Health and safety on your year abroad

Whilst you’re preparing for your year abroad, remember to organise health and travel insurance, get any vaccinations you may need and sort out money.

Before you leave

Before you leave for your year abroad, find out as much as you can about the area you’re moving to. Find out what you need to bring, research local laws and customs and write down the phone number and address of your nearest British Embassy or Consulate.

It’s important to make multiple copies of important documents such as passports, vaccination records, prescriptions and identification cards. Leave one of these copies with a relative or close friend.

You could pack a travel first-aid kit that includes plasters and over the counter medicines such as paracetamol. It might also be helpful to pack insect repellents and sun cream if necessary.

Pack any prescription medicines in your hand luggage rather than your suitcase and remember to get enough packets of them to cover the time you are away.

Visit your doctor before you go to organise any vaccinations you may need and to ask for advice on staying healthy whilst abroad.

Travel insurance

Make sure your travel insurance covers the country you are moving to and any countries you may travel to during your time abroad, as well as any activities you may be participating in. Your university may give you more details about which insurance to choose.

Staying safe

Before you leave, it may be worth attending a safety course through your university or a gap year company, as this will teach you how to prepare for the year abroad and how to deal with problems you might encounter.

Here are some other tips on staying safe during your year abroad:

  • Before you arrive, look up the layout of the area and book some accommodation for your first night. Find out the safest method of getting there and avoid arriving at night if you can.
  • Stay in regular contact with people at home; it’s important to let people know that you’re ok.
  • Tell people where you are; let them know when you’re going out, when you’re on your way back or if you’re running late so that they don’t worry about you
  • Keep an eye on your possessions, especially at airports, on buses and on trains. It’s easy to get distracted in busy places like these. Don’t leave your possessions unattended or with a stranger, either
  • Be wary of flashing valuables such as cameras or phones and only carry a small amount of money with you
  • Stay in a group, especially at night
  • Don’t accept drinks from strangers and keep an eye on your drinks when you are out
  • Leave expensive jewellery or clothes at home
  • Observe local customs for dress codes

Staying healthy

Here are some tips to help stop you from getting ill on your year abroad:

  • Find out if tap water is safe to drink; if it is not then drink bottle water and avoid having ice in your drinks
  • Food sold by street vendors in hot climates can be easily contaminated
  • Check which vaccinations you will need
  • Apply for an EHIC card if you’re staying within the EU. This will entitle you to medical treatment at a reduced cost. You may also need to take out medical insurance in the country you’re staying in
  • Make sure you have health cover in your insurance policy if you’re travelling outside the EU
  • Stay up to date of any epidemics such as swine flu and take precautions when necessary

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Pack any prescription medicines in your hand luggage rather than your suitcase and remember to get enough packets of them to cover the time you are away