The World Health Organisation (WHO) asserts that travellers are more likely to be killed through accidental injuries or violence than by infectious diseases. Worldwide, road traffic accidents are the most frequent cause of death amongst travellers aged 15-29 years, however, injuries can occur in other scenarios such as adventure sports, environmental disasters and acts of violence.
Annually, 1.24 million people are killed and 20–50 million are injured in road traffic accidents (RTAs), a number thought likely to double by 2030. Driving in unfamiliar situations may increase your risk of RTAs; driving on unknown roads, the opposite side of road, in poorly maintained vehicles, when travel fatigued or under the influence of alcohol can increase risks.
- Low and middle-income countries have the highest rates of RTAs; if possible avoid driving in these countries.
- Always wear a seatbelt and where possible sit in the rear of the vehicle.
- Only ride in marked taxis, hire drivers familiar with the local area and where possible agree fares in advance.
- Gather information on road rules, traffic regulations, vehicle maintenance requirements and the condition of roads of country or countries you intend to drive in.
- Research informal rules of the roads, for example, in some countries drivers may not observe official crossings or traffic signals.
- Remain vigilant; avoid driving after consuming alcohol or when tired or stressed, avoid driving on unlit roads and pay particular attention when driving on the opposite side of the road to your country of residence.
- Before hiring a vehicle check the condition of the tyres (including spare), lights, breaks and seatbelts to try and ensure it is road worthy.
- Make sure you are appropriately insured and carry your home driving license alongside license required by destination country.
- RTAs involving motorcycles and mopeds are common; avoid using these modes of transport if possible, particularly if you are unaccustomed to driving them.
- Ensure safety helmets are used if you decide to use these modes of transport.
A significant number of British travellers have suffered serious accidents (some fatal) as a result of dangerous behaviour on balconies, often following consumption of drugs and/or alcohol.
- Balcony injuries may result in permanent disability or death.
- Avoid using balconies when under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.
- Never sit or lean over the balcony railing.
- Avoid passing things over balcony railings, it is easy to lose balance and increases the risk of balcony related injury.
- Never attempt to jump into a swimming pool from a balcony.
- Do not attempt to climb from one balcony to another.
- Be aware that travel insurers are unlikely to pay for your healthcare bills and/or medical repatriation if you suffer an injury that could be perceived to be your own fault and/or the injury occurred whilst under the influence of drugs/alcohol.
Electrical Safety Abroad
Electricity safety standards in the UK are often higher than those in other countries; as such you should not to expect the same level of protection abroad as you have at home.
For detailed advice on using electricity safely during travel please see Electrical Safety First
Fire safety awareness and standards vary greatly from country to country; fire hazards may be disregarded, fire exits may be non-existent and buildings may be overcrowded making escaping in the event of a fire difficult.
General Fire Safety Awareness
- Smoke and fire can be very disorientating, take time to check the nearest escape route of buildings that you enter.
- Try to ensure stairwells and doors are not blocked.
- Try to avoid situations were overcrowding is likely.
In the Event of a Fire
- Evacuate immediately - don't stop to collect belongings.
- Use the staircase and not the lift.
- Raise the alarm if possible.
- Close doors behind you.
- Go to an assembly point clear of the building.
- If you can't leave your room, close all doors, put wet towels or clothes round the door seals and stay low to the ground if smoke enters the room, if possible shout or call for help.
Remember smoke and fire can cause confusion, ensure you know how to exit the building safely if a fire alarm was raised during the day and night, don't wait until you are disorientated.
- Check escape routes and locate the nearest fire exit to your room.
- Read fire instruction notices if displayed in your room.
- Try to ensure stairwells are not blocked.
- Identify the location of fire alarms.
Recreational use of water can have positive effects on health such as exercise and relaxation, however, the WHO drowning remains a leading cause of accidental death worldwide. Being aware of the dangers of use of recreational water can help you reduce your risks.
Awareness of Dangers:
- Check local warnings about weather conditions and tides.
- Be aware of dangerous rip currents and strong tides.
- Avoid swimming near or diving from rocks, piers, breakwaters or coral.
- Be aware of venomous aquatic animals such as jellyfish, sea anemones and other invertebrate aquatic species.
- Be aware of potential disease vectors such as fresh water snails which harbour the parasite that causes schistosomiasis, see individual country pages for this information.
Follow Safety Advice:
- Follow the safety advice of lifeguard, coast guard or equivalent.
- Look out for warning flags and signs and adhere to them at all times.
Adventure sports such as climbing, skydiving, snow sports, scuba-diving and other water sports are popular with travellers.
- Adventure sport safety standards in the UK are often higher than those in other countries; do not assume the same level of protection abroad as you have at home.
- Do not be over ambitious; ensure you are fully trained in the skills required for the adventure sport you are undertaking.
- Before partaking in any adventure sport check the condition of the equipment; ensure protective equipment is being used as required and that any gear is in a good state of repair.
- Trauma care is poor in many countries, some have no co-ordinated ambulance services and in remote areas medical assistance may be unavailable. Lack of emergency response may increase your risk of death if serious injuries are sustained.
- Ensure that you have adequate medical insurance in place that covers you for the adventure sport you intend to participate in, check you are covered for both healthcare costs and/or medical repatriation.