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Know Before You Go

22nd June 2011

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When it comes to travel it is best to Know Before You Go. TNS chatted to Khalida Cox from the Foreign Office about their work and campaigns to make sure you are safe on your travels....

Know before you goWhat exactly is it that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office do?

We work hard to promote and protect Britain’s interests around the world and run a global network of offices (Embassies, High Commissions and Consulates) in more than 170 countries.  Helping British nationals in difficulty overseas is a vital part of the work of the Foreign & Commonwealth Office. We provide advice and assistance and support to British nationals travelling overseas. Britons make over 50 million overseas trips each year and although the majority of those are trouble free, if things go wrong the British Embassy is there to help.

Are there any specific travel countries or activities, ie. Gap years, water sports or high risk areas that you cover or do you offer advice on any travelling experience?

The Foreign Office provides travel advice for every country in the world as well as offering top tips for specific types of trip from gap years to winter sports holidays.  You can find the latest information about your destination at   

What sort of advice is there available for students looking to travel and how should they go about it?

We have a specific section of our website dedicated to providing advice to anyone planning a gap year. You’ll find traveller checklists, information on planning, gap year destinations, tips for working abroad and a section for women travellers.  Check it out at:

With the current situation in Japan what would be your advice to those who have already booked a trip?

Read our travel advice for Japan at and assess the situation.  Check if you are planning to travel to areas which the Foreign Office advises against travel to and if so consider changing your route.  You can receive up-to-the minute travel advice by signing up to or

If a student went to a festival abroad without insurance and had an accident while surfing. What sort of costs would this incur?

This depends on the country they were in and the level of injury.  An emergency abroad can be extremely expensive.  If someone is badly injured and requires medical repatriation to the UK this could cost thousands of pounds.  An air ambulance from the Canary Islands can cost up to £16,000 (Figures supplied by FirstAssist Services Ltd.).

If travelling in Europe you can apply for a free  European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) which offers  you access to  free or reduced emergency care but you still need full travel insurance as the EHIC doesn’t cover the whole of Europe, private treatment or repatriation to the UK if you are seriously ill. Visit for more information and for a free card.

To avoid coming home with medical bills to pay, the best advice is to take out comprehensive travel insurance before you go.

If you travelled to Africa without your needed inoculations would you be covered by your insurance if you became ill?

You should check your insurance policy for details of what you are and aren’t covered for.  It’s important you understand the level of cover you have – for example the type of medical treatment you are covered for.  It is very risky to travel without the correct vaccinations because you could become very ill.  The last thing you want on a gap year is to come home early or to spend your time in hospital because you didn’t get a simple injection before you left.

What would be the FCO’s top tips to give to students before they travel?

  • Get comprehensive travel insurance (read the small print so you know what your policy covers you for e.g. riding a moped or water sports)
  • Sign up to or to get up-to-the minute travel advice on the go
  • Take enough money and have access to emergency funds
  • Visit to read up on your destination and get a good guide book to find out about local laws and customs.
  • Speak to a doctor or visit a travel clinic well in advance of your departure so you can get any necessary vaccinations or anti-malarial medication.
  • Check out for information about planning and destinations as well as top tips on insurance and money to advice on staying healthy and getting the right visa. You will find all you need to know to plan the safest and most enjoyable trip of your life!

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