How to stay safe on holiday (and still have fun)
Holidays are an exciting time. Whether you've booked a romantic weekend in Rome, a party holiday by the beach in Ibiza, or a once-in-a-lifetime American road trip, you don't want anything to spoil your experience. Yet unfortunately, we can be more vulnerable to things going wrong when we're in an unfamiliar place. And if something should happen, it might be trickier to know where to turn for advice.
But help is at hand. Follow our travel safety tips to keep your trip running smoothly, so you can focus on enjoying your hard-earned holiday.
Before you set off
Take out travel insurance
Having the right travel insurance sorted before you leave can eliminate that dreaded 'what if' feeling from the back of your mind. You can make sure you're covered for major incidents and medical injuries, just in case you have any bad luck while you're away. Don't forget to always read your policy documents and keep a copy to hand in the event that would need to make a claim.
Find out about travel insurance from M&S Bank (underwritten by Aviva Insurance Limited)Footnote 3* and give yourself the peace of mind to enjoy your holiday, knowing you're covered if the worst should happen.
Research your destination
There's no harm in reading up on any areas to avoid in your holiday destination, so you can stick to the places you'll feel most safe. Make sure you understand local attitudes, etiquette and offensive words to avoid, and be aware of any political conflicts or events taking place while you’re there, so you can plan accordingly.
Choose your hotel carefully
Research, research, research. Read reviews of hotels, go with recommendations from friends and only book through trusted, third-party sites.
Take copies of your passport and travel documents
Wondering what you'd do if you lost your passport on holiday? Replacing it isn't always straightforward (depending on where you are), but by having a photocopy, you'll be one step ahead when you visit the embassy. Keep copies of your flight documents in different places and with more than one person in your party, so you can share responsibility for looking after them and have back-ups, should someone lose theirs.
Keep important details to hand
While you can try your best, you can't guarantee you'll always have your mobile phone on you and that it'll be working and/or have signal or internet access. So, jot down the contact details of your close friends and family and keep these with you, so you can call or message them, should you find yourself in trouble. If you take regular medication - for diabetes or a heart condition, for example - carry a doctor's note and perhaps even a copy of your latest prescription, so you can get the right medical attention if you need it.
At your destination
Keep your luggage with you at all times
If you can avoid leaving your bags with the hotel staff when you check in, do - holidaymakers sometimes get things stolen from their luggage if it's left in the wrong hands. If you do lose your suitcase, you should be able to claim for the items on your travel insurance. Figures from the Association of British Insurers (ABI) tell us the average claim for lost baggage is £205Notes 11, so it’s worth getting yourself covered.
Double check you’ve locked up
It might seem obvious but take extra care when you head out of your hotel room. Don't leave windows open when you're not in, especially if you're on the ground floor. If you want to keep your room cool for your return, use the aircon.
Leave some of your cash at the hotel
You could end up putting yourself at more risk by taking all your cash with you on a day or night out, than if you had left some back at the hotel. A better idea is to work out how much you'll need before you leave and only take that. A lot of hotels provide safes in their rooms - if not, hide your money somewhere it won't be found, like an inside zip of your suitcase (just try not to forget where your safe place is!)
Keep your money safe
The best way to carry cash when travelling? It depends on how you’ll be looking after it. If you prefer to use a bag, look out for styles where the design will help protect you against theft - e.g. lots of secure compartments. Alternatively, go for a jacket with small zip-up pockets or a bumbag.
Cut down your wallet
Consider buying a travel wallet for your trip, rather than using an existing bulky one with all your store and membership cards in - you won't need your library card when you're 10,000 miles from home! Just stick to the essentials like your credit card, ID and any insurance or medical cards you may have.
Carry a map
Worried about whether you'll be able to navigate your way around your destination? Some mobile phone network providers allow you to use your monthly data allowance in countries abroad (be sure to check with your provider before you travel) so you may be able to use your phone as a map which is helpful if there's a language barrier with locals to deal with. Just try to be subtle about using it as you don't want to attract (potentially unwanted) attention. If you can't use a mobile phone, it's worth carrying a physical map with you.
Check if the tap water is safe
Tap water is generally safe to drink in developed countries in mainland Europe, the USA and Australia but it's still worth checking before you do drink tap water abroad. If in doubt, don't risk it. Stock up on big bottles of water to keep yourself hydrated - especially if you're outside in the sun all day.
Don't get a taxi alone
There's safety in numbers, so make sure you share a taxi with a friend or family member where possible. Also, make sure you book taxis through government-approved agencies and apps; local or independent taxi drivers might increase their rates if they realise you're a tourist.
Be aware of your surroundings
Try not to get so engrossed in sightseeing that you leave yourself open to potential pickpockets; they're more likely to approach you if you’re not paying attention. And at night, steer clear of dark, non-tourist areas - particularly if you're not confident about communicating with the locals.
Claim back medical costs
If you're unlucky enough to have an accident or deal with sickness abroad, you may be able to claim back the costs on your travel insurance. Figures from the ABI show the average medical claim is £1,300Notes 22, which would make a serious dent in your holiday spending fund if you couldn't claim it back.
Want to keep your travel spending in check? Discover 5 common spending mistakes on holiday (and how you can avoid them) here.
Notes 3* Terms, conditions exclusions and limitations will apply.