Guide to travelling safely

Follow our simple tips to avoid some of the possible travel pitfalls, so you can enjoy your trip to the full.

Eve Powell
Eve Powell
Updated 12 September 2022  | 3 mins read

Whether you’re heading off for some summer sun or escaping for a winter break, travelling safely will help make your trip memorable for all the right reasons.

Unexpected hiccups can make even the most laid-back traveller feel stressed but taking some sensible precautions can prevent worry from spoiling your holiday.

Read our tips to help you stay safe on holiday and enjoy some well-earned rest and relaxation.

Key points

  • Do your research to check your destination is safe and find out what the country’s travel requirements are
  • Take paper printouts of your important documents with you and share digital copies with close family
  • Avoid travel scams by doing your research and knowing what to look out for
  • When you arrive, do a safety check of your accommodation and use a hotel safe for your valuables

1. Do your research

When you’re planning your trip, make sure you do your research. Don’t just choose your stay based on price, read up on the destination.

Find out which areas are safest to stay in and learn what to watch out for. Traveller tips and reviews on websites like TripAdvisor can provide some useful insight before you book.

If you’re planning a package holiday, use a reputable travel company you can trust.

Before you book, check if the company is an ABTA member or ATOL protected - so you can get home safely or get a refund if your travel company goes bust.

2. Check travel entry requirements and travel health advice

Entry requirements and restrictions can vary from country to country, and they can also change with very little notice.

Find out which vaccinations you might need or any proof of vaccination status you may be required to show.

Plus, lots of countries require there to be a certain amount of time left on your passport when you travel (often at least six months) and you may also need to apply for a visa.

Always check the latest UK government foreign travel advice for your intended destination before you book and again before you travel.

If you travel against government advice, you won’t be covered by your travel insurance policy.

3. Be prepared

As the saying goes - if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Getting organised and prepared in good time can save a lot of headaches later on.

  1. Make a checklist

    Note down essential things you need to take and tasks you need to do. It’s a good idea to store this on your phone and check it off when you’ve finished packing and before you leave for your trip

  2. Order a Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC)

    This lets you access free or reduced-cost state medical care in the European Union (as well as in certain other countries, like Switzerland and Norway). Everyone in your family will need their own card. It’s not a replacement for travel insurance though

  3. Know your flight times

    Not knowing your exact flight times could mean that you miss your departure - checking in online beforehand is a good reminder and can also help you skip airport queues

  4. Weigh your luggage

    Don’t wait until you’re at the airport, instead check baggage restrictions and weigh your bags at home before you leave, or you may be charged if they’re over the limit

  5. Call your bank

    Let them know you’re going away and the dates you’ll be gone to avoid your cards being blocked when you use them overseas

4. Make copies of your documents

Don’t just rely on your phone or digital device to access your bookings. If your battery runs out or the Wi-Fi’s not working, you could quickly run into problems.

Instead, when you’re at home, print out your boarding pass and any other relevant information you might need to bring with you, like travel insurance and airport parking or transfer bookings - keep all this in an easy-to-access folder.

Scan your passport and driving licence and save these online, as well as printing out some copies. It’s also a good idea to email these to close family.

5. Update friends and family

Before you travel, leave details of your holiday plans and activities with close family or friends.

Let them know the flights and dates you're travelling and where you’ll be staying, along with a copy of your travel insurance policy.

Giving them copies of your passport and driving licence can be useful if yours get lost or stolen while you’re away.

6. Check your room and accommodation

Once you arrive at your destination, make sure where you’re staying is safe, especially if you’ve got children staying with you.

Make sure there aren’t any railings little ones could squeeze through, or balconies that could be dangerous. Check the locks on all doors and windows and make sure you know where the nearest fire escapes are.

Always securely lock your doors and windows at night and when you go out. And consider using the hotel safe to store money, passports and valuables when you’re not using them.

7. Avoid travel scams

It can be easy to get distracted or fall for scams when you’re in an unfamiliar place, and scammers often target tourists because of this.

To avoid being caught out, always go by the principle that if something looks or sounds too good to be true, it usually is. So don’t let anyone give you anything for free, as it’ll usually be followed by heavy pestering to hand over money.

One of the most common travel scams is being overcharged for taxis. Always find out how much a ride should cost first from a reputable source and never use an unlicensed cab.

Watch out for distraction techniques by pickpockets - like pretending to accidentally spill something on your clothes. Using common sense and researching travel scams can help you avoid falling for them.

8. Don’t draw attention

Although it’s exciting to explore a new place, try to be discreet when you’re looking at maps and be careful who you ask for directions.

Wearing expensive jewellery and clothes or showing off expensive technology can make you a target for thieves, so it’s best to keep things low-key when you’re sight-seeing.

Try to act confidently and walk with purpose. If you need to get your bearings, stop at a café and grab a drink while you check the map and work out where you’re heading next.

9. Be wary of public Wi-Fi

It can be a much cheaper option than using your mobile data, but scammers often target public and unsecure Wi-Fi networks.

Sensitive data that’s stored on your phone or device can be hacked and your valuable information stolen, including credit card details, without you realising.

So if you need to access the internet while you’re away, avoid unsecure Wi-Fi connections and use a virtual private network (VPN) app to secure your connection.

10. Take out travel insurance

As soon as you book your trip, take out travel insurance. This helps protect you against unexpected events like needing to cancel your holiday prior to departure, as well as lost luggage, cancellations and sudden illnesses or injuries.

While the GHIC can help provide free or low-cost emergency medical care when you’re in the EU, it won’t cover the costs of emergency repatriation back to the UK. It also doesn’t cover the cost of things like theft and cancellations, which travel insurance does.

If you don’t have travel insurance and something happens, you’ll have to pay out of your own pocket and the costs could run into thousands of pounds. Having travel insurance in place can give you peace of mind that if you’re travelling abroad and things don’t quite go to plan, you’ll be looked after.