Category Archives: Safety when travelling

Visiting Thailand? Dos and Don’ts Following King’s Death

thailand-image-by-mariamichelle-cc0

Thailand image by Mariamichelle CC0

The death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej on October 13 has plunged Thailand into a state of mourning not seen for many decades. Although this event has affected Thais deeply, they remain welcoming to holidaymakers keen to enjoy the country’s castor sugar beaches, lush jungle hinterlands and sunny weather.

However, ‘respect’ is the watchword for any trip to Thailand in the coming months.

What to wear and how to behave

Black clothing has virtually sold out in the country as Thais pay their respects to the late king. As a visitor you don’t need to wear black, but opting for low-key colours will put you in good stead with locals.

Avoid flamboyant attire in public places.

But as Chris Lee, UK and Ireland head of marketing for the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), says: “despite reports, tourists don’t have to wear black on the beach.”

There are reports that the TAT has asked Immigration to provide visitors with black ribbons which they can wear as a sign of respect, although this hasn’t happened as yet.

Aside from asking visitors to dress respectfully, the TAT encourages them to “continue with their travel plans as normal”.

But the TAT also warns that “Visitors should refrain from conducting any inappropriate or disrespectful behaviour.”

The UK’s FCO backs this up: “Following the death of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej there is now an official period of mourning of one year from 14 October 2016. You should respect the feelings and sensitivities of the Thai people at this time.”

Is the nightlife affected?

Bars and restaurants have been asked to tone it down by the government, so the nightlife may well be a little more subdued than usual. Most establishments will close by midnight, although owners have the final say.

Millions of Thais make a living from the country’s tourism industry, so many will be keen to keep their businesses going.

Are any tourist sites closed?

Bangkok’s Wat Phra Kaeo (Temple of the Emerald Buddha) and the Grand Palace are closed to the public, as they will be the venue of the Royal Funeral Rites. But all other tourist attractions remain open.

Traditional and cultural events will go ahead as usual, but their tone may well be modified in respect for the late king.

You can expect transportation, banks and medical facilities to operate as normal.

Talking about the king

Many Thais are open to talking about their feelings at this sad time, but as before the king’s passing, care should be taken when discussing anything related to the monarchy. Thailand’s strict lèse-majesté laws mean anyone insulting or defaming the monarchy could face a jail term of up to 15 years. If you want to be on the safe side, avoid the subject altogether unless it is broached by a local – and even then proceed with caution.

The atmosphere in tourist hotspots like the islands of Phuket, Koh Samui and Koh Phi Phi is likely to be lighter than in Bangkok, although less intense than before the king’s death. Indeed, now could be a particularly relaxed time to visit this most unique of kingdoms.

The famous Thai smile may be a little thin on the ground right now, but if you’re mindful of your host’s feelings you’ll still have a fabulous holiday.

 

Road Trip 101 – Everything you need to know before you go!

Hitting the highway for your holiday? Make sure you read our awesome guide to planning a road trip!

Image by fancycrave1 CC0

Image by fancycrave1 CC0

We cover everything you need to know from what essentials to pack, planning your route and budgeting for fuel, food and fun – to information about vehicle hire, what transport to choose and the pros and cons of camping, caravanning, hotels, Airbnb and more! We’ve even got some handy hints on what NOT to do on a road trip too. To get you started, here are five great reasons you should make your next holiday a road trip…

Five Reasons You Should Go On A Road Trip:

  1. You get to see so much – being on the road means you get to see places you’d miss if simply travelling from A to B, take the scenic route wherever you go, and you’ll catch a whole heap more!
  2. It’s spontaneous – if you see something you can stop, you can detour and you can change your plans altogether… for the whole holiday!
  3. You get “together” time – whether you are going with your partner, your kids or your friends, being on a road trip leaves plenty of time to kick back, relax and chat on every journey you make.
  4. The playlist! – second only to the wedding playlist! The tunes you choose for your road trip will set the vibe for the whole journey and remind you of your awesome adventure for years to come.
  5. It feels like you have all the time in the world – the freedom of living life on the move can be truly liberating! As long as you have a very loose plan in place it doesn’t matter when you arrive at the next destination, or whether your next destination was part of the plan at all.

Planning Your Route

TomTom GO 5200 Sat Nav

The TomTom GO 5200 Sat Nav should stop any map reading disputes!

To plan or not to plan? Make a loose plan! Have a start and an end, tick off some places that you’d like to see in between and then see what fits into your timescale. It’s good to add a couple of days “spare” for unexpected adventures and detours.

Budget is an obvious factor in making that plan – more on that later, but before you decide what you think you’ll do, it’s good to have a rough idea of what you’d like to do, but not so tight that there isn’t room for plans to go awry!

