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Security & General Tips

The following advice on security and laws and customs can help you stay out of trouble while you are abroad.

  • Be security conscious and take sensible precautions
  • Be alert to unattended baggage in public places
  • Look out for people acting suspiciously near ‘Western’ institutions or gatherings
  • Avoid political and other demonstrations or gatherings
  • Check cars and other vehicles thoroughly for explosive devices before use; especially if the vehicle has been left unguarded for any time
  • Vary your route if making regular journeys
  • Avoid unlit streets at night
  • Carry only the minimum amount of cash that you need for the day
  • Leave your valuables and spare cash in the hotel safe or other secure place
  • Do not flaunt your (relative) wealth
  • Never resist violent theft
  • Check your guidebook, with your hotel or tour guide for warnings on local scams
  • Should you lose your Hotel Room Key Card, bear in mind that information stored on it may include your name, partial home address, hotel room number, check in and check out dates and credit card number and expiry date.
  • Keep abreast of the local and regional political scene in the media

Obey the law

  • Find out about local laws and customs.
  • Remember that the laws and procedures which apply are those of the country you are in, not the UK’s. However, in the case of sexual offences against children, extra territorial legislation can be used to prosecute offenders in the UK, under UK law, even when the sexual offence has been committed overseas. For further information on combating Child Sex Tourism see ECPAT UK and World Vision UK websites.
  • Do not overstay your visa. You can extend your visa in most places; if you do not you can be imprisoned or fined.
  • Do not work illegally. You can be deported, fined and imprisoned if you do. You may also be prevented from entering the country again in the future.
  • Hobbies that involve the use of cameras and binoculars (like bird watching and train or plane spotting) can be misunderstood (particularly near military sites). If you are not sure, don't do it – it is not worth the risk of being wrongly arrested for spying.
  • Try to be aware of any locally endangered animals and plants within your destination. Be careful when buying wildlife souvenirs so that you don’t unwittingly purchase souvenirs made from endangered plants or animals in which trade may be regulated or banned.
  • DO NOT get involved with drugs
  • Obey local laws. Penalties are often severe and include massive fines and long prison sentences in grim conditions. You can receive the death penalty in some countries. We cannot get you out.
  • NEVER carry packages through Customs for other people.
  • Do not sit in anyone else's vehicle when going through Customs or crossing a border – always get out and walk.
  • Always pack your own baggage and never leave it unattended.
  • If driving do not lend your vehicle to anyone else.
  • Do not give medicines prescribed for you by a doctor to people you meet on your travels.
  • Be aware of the local laws and attitudes to alcohol.
  • Do not try to import alcohol into a country where it is prohibited - penalties can be severe.
  • Public drunkenness is frowned on wherever you are.
  • DO NOT drink and drive.
  • Make sure you know the driving laws, licence requirements and driving conditions specific to the country you are visiting.
  • Make sure your UK driving licence is current and valid. Some countries require you to hold an International Driving Permit (IDP) with your UK licence.
  • If you are staying for an extended period of time or for any reason other than tourism check what the driving licence requirements are.
  • Be aware that in many countries there are on-the-spot fines for traffic offences. Exceptions are not made for foreigners.
If there is a natural disaster or trouble flares up
  • Contact your family and friends to let them know that you are safe and healthy.
  • Do this even if you are not near the area – remember family and friends will not know exactly where you are but they will worry if they think you are in potential danger.
Money & Credit Cards
  • Use a money belt or secure inside pocket. If you have to carry a lot of money ask your partner or a friend to carry some for you.
  • Don't carry all your cards with you – leave at least one in the hotel safe. If you lose or have your credit card stolen cancel it immediately by phoning the relevant 24-hour emergency number.
  • Change money in banks or legal foreign exchange dealers. It is often illegal to change with unauthorised persons, and you run the risk of receiving fake currency and arrest.
  • Keep all exchange receipts, as you may have to prove you obtained your local currency legally.
  • Ensure your credit card bills are paid and kept up-to-date whilst travelling.
  • Consider where your money goes. Try and put money into local people’s hands; try local drinks rather than imported brands; stay in locally-owned accommodation and try to eat in locally-owned restaurants.
Travel documents
  • Keep your passport in the hotel safe and carry a photocopy with you.
  • Keep your travel tickets in a safe place.
If you have anything stolen
  • If your money, passport or anything else is stolen report it at once to the local police.
  • Obtain a police statement about the loss: you will need one to claim against your insurance.
  • Theft of money – phone your bank at home to transfer money or to cancel your credit card using the relevant 24-hour emergency number.
  • Theft of traveller's cheques – contact the issuing agent.
  • Theft of tickets – see your tour representative or airline agent.
Respect the local Environment
  • Think about what happens to your rubbish e.g. take biodegradable products and a water filter bottle to cut down on plastic waste.
  • Help preserve local wildlife and habitats by respecting rules and regulations. Be aware that buying any wildlife souvenirs or products is highly risky – If in doubt don’t buy! See the UK Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) Souvenir Alert! Campaign, which highlights the pitfalls of buying wildlife souvenirs abroad and also Trade Hotspots.
  • Customs throughout the world confiscate illegal souvenirs and in the UK you could face a criminal prosecution and unlimited fines.
Cultural Awareness
  • Get a good guidebook. This will tell you about the country you are visiting. Find out about local laws, customs and culture.
  • Take a phrase book and try speaking the local language.
  • Respect local customs and dress codes. Think about what you wear and how you fit in. Ask your tour operator or guide if you are unsure.
  • Be discreet about your views on cultural differences and behave and dress appropriately, particularly when visiting religious sites, markets and rural communities.
  • Particular care should be taken not to offend Islamic codes of dress and behaviour with regard to sexual relations, alcohol and drugs.
  • Always ask an individual’s permission before you take a photograph and respect their reply. In some cultures you should not attempt to photograph women.
  • Don’t haggle too aggressively. In most countries where haggling is the norm, it is done with good humour and not for too long. Although prices are usually inflated for tourists, it’s also important to remember that the discount you are haggling over could be a few pence for you but a significant means of income for a seller.
  • It is always best to err on the side of caution. Behaviour that would be regarded as innocuous elsewhere can lead to serious trouble.

FCO Travel Advice