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Friday, 12 April, 2002, 13:11 GMT 14:11 UK
Safety advice for backpackers
Chiang Mai, Thailand
The lure of foreign travel carries its risks
The murder of 19-year-old British backpacker Caroline Stuttle has raised the issue of the safety of young people travelling abroad.

Travel experts say while such tragic cases are rare, backpackers should follow some simple guidelines to ensure their trip of a lifetime is a safe and happy one.

For thousands of young Britons the prospect of backpacking spells fun, adventure and freedom.

But almost a third of British people who travel abroad independently are likely to face a major problem while they are away.

Most people do travel safely and come back with fantastic memories of their trip

Claire Southern
Rough Guide spokeswoman

And younger travellers are twice as likely to get into some sort of trouble, a recent MORI poll found.

Travel experts say tourists should take a few basic safety precautions.

Stay in touch

Claire Southern, press officer for the Rough Guide travel book series, had some useful advice for travellers.

"Make sure you keep in touch with your family. Try not to walk alone at night.

"Don't carry lots of money around.

"Leave valuables in a safety deposit box at your hostel and just take out what you need."

Travel security
Keep in touch with friends/family
Use guidebook
Avoid unlit streets
Leave valuables in guest house
Carry minimum amount of cash
Never resist violent theft
If hitchhiking do so in pairs and avoid hitchhiking at night
Do not tell strangers where you are staying
Source: Foreign Office

She said carrying a mobile phone could be a "double-edged sword" because it could make you a target for a robbery.

And she recognised that young people might not always fully appreciate the risks of travelling, given that the gap year had become almost a rite-of-passage.

"You are encouraged to be adventurous and travel.

"Everyone is doing it and you think 'it won't happen to me'.

"Travelling is no longer considered to be particularly brave or daring," she told BBC News Online.

Plan ahead

A Foreign Office spokeswoman strongly urged young travellers to be informed about a country before they set off on their trip.

Thousands of Britons go backpacking each year
She said backpackers and independent travellers could check out their website which gives updates on the latest situations in countries as well as general safety advice.

She said young people were not only at risk from crime when travelling but also of being accused of a crime, such as drugs smuggling or possession.

She said: "You get young people who have never been away from Europe before and don't realise the severity of sentences overseas.

"They think that they can take a bit of dope from Australia to Thailand, but they could end up on death row before they know it."

Travel insurance

And she urged people to take out travel insurance before they set off.

One in five independent travellers sometimes go abroad without taking out insurance, according to a MORI poll carried out last year.

Nearly half of those who had had problems while abroad admitted they could have been better prepared, this survey for the Foreign Office found.

The most common problems experienced were falling ill (13%), missing flights (9%), being robbed/ a victim of a personal crime (both 6%).

Younger travellers were twice as likely to get ill (27%) get hurt (14%) or become caught up in a civil disturbance (13% against a 5% average).

But the message from the travel experts for young people was not to be put off travelling.

"Most people do travel safely and come back with fantastic memories of their trip," said Ms Southern.

See also:

12 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
Backpacker police release e-fit
11 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
Backpacker killed in Australia
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