How Our Scottish Road Trip Didn’t Go To Plan:

Day 1. Plan: Drive from Essex to Scottish border, stopping off in Lincolnshire to get side windows fitted to the camper. What actually happened is that our exhaust disintegrated just as we reached the fitters, they bodged a repair, we got as far as Rugby before it fell apart again and spent a few hours in a supermarket car park waiting for more help. By nightfall we had only got as far as Cumbria when bad weather hit, so we spent our first night in a service station car park already behind by a day according to our schedule.

If you are leaving the UK for your road trip adventure, then you may need to make some solid plans around ferries, trains or even fly drive holidays – especially if you are on a set budget.

The Mistakes We Made On Our French Road Trip:

Our planning for this trip was “loose”, and we didn’t have an “end” to our plan, apart from knowing we had to be back in the UK. In addition, because we would be slumming it in the back of our van, we allowed ourselves the luxury of a cabin on board the outbound ferry, with sea views. This combination made it one of our most expensive excursions to date! Here’s why…

  • A ferry from Portsmouth to Bilbao with a large vehicle is expensive, even more so when you book an exterior cabin.
  • We didn’t think about taking our own food to our cabin, so had to fork out for high priced food and drink on board.
  • Without a set agenda, we didn’t really know where we would be heading, so only booked a ferry out, a return of some description would have saved quite a lot of money.
  • By the time we finally knew where we’d be in France close to the end of our trip (turns out it was St Malo), last minute ferry bookings were EXPENSIVE.

 

Useful Resources:

Book trains to Europe: Eurostar

Book Ferries to France and Spain: BrittanyFerries

Fly Drive worldwide: VirginFlyDrive and BritishAirwaysFlyDrive packages

To Hire or Not To Hire? The Car Rental Dilemma.

Image by Unsplash CC0

Can your vehicle cope with your chosen route? If not, you might need to hire or buy one that can! Image by Unsplash CC0.

Taking your own vehicle has its merits – you know it’s condition, can make sure that it is fully serviced before your trip, know how many miles you get to a gallon, and most importantly you don’t have to answer to a car hire company if something gets damaged – or worse still, the vehicle is stolen.

However – your own vehicle may not be up to the job of your planned road trip, either because of its size or because of its condition, in which case you have a few options:

Hire A Vehicle. Pros: It should be in great condition, quite new and of course up to the task. Cons: It can be costly especially if you are planning to hire something nostalgic like a VW T25!

Buy and Sell a Vehicle: A popular option if your road trip is abroad. Pros: You can fly to your destination, pick up a car or camper when you get there and then sell it on when you reach the end of the road to fly home. You also don’t have to answer to a car hire company. Cons: Quite a lot of hassle compared to booking a hire car, plus you don’t know whether you are purchasing a lemon!

Relocation Hire: Pros: Much cheaper than a straightforward hire, and you don’t have to do a “round trip”. Cons: You will probably be travelling against the grain, people have paid more to travel in the opposite direction on a one way hire for a reason. There may be a limited choice of vehicle, and you may have to compromise your route.

Useful Resources:

Relocation Hire US and Canada: AutoDriveaway

VW Campervan hire UK and Europe: Camperbug

Car Hire worldwide: HolidayCarsDirect

Car Rental Insurance

If you are going to hire a car, camper, or van, you really must take out car rental insurance, even if the car hire company has it’s own policy (which incidentally will not offer the cover you really need). Car rental insurance from WorldwideInsure.com not only insures for the excess on damage, but the deluxe covers the car for total loss up to £50,000, similar to a CDW (Collision Damage Waiver) policy. Please note that Third Party Liability Insurance is not included in this policy.

Travel Insurance

Car hire insurance doesn’t cover everything you need for going on a road trip – cancelled ferries or trains, lost luggage, illness, injury or repatriation all need separate cover even if you are in a hire car. Make sure you have the right insurance for your needs with our flexible and affordable travel insurance options that can be tailored to suit you.

Car Insurance and Breakdown Cover

If you are taking your own vehicle, you need to make sure that your motor insurance covers you for driving abroad, and that your breakdown cover includes overseas recovery. You may want to check exactly what happens if you do have an accident or your vehicle breaks down – some policies may not automatically include a replacement hire car, or cover the costs of shipping your vehicle back separately.

Where To Sleep On A Road Trip

Image by MemoryCatcher CC0.

Image by MemoryCatcher CC0.

Purists would say that to truly experience a road trip, you should be living, eating and sleeping in your transport of choice – but that isn’t always practical. Here are the pros and cons of travel and sleeping arrangements…

Camper van: Travelling in a camper offers the most freedom in the easiest package, everything you need is with you in one easy to drive and easy to park vehicle, and it doesn’t matter if your plans change as you probably haven’t booked to be anywhere for a specific time. You can park up in a layby or beauty spot for free, or spend the night in a campsite if you choose – a nice option if a hot shower is needed!

Caravan: A slightly cumbersome way to tackle a road trip as it’s not as easy to just park up wherever you fancy. Chances are you have more space and home comforts than in a van, plus if you decide to spend a bit of time in one place, you have the freedom of taking your car off to explore the local area. Towing a caravan takes quite a bit of fuel too, so you’ll need to budget for this.

