A preparation & safety awareness

guide for travellers

Volcano Exploding

Vacation Disasters : A preparation & safety awareness guide for travellers

An Introduction to safety while travelling

An introduction to

Safety while travelling

Tornado Storm over Globe

hether you’re going on a family holiday or setting off on a long-term travel adventure, visiting destinations around the world is exciting. Travel is an opportunity to explore new places and cultures, meet different people, and try new experiences.

Some people use travel to push their boundaries. For example, learning a new skill such as scuba diving or ticking off a bucket-list adventure like bungee jumping. Others use their time travelling to relax, enjoy different cuisines or learn about the history of other countries.

Staying safe should always be a priority

But whatever reason takes you abroad, there are risks involved with travel. Staying safe should always be a priority.

Global travel trends

People travel for leisure or work. They travel to see their loved ones. Or they make new memories with family and friends in destinations around the world. Employees could be away for weeks or return within a day. When you pass someone at an airport, they could be travelling for any number of reasons.

Over the years, the way we travel has changed. We’re now travelling more – and further – than ever before.

Some of the key changes include:


Hot air Balloon

We’re happy to book experiences last minute, but still book our main holiday in advance.

We’re leaving it later than ever to book up travel adventures, with many short tours and activities being booked after arriving at the destination. But the majority of us still tend to book holidays months in advance.

Cruise Ship

As are cruises.

Now four times before popular than two decades ago, the rise in people taking cruises could be due to an ageing population. But there’s also been a noticeable increase in cruise operators targeting younger holiday goers too.


Adventure destinations are as popular as ever.

A lot of travellers are keen to push their limits, visiting locations known for adrenaline-pumping activities. This includes: Area 47 in Austria, Queenstown, New Zealand, and Interlaken, Switzerland.

Ladies with buckets

We’re looking for more unique travel experiences.

Requests for unique experiences are on the rise. Travellers, especially Millennials, want to do things they can’t elsewhere and be able to share fascinating stories. This includes immersive local experiences. They want to go where the locals spend time, and eat where the locals do. Airbnb Experiences is an example of this, letting people book experiences with people who actually live in the area they’re visiting.

Man over cliff edge

Ecological and educational tours are in demand.

Travellers want to learn about the places they’re visiting, and what’s being done to protect it for the future. Ecological projects, such as forest or animal habitat restoration, are popular.

London eye

We don’t like queuing or waiting.

Two of the three most popular TripAdvisor products in 2017 were skip-the-line tours. Four of their ten fastest-growing experiences were tours that offered a line cut too. These are available at popular tourist spots such as the Eiffel Tower, the Sagrada Familia, and the London Eye.

Fort over sea in Croatia

TV is inspiring our travels.

Something people are now calling the ‘Game of Thrones effect’ has resulted in record-breaking years of tourism in Croatia. The country’s capital, Dubrovnik, is where large parts of the series’ fictional capital was filmed. The destination has become so popular, local authorities intend to raise the tourist tax by 24p per night.

Holiday in city

Shorter getaways are more popular.

As one of the biggest changes over time, in the last 20 years, UK tourists have been taking less traditional two-week holidays and more short breaks. Week-long breaks are more popular than ever.

Solo Chart

We like travelling solo.

Solo travel is up three-fold since 2011 with many people taking holidays by themselves. The most common reasons for doing are the:

  • Opportunity to be able to do what I want (76%)
  • Chance to take some time out (63%)
  • Visit a new destination (37%)

It’s easier than ever to travel and stay in touch with loved ones at home, thanks to smartphones and improved access to Wi-Fi around the world.

Common holiday worries

Although travel tends to be exciting, there are sources of stress too. Over one in three people (36%) worry about things going wrong on the first day of their holiday.

In a survey of more than 20,000 people, the following things worried them before heading off:

Concerns for international travellers before taking a trip
Percentage of respondents
Getting sick at the last minute and having
to cancel the trip
Airline delays or cancellations
Getting sick while abroad
Baggage being lost, stolen or damaged

The main worries for travellers would be disruptive for any trip. But other concerns depend on the type of trip. For example, Brits going on a beach holiday worry about:

1. Having wallet/passport/possessions stolen
2. Getting sunburn
3. Experiencing bad weather that prevents beach time
4. Shark attacks
5. Drowning/strong currents
6. Not being ‘in shape’ for the beach
7. Jellyfish/stingrays
8. Sand getting all over your belongings

Some of these worries might seem trivial or unlikely, but when you’re away to relax and enjoy yourself, anything that prevents that is a concern.


