Personal safety

Most trips abroad are trouble free but it’s important not to let down your guard as this is when accidents can occur. Commonsense and some basic precautions can help you avoid most potential problems.

Find out about the area you’re travelling to

The Foreign & Commonwealth Office travel advice website is the best place to look for safety and security information on the country you’re visiting. It includes details of local dress codes and customs, areas to avoid and what to watch out for. Our guide How safe is the area you’re travelling to? can provide further help.

Stay safe in your accommodation

The most common causes of accidents abroad are slips, trips and falls. Our hotel and self-catering guides have lots of useful tips on how to avoid these.

When it comes to personal security it’s a good idea to keep your room locked at all times even when you’re in it. The same goes for windows especially if your room is on the ground floor or near a balcony.

If you’re staying somewhere you don’t feel particularly 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 really uneasy.

If you’re worried about thieves you may want to indicate your room is occupied even when you are out. You can do this by using a “do not disturb” sign or leaving the lights on. And if there’s a wall safe or a safe in the hotel you could keep important documents and money there.

When you’re out and about

Part of the enjoyment of foreign travel is seeing how other people live and experiencing their culture. You can find out about this on the FCO website. As well giving advice on how people expect you to dress, you can also find out about local customs and laws which can help you avoid accidentally breaking the law or causing offence.

Remember not to take risks you wouldn’t take at home, such as walking alone in deserted or unlit areas or accepting drinks from strangers. If you drink alcohol remember that measures abroad are often larger than in the UK and many accidents are alcohol-related.

After slips and falls, road accidents are the next most common cause of injury for British tourists in Europe. So take extra care on the roads and read our guide on road safety for pedestrians for tips on staying safe on the road and what to do if you’re involved in an accident.

When it comes to travelling about it’s a good idea not to tell strangers where you’re staying or your travel plans. Where possible plan your daily itinerary so that you know where you’re going and how to get back and if you need a taxi ask your hotel or hostel to recommend a firm.

If you ever do get into trouble or feel uncomfortable or in danger, don’t be afraid to draw attention to yourself by shouting and making a fuss. In English-speaking countries the FCO recommends you shout ‘fire!’ rather than ‘help!’ as you’re likely to get more attention.

Other sensible precautions include:

  • watching out for pickpockets in busy places
  • wearing a seat belt on public transport if it’s provided
  • if you hire a car or other vehicle make sure you check it over before driving away.
  • if you’re in a crowded place such as a club or football match find out where the fire exits are in case you have to leave in a hurry
  • avoid political marches as these can turn nasty.

Our guide on female travellers provides more information for women travelling on their own.

What to do in an emergency

If you are in Europe you can contact the emergency services on 112. If you’re visiting a country outside Europe it’s a good idea to find out the number for the emergency services and store it in your phone.

Depending on the nature of the emergency you may be able to get help from where you’re staying, your travel insurance provider or the local police. For more on what to do if you need medical help see our guide.

If you need to report a crime or are worried about terrorism see our guides for details of what to do.

Published on 07/06/18

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