Tent: This is the space saving option. Driving about in a car is cheaper and easier than in a van, or towing a caravan, and with a tent you still have the freedom to pitch wherever you fancy, or take your tent to a campsite. It is a bit of a hassle packing up your pitch each and every night, but the money-saving perks might be worth it.

Hotel: A luxurious way to finish off a day driving, and an almost guaranteed nights rest. Big plus point is that you don’t have to lug a second home around, but this is definitely a pricey option that fuel savings don’t make up for. Also, hotels generally need to be booked in advance, which takes away many spontaneous opportunities.

Airbnb: A cheaper way to have the luxury of staying in a hotel. Airbnb is hugely popular as you have the freedom to treat the accommodation as your own and it is more like a home from home. As with hotels, you may lose money if travels don’t go according to plan, or have to kip in your car if you plan to find somewhere on the fly.

Couchsurfing: The free way to find a decent bed for the night and you may find that hosts are more accommodating if you are early or late even if it is by a day or two! Couchsurfing is a great community and definitely more open to the impact adventures can have on schedules.

Don’t Make These Road Trip Mistakes!

  • Don’t drive an unreliable vehicle – you don’t want to spend your road trip in a layby.
  • Don’t travel with people you don’t get on with – arguments don’t make the right kind of road trip memories. Avoid people that you find boring too.
  • Don’t drive when you need to rest – just because it is a road trip, it doesn’t mean you need to drive 24/7. Stop regularly, and get a good sleep every night for your own safety, and everyone else’s.
  • Don’t rely solely on sat nav – pack an old fashioned paper map too. Not only can sat navs be wrong, you don’t want lack of signal or power to scupper your pathfinding powers!
  • Don’t pick the fastest route – unless all you want to see is tarmac. Go the scenic way, detouring and stopping off at beauty spots and places of interest.

How To Budget For A Road Trip

Image by Unsplash CC0

You wouldn’t want to run out of money for fuel with views like this ahead! Image by Unsplash CC0

Fuel is the obvious cost of a road trip, so do your research and find out the fuel prices in all the places you plan to pass through. Once you have this, work out the average price per gallon, and hopefully you already know how many gallons you can fit in a tank and know how far a tank of fuel will get you – if you are driving your own vehicle anyway! Next calculate the distance you’ll be travelling, and add an extra 50 miles or so per day just to be on the safe side.

DON’T FORGET TO BUDGET FOR TOLLS! In some countries, the cost of travelling on toll roads can really add up. Check your route carefully as you travel. And always consider taking an alternative toll-free option.

Make your fuel go further with these fuel-saving tips:

  • Have your vehicle serviced before your trip
  • Fill up with fresh oil
  • Keep your tires at the right pressure
  • Keep your speed down and your driving style relaxed
  • Keep your load as light as possible
  • Have a good navigator so you don’t waste fuel on getting lost!

Unless you plan to wild camp, you need to factor in the cost of accommodation, even if it is just a campsite for a night. Even if you think you’ll do the duration without needing to arrange accommodation – allow a little for a luxurious night somewhere – either for a good night’s rest or just the lovely shower!

Food is the other big cost to budget for, allow a little for a few meals out, and have a basic daily budget for supermarket essentials.

Don’t forget that you’ll probably want to do a few fun things too. Although a road trip is often about the scenic views and visiting cool places, no doubt there’ll be the odd occasion where you’ll need to pay an entry fee to an attraction.

Know The Rules of The Road

Motor retailer Lookers share some tips on planning a road trip abroad….

“The rules of the road can differ a lot from country to country, so you need to do a lot of research before you set off. It’s also a good idea to double-check the appropriate driving laws during your journey before you cross any borders. This way, you’ll be less likely to encounter any problems and your journey will go a lot smoother.

Certain European countries’ driving regulations are particularly different to the UK’s. In France, for example, drivers are required to carry a breathalyser. Also, if you wear glasses and are planning to drive through Spain, you must have a spare pair with you while you’re travelling.

In Germany, it’s illegal to drive without winter tyres at certain times of the year and it’s illegal to pick up hitchhikers in Russia. Additionally, driving a dirty vehicle is against the law in Belarus, so you must keep your vehicle clean if your journey takes you that way.

These are just some of the regulations you might come up against during your trip and, while they might seem extreme or bizarre, they’re in place for a reason. If you respect and abide by the rules set out by every country you visit, you’ll have a much easier time, so it’s worth doing the research.”

What To Pack for a Road Trip

Just Put It Up Top by Christoph Rupprecht

Just Put It Up Top by Christoph Rupprecht CC2.0

So this list will vary depending on whether you are camping, “camper”ing or stopping off at nice hotels. To keep it simple we have included essential on-the road equipment that everyone will need, especially in the event you break down somewhere remote, and a few items that caught our eye that will make living life on the road that little bit more luxurious! Just don’t forget your toothbrush and other holiday essentials – check out our Zen of Packing blog for some helpful hints!

