We all look forward to our holidays, and an overseas vacation enables us to take a well-deserved break. Unfortunately however we live in an ever increasingly troubled world, so we have to take greater care in planning our time abroad. Safe Communities therefore has developed and produced the following advice to help you plan, prepare and undertake your holidays with the aim of you having a safe and trouble free time.
Whether you are planning a relaxing beach holiday or something adventurous such as skiing the common denominator is that safety and security matter. An ABTA survey conducted in 2015 found that “Safety and security is the no 1 priority among holiday makers”
There are some excellent tools around, including the Foreign and Commonwealth Office “Travel Aware” travel advice system which provides information and advice to help British nationals prepare for foreign travel, stay safe abroad and make their own informed decisions about foreign travel. Specifically this gives up to date assessments and advice concerning matters such as safety and security, including crime and road travel, terrorism, laws and customs and in some cases natural disasters in no less than 225 countries worldwide. If you are planning a trip that takes you into a troubled country, this is essential reading. Do not rely on travel guidebooks as the situation in most countries changes regularly.
Apart from British nationals, this also provides excellent safety and security advice for any national travelling overseas. Links for travel advice for other nationalities can be found on our website
It is also a good idea to try and read local newspapers, to check news in the area you are travelling to.
Lastly understand the local laws, customs and cultural differences of the destination country before you travel. In some countries public displays of affection and same sex relationships can result in your arrest and prosecution.
These days most of us do this through the internet, including air flights, accommodation and even the restaurants we will eat in! Whereas the vast majority of companies advertising their services on the internet are reliable, there is an increasing number of fake sites, or sites containing fraudulent information.
Safe Communities has undertaken much research on this particularly focusing of booking holiday villas. Questions to ask are: Does the website have credible contact details, including name, telephone numbers, address and email address which you can reach and verify? Is the company located at the address given? Is the phone number, if a landline, actually in the same area or country as the address? Look carefully at content and photos on the website – do they look original or copied and are they related to the company’s services? Check grammar.
When booking online to reduce the risk of ticket fraud you should, where possible, pay for travel using your credit card. Also check out the company from which you wish to buy an e-ticket – use a well- known brand. The IATA logo is one indicator that a company is legitimate. Avoid buying e-tickets from classified websites which sell other things such as cars and villas, auction websites, or from someone in the street or in your local bar!
Remember location is as important as the hotel itself. Check if it is located in a high crime rate area. Do some research before you travel. Look at sites such as Trip Advisor and customer reviews – are there any issues that give you concerns concerning safety and security?
If you are travelling by car check if the hotel has in-house parking or whether you need to park on the street or public car park which may be less secure.
Google Maps is a great way to see what a different country is really like – without having to actually be there. Use the innovative tool to take a virtual walk around the hotel or resort you would like to visit. Be sure to check the following: Does your intended hotel have good surroundings and security? What are the streets around the hotel like; are there potential escape routes in case of an incident? Can you see police patrols on the beach?
In planning your trip prepare a travel check list. Firstly well in advance consult the healthcare and vaccination situation for that country as well as any visa requirement. Before travelling make copies of your travel documents, boarding passes, passport and driving licences. Take these with you and keep them in a separate place from the originals. Having these can be very helpful in the event of loss or theft of the originals. Keep these separate from the originals.
Make a note of your credit/debit card numbers and the phone numbers you will have to ring if you lose your cards.
Also keep up to date with news and travel advice before travelling. Many things can change between the time of booking and actual travel.
It goes without saying that having travel insurance is essential. This can be taken out at the time of arranging a flight or annual insurance. Please check the fine print and conditions and ensure it provides for the activities and type of trip that you will be undertaking. If you travel regularly annual insurance is likely to work out cheaper.
Hiring a car can give you greater independence and flexibility during your holiday, but there are few things to consider. For instance do you feel safe driving a vehicle where road signs maybe in a different language; driving is on the opposite side of the road for which you are used to and that traffic accidents could be much higher than your own country etc. Bear in mind also that the largest cause of deaths on holiday overseas for British holidaymakers is through road accidents.
