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Know Before You Go

Monday, April 7, 2008

Meg Munn, Minister for Consular Affairs at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, outlines why it is so important to take the right precautions before travelling abroad.


Every year nearly 700,000 British citizens visit India, Pakistan or Bangladesh and over 900,000 make trips to Africa or the Caribbean. Many of these are British nationals of Asian and African-Caribbean origin visiting friends and family.


But thousands of people from ethnic communities could be putting their safety at risk because they are not preparing for these trips properly. The Know Before You Go campaign highlights the risks of not taking basic precautions when going abroad.


Medical expenses abroad can run into the tens of thousands of pounds, and free access to good quality medical treatment is often not available. Just being returned to Britain for medical care incurs substantial expenses it costs up to 35,000 to be repatriated from the Caribbean, for example. So taking out comprehensive travel insurance is vital. If you have dual nationality tell your insurer because cover can be affected.


Before travelling, visit a GP to check whether any vaccinations or medication are needed for the countries you are visiting. Even if you have lived in a country in the past, you may no longer be immune to diseases common to that region. Diseases such as malaria are easily contracted, affecting around 2,000 British travellers a year.


Ensure that your official documents are correct and that a photocopy is made of the relevant pages of the passport and kept separately from it. It is also a good idea to leave a copy with someone at home in the UK.


Finally, check out what you can bring back. Import laws often catch people out; it’s illegal to bring back meat and dairy products into the UK from outside the European Union for instance. Travellers can face a fine or even prosecution if they bring back banned products, even as presents.


Raising awareness about how to travel abroad more safely makes for a better trip. Having a good time seeing family and friends is enjoyable, dealing with bewildering bureaucracy in a foreign country is not.


The Foreign Office has more information, visit http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/travelling-and-living-overseas/about-kbyg-campaign/  

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