Four Essential Things You Need For A Road Trip With The Kids

Road trips can be a lot of fun when your kids come along for the ride. You can spend hours singing along to all your favourite songs, playing car games and enjoying quality time as a family. Although, if you run out of ideas and your children get bored, things could take a turn for the worse and you might be faced with bad moods and tantrums.

Putting together a ‘road trip kit’ will help you to keep your entire family entertained on long journeys. Here are some essentials to take on the adventure!

1. Food and Drink

If you’re planning a particularly lengthy trip, buying food from service stations along the way will get pretty pricey. Instead, pack a range of healthy food and drink into a practical carrier, like the Sakura 12v plug-in cooler bag from DriveDen. This will save you money and ensure that all of your snacks stay fresh for longer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Electronics

Of course, you won’t want your kids to travel the entire way with their heads down and eyes glued to the screen of a portable DVD player or tablet. However, if they’re used to playing with these gadgets at home, they’re likely to come in handy when you’ve settled into the journey and the boredom starts to set in. Tech Advisor has put together a list of the 48 best free and cheap apps for kids, toddlers and teens perfect for pre-loading on mobile devices.

3. Activities

When you’re bored of playing ‘I Spy’ and your kids’ electronics have run out of charge, you’ll be glad to have brought some old-fashioned activity supplies with you. Pen, paper, activity books and even a whiteboard with dry-wipe markers will help to keep your kids entertained along the way.

4. Travel pillows

Long road trips can be tiring, and pillows are important for when the need to nap strikes. Young children in particular are more likely to snuggle down for longer with a fun and colourful travel pillow. Not only does it provide the right support for a good rest, but it doubles up as a cuddly toy too!

Extra cute and cuddly Kids Travel Pillow from Go Travel

Bon Voyage!

We’ve written oodles of travel advice over the years, so thought we’d share a few choice blogs that might help you plan your perfect road trip! In the meantime – happy planning, happy driving, and here’s wishing you an adventure of a lifetime wherever the road takes you!

50 Tips For First-Time Travellers

30 Ways To Use A Sarong – Essential Advice For Travellers

Best Packing App for 2016

The Zen of Packing

Travel Health and Safety – Have You Packed These?

Image by Unsplash CC0

Image by Unsplash CC0

Travel Tips For Women Travelling Solo

Image by milivanily CC0

Image by milivanily CC0

Couchsurf or Airbnb with great care – make sure you only ever choose somewhere with lots of good, legitimate reviews, or go by a trusted recommendation.

Don’t pay more than you should for travel insurance – choose a policy that can be tailored to meet your needs as a solo traveller without incurring a premium.

Get some advice – ask other female travellers where they have been and what tips they would give for women travelling alone there. The Travelettes offer a great place to find inspiration and information online, and Wanderful connects female travellers and facilitates knowledge-sharing to promote safe and confident travel around the world.

Tell people where you are going and what you plan to do – a travel itinerary isn’t just to give you ideas about what to do on holiday, it can offer vital info for folks back home if they want to track you down.

Dress appropriately – this can either mean cover up where being scantily clad may cause offence, or dress like someone who lives there to avoid looking like a vulnerable tourist.

Consider wearing a ring on your wedding finger – if you aren’t already wearing one. In some places this can prevent unwanted attention from local men, or indeed other tourists.

Keep flashy jewellery to a minimum – general advice for all solo travellers, not just the ladies. When you are on your own, having visible wealth can make you a target for opportunistic thieves.

Find out what locations are off-limits for ladies travelling alone – befriend the hotel staff and get some insider knowledge on where you should and should not go during your stay.

Map read discretely – if you get lost, avoid pulling a map out or studying your phone out in the open on your own – pop into a nearby shop or café instead.

Make fake phone calls – if you are taking a ride on your own, feel vulnerable on public transport, or you are just walking a street, make a fake phone call stating that you’ll “be back soon”.

Avoid intoxication – and keep any drinks you buy with you at all times! Spiked drinks are a serious problem, so always keep yours in sight from the moment it is poured.

Save a bit of cash for a cab – really handy if you suddenly find yourself somewhere where you don’t feel safe wandering about or if an incident happens and you want to get away fast.

Join other solo travellers – the freedom of solo travel is amazing, and one you can actually share with others. Some operators such as Friendship Travel have a package where solo holidaymakers can join together over dinner for a bit of company and to share travel ideas, stories and tips.

Don’t forget your travel insurance! We offer cost-effective comprehensive cover to suit your needs, by being flexible – this includes providing reduced cover options, not just adding extras on. Give us a call on 01892 833338 or get a quote online.

Travel Health and Safety – Have You Packed These?