Before deciding which company to use, check if it displays company stickers on its vehicles which may make it more attractive to criminals.
Research shows that around one in ten people share on social media how long and where they are going on holiday, while one in eight post pictures and statuses while they are away. Surveys also show that eight per cent of the British public return home to a house that has been burgled and less than a quarter of people believe that there could be a risk of posting about their holidays online. Police now warn about the oversharing of holiday plans.
To reduce the risk, turn off location-sharing features, update your privacy features and stop broadcasting to people who aren’t in your group of friends.
Car parks at airports can be vast so allow time to park. In the rush to check-in ensure you lock and fully secure the vehicle and do not leave anything on view inside.
In the terminal keep possession of hand luggage at all times and never check in or carry on board bags for people not in your travelling group. Only allow uniformed airport staff to handle your luggage.
Security at airports is now tighter than ever, so do not behave in any way likely to draw the attention of the police. This includes consuming large amounts of alcohol at the airport. If you have drunk too much you may be refused permission to board the aircraft. The same applies on flight.the
When collecting your checked-in bags make sure they are yours and look to see if they have been damaged and or tampered with. If you suspect they have been interfered with report the matter straight away before making your way through immigration and customs.
Avoid opening your baggage in the baggage arrival hall as this may raise suspicions with customs officials
If you are being met by a taxi to take you to the hotel make sure that the driver has your details before you get in the vehicle. If it is your driver then they will have your name and know the hotel to which he or she is taking you, without you volunteering this information. Check carefully that all your baggage is loaded onto the vehicle.
If you arrive in a bus or cab, stay with your luggage until it is brought into the hotel lobby and keep a close eye on your luggage, handbag, etc when checking in, as thieves will often take advantage of the distractions to take your things with them, especially if the lobby is busy. Don’t leave your credit card lying on the check-in counter whilst completing your registration. Also make sure you do not lose sight of your credit card and that the ones handed back to you by the hotel clerk is really yours.
Most hotels these days use electronic room keys in the shape of a credit card. There has been concerns in the past that these contain a great deal of personal data about you, but this is not true. The limited information they do store is encrypted anyway.
In some hotels conventional door keys are still used. Take a look on how keys are stored and if there is a pile of these on the counter then this is an indication that the hotel does not take security seriously.
In all likelihood your hotel bedroom will already have been assigned before your arrival. If you have a choice, however select a room above the ground floor and away from a staircase, as these are rooms where burglary is less likely to occur.
Check your means of escape in the event of a fire or other emergency. There should be a plan on the back of the bedroom door or close by to indicate your escape route. Always use the in-room safe, even at night when you go to sleep, or if no safe or the value is high use the hotel’s main safe.
Always use the door viewer and door limiter/chain to check a caller at your bedroom door. It is always best to meet visitors in the hotel lobby or other public place. Keep the bedroom door locked at all times when not in use and if your room is on the ground floor, never leave your window open
Many hotel have policies that require hotel public computer’s desk top of any documents and public files to be purged frequently, but this is not to say this is regularly enforced. It is important to remember that it is a public computer and be mindful to log out of personal accounts and delete personal documents before leaving the computer. When using a hotel computer if you intend to enter a password, disable the feature on the window’s program that stores passwords; cover your tracks by deleting your temporary Internet files, web page history and cookies; don’t save anything on the computer; empty the recycle bin; log out and exit the browser when you’re done.
The level of security you need to take should vary depending on the risk level, which you should have ascertained during the planning stage. In any event a good idea is to ask the staff at the hotel about the local annoyances and scams in the area before you go out. Make sure that you have the name of your hotel written down before you go out, (but NOT the room number) as this will help in case you are involved in an accident.
Regardless of the risk level, as a general rule take with you only the cards and the amount of cash you will actually require for the day. Leave the rest in your room or hotel safe; split your cash and cards between pockets and bags and avoid the display of valuables.
Holidays are a great occasion to relax and enjoy ourselves. Following the advice above will help you have a trouble free and safe time.