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Safe Gap Year working with the Foreign & Commonwealth Office

I was invited by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) to give a talk at the Foreign Office last week, to assist them in promoting the Know before You Go Campaign and the Go Gap Year website through their team of SBAs. At Safe Gap Year we have long been supporters of the excellent work carried out by the FCO in the area of travel safety and we are an official partner of their campaign. We always recommend the FCO Travel Advice by Country website as an excellent starting point for research and so I was delighted to be able to offer an overview of our approach to 'planning for safe travel'.

The talk was an abbreviated version of the talk we deliver in schools, colleges and universities across the country, tailored to meet the requirements of this particular audience and has been well received.

I thought it would give me the perfect platform to once again highlight the value of ‘effective planning for safe travel’ through our news blog and to point out the advantages which can be brought by using the foreign office resources during your planning stages.

In the few days since I gave the talk at the Foreign Office we have seen Ecuador tinker on the edge of civil war (fortunately that situation seems to have settled down somewhat, but for one night the President came under gun-fire from the police and it did not look good), a light aircraft crashing in Peru killing all four British tourists on board and a new travel advisory warning of an imminent terrorist attack on mainland Europe… another bad week for tourism.

This demonstrates the need for effective planning, because although it will not necessarily eliminate risk from travel it will reduce risk considerably and that will allow those travelling to be more confident, enjoy their travels more and make the most of the experiences they encounter. In effect it starts a positive cycle of events; confidence breeds confidence and displaying confidence reduces the chance of being viewed as a potential victim by criminals and conmen; which in turn makes you more confident.

Think about it; the petty criminal and the professional conman are just ‘jobs’; to them it is a job. I am not justifying what they do, but just putting it into context. They are the criminal equivalent of the professional salesman (sorry salesmen, I am not suggesting you are all criminals it’s just a way of demonstrating a point), if a salesman sees a group of ‘customers’ they are always going to head for the one who seems most likely to produce a sale; they hone this skill the more experienced they get.

The criminal fraternity is no different, they look for the most vulnerable and those who are likely to produce the greatest return, so displays of confidence and giving off an air of knowing what you are doing, will deter them in favour of an easier target; if there is one. Blending in with the crowd rather than standing out from it and not displaying you relative wealth, will also reduce the risks you face. It’s the old adage ‘if you swim in waters with sharks, make sure there is someone else swimming who swims more slowly than you’.

British Embassies, Consulates and High Commissions around the world will offer you assistance and guidance if you get into trouble, but the days of the British passport being a ‘get out of jail free card’, a ‘licence to print funds’ or a ‘pass to ensure you get special treatment’ are well over 100 years out-of-date.

There are strict limitations as to what the representatives of the crown can do for you if you get into trouble abroad, which is why they spend so much time promoting their websites and recommending effective preparation for those planning foreign travel. Travellers need to be self-sufficient and self-reliant during travel, the foreign office representatives in-country can offer assistance and guidance, but they cannot be viewed as a substitute for effective and comprehensive travel planning.

Further information on the support the FCO can offer when you get in trouble abroad and their limitations can be found on their website page ‘What we can & can’t do’.

At Safe Gap Year our Independent Travel Safety and Cultural Awareness Workshop considers issues of Travel Safety, alongside sessions on Cultural Awareness, Travel Health, Ethical and Responsible Travel, Travel Equipment, Destination Advice, Transport Options, Documentation, Travel Money and Insurance and more. 

For more information on any of our services, please call us on 0845 602 55 95 or Contact Us.


Source – Safe Gap Year

Date – 3rd October 2010

Submitted by – Peter Mayhew