There is little doubt that sun cream will be top of your packing list this summer – but have you ever considered what other items might be worth taking on holiday? We share some top products that might just keep you healthy and safe while away…

Insect Repellent

Insects are mightily annoying at best, and can cause serious illnesses, and even death in some cases. So it is no wonder that insect repellent is the top of our list! Whether you expect midges or mosquitos to be bugging you on holiday, pack the right repellent for the job. Pyramid supply a variety of insect repellents, both DEET and DEET-free, suitable for adventures of all ages, all over the world. We particularly like their DEET-free Trek Natural spray, suitable for children as young as 6 months.

 

Water Filter

PRD0009 - LIFESAVER bottle 4000UF

The LIFESAVER bottle is available at IconLifesaver.eu

Always buying bottled water when you go abroad? You should consider taking along a water filter to save yourself money, and potentially falling ill. The LIFESAVER bottle may have been designed for those travelling well and truly off the beaten track, but it is an essential item for any international traveller. The robust and portable water filter is capable of delivering up to 6,000 litres of clean water, ideal for any holiday or adventure where the quality of the water supply is in question.

LIFESAVER bottle is a portable water filter, which removes viruses, bacteria and cysts. No need for bad tasting chemicals and the bottle filter shuts down once it needs replacing – meaning that it can not pass contaminated water.

 

Carbon Monoxide Alarm

travel safety blog imageGo With CO 6

The Fire Angel CO-9X retails at £24.99. For stockist information along with hints and tips on how to stay safe from CO, visit ProjectShout.com.

Awareness of holiday safety and CO poisoning has risen in recent years, which is why Project SHOUT has launched a campaign to encourage people to take a CO alarm with them on holiday. Fire Angel’s CO-9X 7 year portable CO alarm is ideal – Its light and compact design means the alarm is no bigger than a bar of soap fitting easily in even the most tightly packed cases! The alarm will alert you and your family to CO emissions from boilers, cookers, BBQs and other fuel-burning appliances.

 

Mosquito Net

Mosinet Double White

Zi Technology Fabric Impregnation in the Pyramid Mosinet provides protection for up to 2 years or 35 washes. By PyramidTravelProducts.co.uk

This pop-up mosquito net made it onto our list thanks to its simple and effective design. While a mozzie net might not be needed to keep malaria-carrying mosquitos at bay in every destination, biting insects are a nuisance in many parts of the world. This pop-up tent net is the ideal and easy solution to a bite-free bedtime! The free-standing Mosinet sets up in seconds and requires no external support or hanging points.

 

First Aid Kit

Travellers

The Travelproof Travel Survival Kit is a versatile all-in-one kit covering minor day-to-day medical eventualities for most types of long-haul travel within 24 hours of reliable medical facilities. £25 at NomadTravel.co.uk

Forget your supermarket style first-aid kits, you need something designed to suit your destination when you go off on an adventure. Nomad Travel supply a range of standard medical kits to suit mountain expeditions, jungles and malaria risk zones, as well as bespoke kits for the most adventurous journeys! Many of their kits also contain antibiotics and syringes – needed if travelling to places where sterile medical resources are limited, and medicines may be of doubtful origin.

 

 

 

Travel Insurance

beach-hut-237489_640

Image by sharonang CC0

Arguably the most important piece of travel safety equipment in your pack is Travel insurance – without it you may face hefty medical fees, and may even find yourself stranded overseas. WorldwideInsure.com tailor insurance packages to the needs of each person travelling – so whether you are climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, trekking across Patagonia, or just going to the Costa Del Sol for some sunshine – we can provide comprehensive cover to fit the bill.

 

Babymoon Travel Tips – Everything You Need To Know About Travelling When Pregnant

Babymoons are all the rage, the last chance to elope before you are at the beck and call of a demanding tiny person. The trouble is, you are hormonal, prone to a whole heap of not-so-nice pregnancy symptoms, and you want to make sure that you make the best choices for your baby in terms of where you go and when you travel. To help, we have gathered some essential tips to help you make a seemly simple decision easier at this special time.

Babymoon Travel Advice Image

Babymoon staycation. Taking it easy on the steep coastal path from East Lulworth to Durdle Door in Dorset, 28 weeks pregnant.

The best time to travel is between 4 and 6 months

This is because you are most likely over your initial nausea, and yet not so far along that you are uncomfortable, or could give birth at any minute. This applies to long distance car journeys, flying, travelling by boat, and by train.

Know your personal limits

If you are fit and healthy, and were pre-pregancy, the chances are you can take on a 5k hike at 28 weeks. The key is to take it easy – now is not the time to push yourself!

Opt for a staycation rather than a vacation

Knowing that you can reach an NHS hospital easily if you needed to offers a pregnant lady priceless peace of mind – no matter how many weeks gone you are! Plus, the point of a babymoon is about spending some undivided time together before baby is born, not necessarily about the holiday itself.