Examples of major travel emergencies

When it comes to managing your concerns, it’s about taking a sensible approach to any risks. Emergencies can and do happen. Some of the major travel emergencies in recent years include:

Police dragging man away
Mohamed Sharuhaan/Associated Press

Political state of emergency in the Maldives.

In early 2018, a state of emergency was imposed by the Maldavian authorities due to political troubles. Tourism equated to a third of the Maldives’ gross domestic product in 2017, so the resulting cancelled bookings and travel warnings from foreign governments would have hit the country hard.

Volcanic eruption
Photo by Marc Szeglat on Unsplash

The volcanic eruptions in Iceland.

Back in 2010, volcanic events at Eyjafjallajökull caused huge disruption for air travel across western and northern Europe. Small particles of ice and rock in the ash cloud could damage aircraft engines, so 100,000 flights had to be cancelled in total. The emergency left over 10m people stranded or unable to board flights.

People uniting after terrorism
Mohamed El-Shahed/Agence France-Presse

Terrorism attacks in Egypt.

Unfortunately, terrorism has impacted countries and their tourism industries. In 2017, an attack on a mosque in North Sinai killed over 300 people. As recent as 2019, it’s still not advised to travel to many parts of Egypt. Eastern Egypt is one of the only areas deemed safe.

People uniting after terrorism
Photo by Wade Austin Ellis on Unsplash

Hurricanes Irma, Jose and Maria hitting the Caribbean.

Hurricanes overwhelmed much of the Caribbean over two weeks in September 2017. The trail of devastation created major challenges for hotels, resorts, restaurants and other tourism-related businesses in about 30% of the region.

For anyone who was heading to – or already visiting – these places at the time, it’s the type of disruption you’ll remember. Many others will have caught it on the news.

Emergencies can have a huge impact on the places themselves

Emergencies can have a huge impact on the places themselves, as well as the tourism industries – which many of them rely heavily on. It also has huge personal impact if you were planning a holiday to an emergency-struck destination, or even already visiting.

Vacation Disasters : A preparation & safety awareness guide for travellers

Overcoming Personal Disasters


Personal Disasters

But what can you do if disaster happens to your holiday? It depends on what happens.

But what can you do if disaster happens to your holiday? It depends on what happens.

Cancelled or missed flights

If you’re on the way to the airport, and it’s looking more and more likely you’re going to miss your flight, it’s unlikely the airline will be that sympathetic. But you should give them a call to see if it’s possible to reschedule your flight.

Rules do vary between airlines

If you arrive within two hours of your original departure time, you can often fly standby for a following flight. Rules do vary between airlines, though. Easyjet, for example, have a ‘rescue fee’ if you’re at the desk within two hours. It’s charged at £80. Ryanair charges £79 for a missed departure fee that allows you to board another flight. Other airlines, including Aer Lingus £59 and Wizz Air £54.50, vary. You might be able to book a flight with another airline for a reasonable price.

Photo by Matthew Smith on Unsplash

If you happen to get through security, and still miss your flight, it’s a little more complicated and time-consuming. “If a passenger is airside they have to be officially decontrolled as they in a secure, restricted zone,” a spokesperson from Monarch explains to The Telegraph.

“The Terminal manager and security have to be informed and the passenger is then escorted by a member of handling agent staff through arrivals.”

You’d then have to talk to the airline staff and see if there are any other flights you can get.

If your flight is delayed or cancelled, the first step is to find out when you’ll be able to fly. You can ask at the airport, but it’s often quicker to find out online.

When you’ve got this information, you can decide:

Police cars
Photo by Matthew Smith on Unsplash
Men shooting
Photo by Matthew Smith on Unsplash

Not to fly

If you’re delayed more than five hours and decide not to travel, under Civil Aviation Authority rules, you’re entitled to a refund. If you were waiting for a transfer, you’d get a flight back to your original departure. You should be aware that as soon as you take a refund, the airline isn’t under any obligation to provide you food, drink or accommodation.

To wait for a flight.

If you decide to wait for a flight, your airline has to get you to your destination. This could require a bit of patience from you, because they’ve got to rearrange flights for all the passengers that need rebooking. Depending on the length of your flight, after you’ve been delayed a certain time, your airline must take care of you and provide food and drink, as well as accommodation if you’re delayed overnight.

