you are staying in a villa or house spend a little time reading any fire safety information there is and making a note of where any fire extinguishers or fire blankets are. If there are smoke detectors check these work and if not let the person who manages the property know.
Think about how you and the rest of your party would get out of the house if there was an emergency.
If there is a fire leave the property immediately and don’t put yourself in danger by spending any time me collecting your personal belongings. Close the doors behind you and once you are out raise the alarm. It’s a good idea to have the number of whoever you booked your accommodation with or who manages your accommodation in your phone as well as the local emergency services stored in your phone.
The emergency services number in the EU is 112 and this puts you through to the fire brigade, ambulance and police services.
If you are catering for yourself you can greatly reduce the risk of eating contaminated food.
It’s always worth checking if the tap water where you are staying is drinkable. If it’s not or you’re not sure then use bottled water for drinking, making ice cubes, washing your teeth in and for cleaning food. Boiled water and hot drinks made with boiled water are also safe.
If you buy prepared foods, such as salads, it’s often a good idea to wash these before eating them and you may want to avoid raw or uncooked shellfish or seafood.
You may also want to avoid unpasteurised milk, cheese, ice cream and other dairy products depending on where you are and where you buy them.
For more on food and water safety see our guide.
If there are any gas appliances where you are staying, such as a gas cooker or water heater, make sure you always turn them off when you’re not using them. If the gas comes from a bottle, turn off the supply at the bottle neck when you’re not using it.
Take a couple of minutes to check these out. If there are black marks or stains around the appliance, the flames are a weak orange instead of blue or there is more condensation than there should be it could be faulty and you should report it at once.
Carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas that is sometimes produced when a gas appliance is faulty. You can't see or smell it but it can be fatal. Signs that you or someone in your party might be suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning include headache, dizziness, nausea, breathlessness, collapse and loss of consciousness. Don’t confuse these with other holiday sicknesses.
If you smell gas or think there may be a problem open all of the windows and doors and contact the manager of where you are staying immediately. If you are in a villa or house leave the property straightaway. If you are in a room or apartment in a building let the manager know immediately so they can evacuate the building if necessary.
Not all rental properties abroad have carbon monoxide detectors. If you are worried about this you can buy a portable one in the UK or patches which detect carbon monoxide and take these with you. For more on carbon monoxide see our guide.
If there are glass doors where you are staying, such as out to a patio or pool, take care in bright sunshine as it’s not always easy to see if they are open or closed. The same goes for windows which you may think are closed but are in fact open.
If there are lifts where you are staying:
- Young children should always be accompanied in lifts.
- Sometimes a lift may only have three sides and there will be a small gap between the door opening and the wall of the lift shaft. Make sure you stand back from the exposed wall(s). If you have children with you make sure they stand at the back of these lifts and you may want to hold their hands.
- If there is a fire always use the stairs and not the lift.
If you are renting a room it’s a good idea to keep the door locked at all times even when you’re in it. The same goes for windows if they are easily accessible from outside or you have small children with you who can easily get to the window from inside.
If you’re worried about security – perhaps you’re staying in a long corridor of rooms – it’s a good idea to indicate your room is occupied even when you’re out. You can do this by using a "do not disturb" sign or leaving the lights on.
If you want to be extra safe try and get a room with a peephole so you can see who is outside before you open the door. And you can also place a wedge under your door if you feel uneasy.
If you are worried about how secure it is where you are staying lock your windows and doors placing a wedge under the door if you have one. Keep your money, valuables and important documents such as your passport in a wall safe or hide them away.
Stairs are one of the most common places where holiday accidents occur. Indoors watch out for tiled stairs that may become slippery or where there’s no handrail.
Outside steps may also be slippery, particularly if they are near a pool or it has rained. They may also be steep and if there are no handrails extra care needs to be taken.
Most pools in self-catering accommodation do not have a lifeguard. Here are some tips for staying safe in and around the pool.
- Read the pool rules before you get in the water and if you have children with you make sure they also know the rules for how to act in and around the pool where it can be slippery.
- Never leave children unsupervised in or around a pool.
- Check where the pool is shallow and where it is deep before you get in. If diving is allowed, and often it’s not, you should only do this where the water is at least 1.5 metres deep.
- If you have just eaten a meal or been drinking alcohol don’t go in the pool.
- Avoid swimming in the dark or if no-one else is around as there will be no help at hand if you get into trouble such as with cramp.
- If you’ve had an upset stomach within the last 48 hours don’t get in the pool.
- Make sure children wear appropriate swimwear and not nappies.
- Dry your ears well when you get out of the pool. Trapped water can often be the cause of ear infections.
For more on pool safety read our guide.