You can travel by ferry until you are 32 weeks pregnant, BUT..

Do check with the ferry company before booking as they may have their own restrictions in place.

Buckle up correctly

Never wear a safety belt over your bump, always have it under, and ensure the cross-strap is between your breasts. If you are the driver, make sure that you take regular breaks during the journey, and keep fresh air circulating.

You can now travel by air up until you are 37 weeks pregnant, BUT…

Not if you are carrying twins, in which case you must travel before 32 weeks, and if you are experiencing a high risk pregnancy, you should consult a medical professional first. As with ferry travel, check with the travel provider before booking as they may have their own restrictions or require a doctors note.

Flying is safe, but there are side-effects that may affect pregnant women

Changes in air pressure and humidity, along with the slight increase in radiation have been deemed unharmful, however, swelling in legs, motion sickness, and of course the risks associated with deep vein thrombosis are all worse in pregnancy.

Carry your handheld notes EVERYWHERE

Whether in the UK or abroad, having your notes in a bag that you are carrying is essential in case you go into labour prematurely or you are experiencing anything that you feel requires medical attention.

Avoid destinations where you would need vaccinations

Vaccinations are considered unsafe while pregnant as they may affect the baby in the womb. This may mean that some destinations are off the agenda – check with your local clinic before booking a holiday!

Avoid tummy troubles

Diarrhoea can lead to dehydration which is not good for an unborn baby. Make sure that food and drinks are “safe”, and if you do get an upset, seek medical help rather than buying over the counter treatments – these could be harmful to take during pregnancy.

Think about your comfort

Long journeys will need to be broken up for toilet breaks, leg stretching, bump swinging, eating and drinking. Plus, bear in mind that when you are heavily pregnant, staying in one position for any length of time is incredibly uncomfortable!

Get travel insurance and carry your EHIC card if you are travelling in Europe

The EHIC is a must, but bear in mind that it does not cover every eventuality – travel insurance is much more comprehensive, so needed even if you are staying within the EU. If you are going further afield, then you’d be incredibly foolish to travel without it!

Making friends while travelling abroad

One of the best things about travelling is meeting new people and making new friends.  Sharing experiences can lead to bonds that last for a day, a night, a week, or a lifetime!  If you are up for a party and happy to go out drinking then you will likely have no trouble at all making friends, but if you are at all shy, it can be a daunting prospect – so we’ve put together this quick guide to show you how easy it can be.

Hostels

There are many different types of hostel, some of which are out-and-out party places which have their own bars and/or organise pub crawls, while some will be geared towards more mature travellers or even families.  Websites such as hostelworld.com and hostelbookers.com are great for doing some research to find one which will suit you.  Hostels are super-social places, and with a little confidence it is almost impossible not to make friends when staying in them, especially if you are sharing a dorm.  But even if you opt for a private room you can still find potential friends in the common areas such as the kitchen, TV room, or smoking area.

Be inquisitive

The best advice for starting a conversation, that’s even easy for the shy ones among us, is just to ask questions.  The same questions get asked endlessly in hostels the world over – where are you from, how long have you been travelling, where have you been, where are you going…  As standard as the questions are, they do a great job of breaking the ice.  If you have anything in common you’re likely to find out quickly, and even if you don’t you’ll find plenty more to ask questions about as they talk about themselves.  If conversation doesn’t flow, chalk it up to bad chemistry, bid them a good trip and move along.

Be open

When you’re asking questions, you’ll notice that you find it much easier to keep things flowing when the other person gives more than one word answers.  So remember this when you are on the receiving end, and even give a longer answer than is strictly necessary to answer their questions.  You don’t have to reveal anything about yourself you don’t want to but you’re both searching for a common thread to share and if you are genuine and authentic you just might find something pretty special.

Strangers are just friends you haven’t met yet

This might be overly optimistic as you can’t get on with EVERYONE, but it’s good to bear in mind that they all have the potential to become your next best friend.  Forget what you think you know about different types of people and be open to connecting with everyone whether old or young, male or female, and from anywhere in the world.

Suggest a friendly game

Playing a game instantly gives a group a shared goal and something to talk about.  Carrying a deck or cards can spark connection in a quiet common room, or when waiting for a bus or train.  One game that seems to do a particularly good job of bringing travellers from all countries together is Sh**head.  Different countries have different rules so it is always fun making up new combinations to play together, but simpler games can even be played when the language barrier is great (Both Snap and War translate pretty easily!).

Take a class or group tour

Look online or ask around for recommendations of good tours or classes in the area, as this not only allows you to meet like-minded people, it forces you all to spend a few hours or more together, and gives you plenty to talk about.  If by the end of that time you feel you want to exchange numbers or email addresses – great!  If not, hopefully it was a fun and informative day, and you learned something

Alternative accommodation

If hostels just aren’t your thing, and you’re better at making friends one-on-one, look into alternatives such as Couchsurfing.  Couchsurfing is an online community in which people advertise their couches or spare rooms to travellers for free, and they will often also offer to show you around the local area, whether you want to see the sights, find good food or experience the night life.  They may even have hobbies they are happy to share with you.  Look around the website to find someone you have stuff in common with, check their reviews and testimonials, and drop them a line.