Sometimes your airline might advise you make alternative travel arrangements. Try and get this recommendation noted down somewhere so it can’t be contested at a later date. .If you choose to arrange your own travel, keep a record of all your costs (including full receipts) so you can claim it back later.

Luggage belt
Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

Lost luggage

Losing your personal possessions is frustrating at the best of times. But when you’re supposed to be on holiday, arriving without your clothes and essentials is daunting. So what can you do?

According to Citizens Advice, you have the legal right to claim compensation from the airline if your checked-in luggage is delayed, lost or damaged. They do warn that you’ll only get limited money for:

The bare essentials you need if your luggage is delayed – e.g. toiletries and underwear

Part of the cost of replacing or repairing lost luggage and contents

What you’re claiming for
Deadline for claiming
Damaged luggage
7 days after getting your luggage
Missing or damaged contents
7 days after getting your luggage
Delayed or missing luggage
21 days after the flight
Lost luggage - it’s officially
lost after 21 days
As soon as possible after it’s officially lost

Theft and other crimes abroad

Unfortunately, opportunistic thieves will target tourists, who are seen as an easier target – unaware of the risks and preoccupied with exploring a new destination. And cities tend to be the riskier places to visit. TripAdvisor has released a list of the cities in you’re most likely to fall victim to thieves:

1. Barcelona, Spain
6. Florence, Italy.
2. Rome, Italy
7. Buenos Aires, Argentina
3. Prague, Czech Republic
8. Amsterdam, Netherlands
4. Madrid, Spain
9. Athens, Greece
5. Paris, France
10. Hanoi, Vietnam

You shouldn’t be avoiding these cities; you’ve just got to be aware of the risks. Be sensible with your possessions by keeping bags closed and close to your body.

You’ve also got to be wary of

You’ve also got to be wary of distractions, even if they come from someone who looks like a tourist. Pickpockets will often work in groups with one person distracting you (by asking for directions, trying to sell you something or even spilling a drink on you) while the other takes your stuff.

Before you realise, they’re long gone. These are the main tactics deployed by pickpockets – deception, distraction and speed. And you’re particularly vulnerable around tourist hotspots, train stations, open-air markets, and other special attractions.

Many experts suggest never carrying more than you’re prepared to lose. The essentials could include one credit or debit card, one form of ID and a bit of cash. You can leave spares securely where you’re staying.

Barcelona Catherdral

How your embassy can help with personal disasters

British passport
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

If you lose your passport…

Your embassy is the only place that can make a new one for you quickly. It helps if you have a policy report filed to say it’s lost/stolen and you may only be given a temporary one that’ll need replaced when you’re home.

Euro money
Photo by Sara Kurfess on Unsplash

If you lose your money…

Your embassy can help you contact any friends or relatives to arrange money to be sent over. In extreme cases, the embassy may arrange your transport home. You’d have to pay this back with interest, though.

Police line, Do not cross
Photo by Jacob Morch on Unsplash

If you’re the victim of crime…

Your embassy can put you in touch with lawyers, translators and the police.

Police men
Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

If you’re arrested…

Your embassy can arrange a lawyer, translator and contact your family. They cannot pay any fines, get you out of lawyer or interfere in any way with the legal process of that country.

Source: Wiki Travel

Avoiding areas of political unrest

Over half (54%) of Britons chose ‘political unrest’ among their top three reasons for not travelling to a holiday destination, according to a YouGov survey.

Consumers are sensitive to the news agenda

One of the strongest driving forces behind the travel industry is consumer confidence. And it’s not surprising political uncertainty puts tourists off their usual holiday plans. Consumers are sensitive to the news agenda. Take Turkey, for instance. It’s only now recovering from the impacts of the 2016 attempted military coup.

There is no doubt that political unrest will cause people to think twice about visiting a country. The best thing you can do is check the travel advice published by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, covering 225 countries or territories. It’s designed to help British nationals make informed decisions about their safety abroad.

This includes details on whether there’s a threat to personal safety arising from political unrest or any of the following:

Terrorist activities
Anti-western or anti-British demonstrations
Natural disasters
Aircraft and shipping safety

This advice is updated regularly. If a significant incident is developing or ongoing, you can also find information published on Facebook and Twitter, often several times a day.

