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Be prepared

7 ways to get into trouble abroad

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office today released their annual British Behaviour Abroad report saying rather wearily that we're "still" getting into trouble abroad like some kind of exasperated parent. And what's more, all that trouble is avoidable. Top of the list of reasons why people get into scrapes is the high numbers of drink and drug related arrests. Embassies also helped many people stranded by the problems with volcanic ash. But there are far more quite mundane reasons. Here's a list of them.

Loose your passport (or get it stolen)

Last year, more than 27,000 British passports were lost or stolen across the world, 6,600 of them in Spain, 3,200 in the USA and 2,400 in France. If that Spanish total seems a lot, 17 million of us visited the country last year, so in fact the proportion is minimal.

Tip 1: Make two copies of your passport before you leave. Take one with you and leave one with the neighbours. If you do get a problem, it'll make your life so much easier.

Tip 2: Don't forget to take the number of the local Embassy or Consulate. Take a look at the Foreign Office web site or call 0845-8502829. Report the loss immediately and don't forget it'll take a couple of days to replace and it'll cost you.

Get into a road traffic accident

There were still high numbers of Britons involved in traffic accidents. Is it driving on the wrong side of the road? Three-quarters of the worlds' cars drive on the right so you do need to be extra vigilant, especially when turning. You don't want to get in the wrong lane and be faced with a line of traffic! But don't worry, it does come quickly, I've driven on both sides of the road for years and it's not as difficult as you think.

Tip 1: Without committing the French or Spanish highway code to memory, make sure you know the basic rules of the road in the country that you're going to. Don't forget that in Europe the distance signs are in kilometres. Remember that old old school trick, divide by 8 and multiply by 5 to get miles. 80 kilometres is 50 miles (but you know that, don't you?).

Tip 2: Be prepared, insurance (make sure it covers you when you're abroad), breakdown cover and if you are language challenged, a phrase book. You can get loads of electronic ones these days so they're easy to carry. they'll even go on your phone. For general and specific advice, go to the Foreign Office driving abroad web site.

Get yourself some big medical bills

3,600 people landed themselves in foreign hospitals last year. That would be fine if we all had proper medical travel insurance. Insurance covers you for almost everything from a bill for some small scratches and bruises because you fell of a motorbike to repatriation in an aeroplane because you fell off a mountain.

If you're travelling in Europe, be sure to get your EHIC (European Health Insurance Card). For those old enough to remember, it replaces the old E111. just a couple of tips to make your travel insurance work for you.

Tip 1: Don't get drunk and fall out of a hotel window. You will be considered to have been acting "irresponsibly" and your insurance, if you have it, won't cover you.

Tip 2: Get some travel insurance. See tip 1.

Don't get any travel insurance

Until I started writing this blog, I didn't know what travel insurance was. It was just an extra expense that I didn't need. You know the old saying, insurance is always too expensive until you need it. More by luck than judgement, I've never needed it.

Do you know how much it costs to airlift you home in a medicalised plane? You won't get much change out of £30,000. Travel insurance isn't expensive. A recent survey found that Britons spend an average of £12 in airports before travelling, more than double the cost of a single trip policy. However, one in five people travel without it.

Tip 1: Only one, buy insurance

Don't declare your pre-existing medical conditions

It has to be said that the cost of travel insurance does rise if you have some kind of condition or you've suffered from it in the past. Just like your car insurance does if you've made a claim, you're considered more of a risk. It would be very tempting just to forget to mention your condition on the form. That's a good policy if you don't need to claim.

Just say for example you forget to take your medication you run out of it and something happens. You can guarantee that your insurance company has systems that will flag you up like a beacon and you could find yourself with some very large bills just because you thought you could save a couple of hundred quid on your premium.

A lot of companies won't cover you at all if you have a pre-existing medical condition. Go to a specialist, you'll find it's cheaper than you think.

Be stupid and don't prepare

Another survey said that people also spend twice as much time cleaning there house before they go away than researching their destination. I do wonder sometimes how these things are calculated! You might remember that case of a British citizen that was arrested and spent a month in a Dubai jail for kissing a woman in public. The woman also got the same sentence. They obviously had no idea that a strict Muslim culture - even in a relatively liberal place like Dubai - takes a very dim view of these things.

Tip 1: Go the the Foreign Office web site travel pages for essential basic travel advice about how to behave in other countries  - even in Western Europe you could come a cropper.

Tip 2: Buy a good travel guide if you're going to a country you don't know.

Get yourself arrested

More than 2,000 Britons were arrested just in Spain last year. Almost half of them were for drug related offences and a significant proportion were for having one drink too many and getting into a scrap. As the Foreign Office says so wearily" the worrying fact is that so many of these situations are preventable".

It is one of their roles to assist Britons abroad, often when they're in trouble. But they cannot however get you out of jail, they cannot (will not) pay your fare home - although in some conditions they will lend it to you.

The general message is clear. It is very easy to get yourself into trouble when you go abroad. Sometimes it's just an accident and someone will be there to help you sort it. Sometimes people get into trouble through sheer stupidity. It's great travelling and having new experiences. But GO PREPARED!

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