Volunteering

There are many ways to volunteer, whether you want to teach English, work on a farm, or help with community projects.  As well as locals you will meet other travellers which are more like-minded, and get to not only experience a place but contribute to it too.  You may even learn new skills!  Websites such as HelpX are a fantastic resource for volunteer opportunities.

What To Do If Your Passport Is Lost or Stolen Abroad

Around 80 people every day apply for Emergency Travel Documents (ETDs) abroad after losing their passport, finding it is stolen, or discovering that it has expired. That is close to 29,000 a year! As well as being a huge inconvenience, replacing a passport can be costly. Here are some eye opening facts and figures, plus essential advice if you find that you are suddenly without your passport while in a foreign country.

If your passport is lost or stolen you should take the following steps immediately:

  • Report it to the local police
  • Get a crime reference number – you will need this to get a new passport
  • Report the loss or theft to the British Embassy
  • Fill in an LS01 form – available from the Embassy or online

What happens next?

You passport will be cancelled so that no one else can use it. This means that if you misplaced your passport and you find it again, you won’t be able to use it. You MUST hand it in to the passport office!

Next you will be issued your ETDs (emergency travel documents). This can take a few days, and will cost money. This is usually covered by your travel insurance.

Bear in mind that you may also need to replace any visas you had for your journey, and you may even have to rearrange your journey. These are added costs you could do without, but circumstances that can be covered with comprehensive travel insurance.

Lost and Stolen Passport Facts*

  • Lost passports cost Brits £5m per year
  • More than a fifth of all ETDs are issued in Spain
  • Barcelona’s pickpockets are responsible for over 1,000 lost passports
  • In Australia, a rising number of ETDs are issued for passports that have expired

*source

What you can do

Quite simply, you could take extra care of your passport while you are away, and make sure you have the information you need should your passport get lost or stolen.

  • Keep your passport in a locked safe
  • Use a photocopy as ID when going out
  • Make a photocopy of your passport, or email yourself the details
  • Save the number of the British Embassy at your destination
  • Check the expiry date
  • Check the entry requirements of your destination, some places require passports are valid for 6 months after the date you travel

You should also make sure that your travel insurance covers you for any costs incurred as a result of losing your passport or having it stolen. Find out more about travel insurance on our website, or call 01892 833338 to speak to an advisor.

Top 10 Ways to Beat The Fear Of Flying

If you long for adventure, but you are fearful of taking to the skies, read on! We share some top tips to overcome your fear of flying!

1 – Hypnotherapy

A tried and tested method to help people take to the skies with ease. Hypnotherapy can teach deep relaxation, and encourage new patterns of behaviour – together a recipe for success!

2 – Airline flying with confidence courses

Many airlines now offer special courses that help people overcome flight anxiety. They usually involve coaching from a Captain and Psychologist, followed by a couple of flights and on-going support if needed.

3 – Familiarise yourself with planes

Find out how aeroplanes work, and understand why they are the safest form of travel. Facts like these will help you rationalise your fear, and lead to an anxiety-free experience.

4 – Know what to expect during a flight

Turbulence is normal, as are strange noises. Make yourself familiar with what to expect when you are on board. The Flying Without Fear website has a great page about noises on an aeroplane.

5 – Get to the airport early

If you are in a rush, you are more likely to feel anxious. Get up early, arrive early and get accustomed to the new ambience, it all helps to reduce fear.

6 – Talk to the crew

Meeting the people in charge of your flight can work wonders on the nerves. This is their regular day job, and they will help you feel just as calm as they do!

7 – Medication

Medicating is not an ideal solution, as it does not deal with the real issue. You can get prescription drugs that will calm your nerves, or you could opt for some Dutch courage… but never mix the two! Whatever you do, avoid caffeine, as this is known to increase anxiety levels.

8 – Distraction techniques

Plug in your headphones, read a book, do some crosswords or Sudoku – whatever takes your fancy. By keeping yourself occupied you are less likely to focus on the negative.

9 – Avoid media hype

The media never reports on the hundreds of thousands of flights that go smoothly every day of the year, so pay no attention to the one-off stories that are likely to evoke fear!

10 – Learn to breathe

It may sound silly, but calm, controlled breathing is the fastest way to reduce anxiety and find some inner peace. It is also a great distraction technique. Keep your jaw relaxed, this will also help your shoulders and hands relax, then breathe in for the count of 3, and out for the count of 6. Repeat.

Xmas and New Year Travel Tips – A Survival Guide!

Whether you are travelling by Plane, Train or Automobile, you are sure to face some adversity when traveling at this time of year. Here are some tops tips on how to prepare, and how to keep sane whilst getting from A to B.