Fire on street
Photo by Pawel Janiak on Unsplash
Fire on street
Photo by Pawel Janiak on Unsplash

The risk of terrorism


he advice shared by the UK Government is helpful to determine a sensible approach to the risk of terrorism too. After an attack occurs, “short-term, it would put some people off,” Yeganeh Morakabati, an expert in risk and tourism at Bournemouth University, tells the BBC. “Longer-term, people have short memories. A lot of people will forget.” Tourism industries in countries hit by terrorist attacks do recover.

Psychology Today explains that it’s human nature to fear terrorist attacks, but it’s also important to look at events in a rational manner. It’s all about how we think about risk. We tend to overestimate the risk based on irrational factors, including incorrect assumptions that something is more risky if an event has recently happened or if the threat is invisible.

You’re more likely to die from skin
cancer than from an act of terrorism

In reality, you’re more likely to die from skin cancer than from an act of terrorism, whether you live in the US, France, Italy, or Israel. But we don’t hear about – or see photos – of this as often. It’s easier to overestimate the risk of a dramatic event shown on the news 24/7.

Terrorist attacks will always make the news, but the thousands of incidents where people go on holiday without being in danger won’t. That’s because those events are far more likely to happen. You have to realistically evaluate the risk.

In the summer of 2018, when issuing a fresh plea to British holidaymakers to stay alert for attacks while abroad, police said the chances of being involved in an attack “are still low”, but people should “know what to do”.

There’s a four-minute safety video advising tourists how to react in a terror attack, specifically what to do during a gun attack at a hotel. It tells people to follow the official “run, hide, tell” guidance:

Armed police
Counter-terrorism unit


If you can identify a safe route to escape, run away. Try and get other people to go with you, but don’t wait for them to decide. Leave your belongings behind too.


If you can’t find a safe route to leave, hide somewhere with a solid, physical barrier between you and the attacker. If possible, lock or barricade yourself in this space. Stay quiet (e.g. turn your phone on silent).


When you can, call the police. They’ll ask for details of your location and the attackers.

Fire trucks
Photo by Pawel Janiak on Unsplash
Emergency numbers around the world
Tel. Number
Tel. Number
EU countries
New Zealand
United Kingdom
Hong Kong
The Bahamas
911 or 919
110 for police, 119 for ambulance and fire service
190 for police, 192 for ambulance, 193 for fire
110 for police, 120 for ambulance, 119 for fire

Vacation Disasters : A preparation & safety awareness guide for travellers

The risk of natural disasters

The Risk of Natural



t’s not just personal disasters that threaten your trip. Natural disasters can cause major disruptions to popular holiday destinations around the world. In fact, according to analysts, tourist destinations recover from terrorist attacks quicker than they would an environmental disaster.

Types of natural disasters

Tourism is largely dependent on an intact environment and structures. Natural disasters can wreak havoc and affect close to 160 million people worldwide every year. According to the World Health Organisation, a natural disaster is “an act of nature of such magnitude as to create a catastrophic situation in which the day-to-day patterns of life are suddenly disrupted.” It includes:

Disaster Map


The Ring of Fire (identified in orange above) is the name given to the line of volcanoes dotted along the Pacific Rim. It’s an area of increased seismic activity. Fortunately, most volcanoes are well monitored so you can check reports and easily avoid being in the area during high-risk times.


Earthquakes happen most frequently along the Ring of Fire and on tectonic fault lines, but they can occur all around the world. Unfortunately, earthquakes can’t be predicted so it’s difficult to actively avoid areas of risk.


Along the coast, tsunamis come part-and-parcel with earthquakes. But they do provide some earlier warning signs because of the drawback of water that happens along the shore before the tsunami hits.

As well as:






Heat waves

Source: Go Overseas
Photo by Jacob Morch on Unsplash

Advice from insurers on what to do if you’re injured or hospitalised on holiday

Accidents do happen. And there are some common mistakes people make when seeking help from medical professionals abroad.

This includes going to private clinics or hospitals. Although they might seem ‘better’ or more luxurious, they don’t always stick to the medical standards accepted around the world. In many travel insurers’ experience, the medical resources are inadequate or there’s a tendency for unnecessary procedures. As a result, your travel insurance might not cover you if you visit a private clinic. Always find out what you’re covered for before you leave.

If you have to visit a hospital, make sure you always:

Keep receipts if you pay for any outpatient treatment or medicine

Use your EHIC if you’re in Europe

To get home safely, you’ll also have to follow advice from doctors and your insurer. There needs to be a period of stability and recuperation before you can come home. Most insurers will have doctors to review your case and advise whether it’s safe for you travel home and how. If they recommend you stay long, they’re responsible for arranging accommodation and care.

