Things to check before you go backpacking

Expert advice from the official FCO website:

Before you go:

  • check our travel advice pages for the country you are visiting.  Sign up for email alerts and you’ll get the latest updates for that country
  • find out where the nearest embassy will be – check their website to find out what services they offer and their opening times
  • don’t travel without insurance – make sure it covers you for any activities you are likely to undertake such as extreme or water sports
  • travelling within the EU? Then get a free European Health Insurance Card for free or reduced emergency care – you still need full travel insurance though! Also remember, you can call 112 to contact the emergency services in any EU country.
  • check with your doctor as soon as possible to find out if you need any vaccinations before you travel
  • make sure you’ve got correct visas for the country you are visiting and that your passport is valid.
  • All first time adult passport applicants must now attend an interview to verify their identity. It now takes up to six weeks to get a first passport.
  • for certain countries your passport must be valid for 6 months after the date you travel – check the entry requirements before you go
  • take photocopies of your passport and other important documents and keep these separate from the originals when you travel and/or store them online using a secure data storage site.
  • make sure you fill in the emergency contact details in your passport. This will make it much easier for us to contact someone if necessary
  • tell a friend or relative where you are going and for how long for – give them some idea of your itinerary if possible and an emergency contact number
  • take enough money for your trip and some back-up funds in a mix of cash and travellers cheque –  make a note of the cheques’ numbers before you go
  • invest in a good travel guide to help you plan your trip
  • Driving abroad? Make sure your licence is current and valid. Make sure you are aware of the driving laws in the country you are visiting
  • check HM Revenue & Customs Travel website for information on duty-free allowances, banned goods etc.

When you are away:

  • think about what you are doing at all times and trust your instincts – don’t take risks that you wouldn’t at home!
  • don’t openly display valuables such as mobile phones or digital cameras and consider using a padlock on suitcases or backpacks
  • find out about local customs and dress, behave accordingly and obey local laws -there may be serious penalties for breaking a law that might seem trivial at home
  • be careful when taking photographs, videos or using binoculars. Such activities may be misunderstood, especially near military installations
  • consider taking your mobile with you or renting one whilst you’re away.  Store useful numbers such as the local police and the nearest embassy or consulate
  • check with your service provider to make sure your phone works abroad
  • check whether it’s safe to drink local tap water- if not, stick to bottled water and avoid salads, non-peeling fruit and ice in drinks
  • use your judgement when buying and eating food you’ve not prepared yourself
  • respect the environment – don’t buy wildlife souvenirs, conserve resources like water and don’t drop litter
  • check import regulations for food and plants before you attempt to bring them back to the UK