Travelling by Car

Historically, the 23rd of December is the worst day for Christmas travel on the UK motorways, so you need to PLAN YOUR JOURNEY well, or choose travel at a potentially less popular time. Before you start your journey, it is well worth having a look at AA travel news to see where there are delays.

Bear in mind that service stations will be running limited services, however, Motorway Service stations are required by their license to provide food, fuel and toilet facilities on Christmas Day, but it may be limited and not include their usual cosiest facilities!

Travelling By Train

Trains do not run on Christmas Day! There may be some busses allocated for airport runs. Typically trains stop earlier than usual on Christmas and New Year’s Eve and start again later than usual after on the 27th and 01st respectively. Limited train services are available on Boxing Day – check before you travel to find out if there is one to suit you.

Be aware that arrangements for Scotland may be different. A handy website for checking train options is Traintimes.org, alternatively see the National Rail website.

Travelling By Plane

The biggest challenge to air travel at this time of year is the road traffic and train disruptions, so please see the previous two sections for information. Weather is the other bane, sometimes causing delayed flights as well as tailbacks on the roads and cancelled train services! Advice is to check the weather regularly in the days up to your journey time, The Met Office is a good source of info, and allow PLENTY of time for your journey.

Delays can be unpredictable at the best of times, so leaving a couple of hours early might still not cut the mustard if you have a long drive to the airport. A popular solution is to book into a nearby hotel the day before the flight, then all you risk missing is a hotel dinner rather than an expensive flight! FlightStats.co.uk is a great resource for flight information and airport weather, alternatively, go online and check with either your airline or the airport you are travelling from.

Travel Insurance

We offer a wide range of policies that cover everything from car hire excess to enjoying winter sports. Get in touch to make sure you have the right insurance for your journey!

Travel Insurance Stats and Facts – Young Brits Abroad

A staggering 48% of 15 to 24 year olds go away on holiday totally uninsured.

This statistic highlights the need for British youngsters to be educated about safe holiday travel, but when you consider that 24% of adults don’t take out insurance either – we wonder where that information is going to come from.

So, what is going wrong?

European Health Insurance Card Myths

Statistics show that misconceptions about the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) may be to blame. While having a card entitles you to treatment abroad, it only entitles you to essential medical care to the same level as locals in that area.

EHIC will NOT cover repatriation to the UK, it will not cover the cost of an ambulance, and in EU countries where there is no National Health Service, you will be expected to pay what the locals pay to see a medical professional.

As many as 17% of Brits wrongly think that having an EHIC means that they do not need travel insurance. Whereas 26% think that the card covers repatriation to the UK.

The Cost of Accidents Abroad

Last season, nearly 4,000 British holidaymakers were hospitalised abroad. 48% of these people were statistically unlikely to know that they would be responsible for their medical bills, and a further 78% would likely admit that would not have the means to pay the costs of medical care abroad.

As an example, a fall that resulted in a broken hip and missed flights in a popular destination such as Spain could incur a bill of around £15,000. If you don’t have the cash to pay bills like this, it can mean losing precious assets back at home.

Young and foolish?

Last year the tabloids were full of stories about the rise in balcony falls abroad, a mishap that seems to affect the younger generations. In just one summer three young British travellers were killed, and another 10 injured. Whilst these accidents are tragic, we can’t forget the added stress that is caused at such a time if bills in the thousands come rolling in. In fact, the problem has been deemed so bad that the Foreign Office and ABTA (The Travel Association) are part of a campaign to help prevent young people from having accidents on balconies at popular holiday resorts.

Another common accident reported amongst young travellers is on a scooter. Figures released by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) states that 82% of British tourists that hire mopeds or scooters are putting their own safety and that of others at risk. Common themes include not wearing a helmet and driving whilst drunk. The stats show that 35% don’t even check their travel insurance (if they have it) to make sure they are covered for scooter hire.

Which brings us on to another trend… the rise in extreme sports and dangerous activities.

Whether it is paragliding, jet skiing, bungee jumping or coasteering, it seems as a nation, we are getting more adventurous when on holiday. Over half of holiday makers don’t check if the travel insurance covers an accident while enjoying a dangerous activity, and even if they found out it didn’t, they would be quite likely to just go ahead and have a go anyway.

What you can do…

The cost of travel insurance is a drop in the ocean compared to footing a hefty medical bill abroad. It can be tailored to provide cover if you think you might want to take art in an extreme sport, and it can be tweaked to meet any aspect of an adventure, whether it is for a week or a year! A family policy can also ensure that the younger generation are covered, whether they know it or not – added peace of mind at a time when you need it most.

Get in touch with our travel insurance experts today to discuss getting travel insurance for the whole family.

For more information about the EHIC and whether or not you need travel insurance when you travel to the EU, visit our previous posts for more information.

What is a European Health Insurance Card

Do I really need travel insurance in EU Countries?