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Last Updated: Friday, 20 August, 2004, 06:10 GMT 07:10 UK
Backpacker safety
backpacker in Idaho, USA
Don't make your trip memorable for the wrong reasons
After their A levels, thousands of teenagers each year head off on the trip of a lifetime around the world.

But - although many think they know it all - most are woefully ill-prepared for their trip.

According to the publishers of one of the best known backpackers' guides, Lonely Planet, around two out of three Gap Year students do little or no planning.

So, what can back-packers do to avoid their Gap Year turning into a nightmare?

  • We talked to Mark Hide, of the company Planet Wise, which runs a training course for Gap Year students - and to Robert Newton and his 18 year old daughter Gina, who's about to go travelling the world.

    Safety tips

    If you're going backpacking - or on any other form of independent travel - it pays to do your research.

  • Make sure you read up on the customs of the country you're going to. Fo they have a different dress code, for instance? Will a woman with bare shoulders or bare legs cause offence?

  • Take a photocopy of your passport - or scan it into a computer and e-mail the details to yourself.

  • Keep a dummy wallet with a small amount of local currency in it, so that you've got something to hand over to muggers.

  • Take off your sun-glasses when you're talking to local officials or other people, so you don't get their back up.

  • Dress unobtrusively: don't wear an expensive watch or carry a flashy camera bag.

  • Make sure you have adequate travel insurance, including health insurance. The cost of treatment abroad can run into tens of thousands of pounds. Don't rely on being able to fly home if you're taken ill.
  • We'd also like to hear what you think: are teenagers ill-prepared for Gap Year travel - or does the experience do them good? Use this form to tell Breakfast what you think

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  • WATCH AND LISTEN
    Staying safe abroad
    We talked to Mark Hide, who runs a backpackers safety course - and Robert Newton and his daughter Gina



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