Vulnerable parts of the world

Some areas of the world are more likely to be affected by natural disasters than others. It can seem like that we have a storm or disaster that’s the worst of the century every year. America, Australia, parts of East Africa, and Southeast Asia tend to get the worst of them, but natural disasters can happen anywhere. If you know an area is prone to natural disasters, especially during specific seasons, it makes sense to do your research and schedule your trip accordingly.

The countries most affected by natural disasters are:

Population Affected by Natural Disasters
United States
The Philippines
Source: EM-DAT, from World Atlas
Shipwrecked boat

The top three are:

Flooded town
Khadakwasla Lake, Maharashtra / India - September 2016


India is prone to natural disasters – more so than anywhere else in the world. The warm, humid climate in large parts of the country are conducive to cyclones and floods, whereas mountainous regions are prone to avalanches.

Flooded town
Billion Dollar Disasters 2017, Source: VOX

United States of America

The US is a huge country with great variation in landscapes between all 50 states, so the type of natural disasters vary but tornadoes, hurricanes, flooding, blizzards, tsunamis, mudslides, and forest fires are all likelihoods. The costs of these natural disasters can be devastating too.

Flooded town
Damage Buildings of Wenchuan Earthquake,Sichuan


Similar to the US, China’s vast size and landscape is prone to different types of natural disaster. These include flooding, droughts, earthquakes, typhoons, and more.

It’s not just these countries that are vulnerable to natural disasters. Popular travel destinations, including Haiti (earthquakes, hurricanes), Vietnam (typhoons, flooding) The Philippines (typhoons, landslides, earthquakes) and Indonesia (earthquakes) suffer from disaster too.

Europe isn’t immune either, with countries Greece and Turkey the countries where a natural disaster is most likely to strike on the continent, according to the World Risk Report. The report assigned a risk percentage to countries, based on the chances of experiencing earthquakes, storms, floods, droughts and sea level rises.

Natural disasters | The 20 countries most at risk
Risk %
Solomon Islands
Costa Rica
El Salvador
Risk %
Papua New Guinea
Brunei Darussalam
Natural disasters | The 20 safest countries
Risk %
Saudi Arabia
Risk %
What’s more, experts predict that as climate change continues, natural disasters will become more common and extreme.

What to do if disaster strikes

Hopefully you’re never caught in the aftermath of a natural disaster. But if you are, it’ll pay off if you know what you do.

Stay calm.

First and foremost, try to remain calm. It’s easy to panic, but amongst the chaos, getting yourself agitated won’t help anyone. You have to accept things won’t be working efficiently, so be patient until there are clear instructions.

Seek shelter.

It’s advisable to get off public streets in almost every natural disaster. The Red Cross offers mobile apps specific to each disaster for relevant information. For example, the earthquake app will tell you where the power is out.

Tune into local news.

To get the most up-to-date information, listen to local radio, watch TV and follow updates on social media. That’s how you’ll find details on road closures, curfews, emergency assistance and other news about the situation.

Contact your family.

Natural disasters tend to make the news. Your family will be worried until they hear from you. When you have a working connection or can find a way to communicate, make sure you get in touch.

Vacation Disasters : A preparation & safety awareness guide for travellers

Travel safety checklist

Travel safety


Before you travel, ask yourself the following:
Have you checked the Government’s foreign travel advice?
Have you checked the entry requirements of the country you’re visiting?
Do you have the correct visas?
Is your passport valid?
Have you made a note of the country’s emergency number?
Have you got travel insurance? Does it cover any activities you want to do?
Does someone at home know your rough agenda?
Do you know where the nearest British embassy or consulate is to where you’re staying?
Have you got different forms of money? (e.g. cash and credit card)
If you’re from the European Economic Area or Switzerland, have you got your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)?
If required, have you contacted your doctor about managing any pre-existing medical conditions?
- Do you have enough medical supplies for the trip and any delays?
Have you shared the ‘run, hide, tell’ advice with anyone you’re travelling with?
What’s your airline’s policy with natural disasters?
If you’re driving, is your licence valid? Are you aware of local driving rules?
Have you found out about local rules, customs and dress?

Vacation Disasters : A preparation & safety awareness guide for travellers