Gap Year Travel Safety News and Articles


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Covid - 19: Over 30m cases globally
Kenya: Continued threat of terrorism
Australia: Bush fire ease due to rains

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Travelling Africa

Africa is a less popular travel destination but still offers huge opportunities. Many countries in North and Central Africa should not be visited due to security issues. Travellers to West, Central and East Africa should be aware that many countries require a Yellow Fever certificate for entry. in late 2019 Heavy rainfall has claused flooding and deaths in Uganda, Kenya & Tanzania. Cases of Covid - 19 are rising in Africa and due to lack of testing its unclear as to the true extent of infections. All countries have imposed strict border controls and health checks. There are serious concerns that the Covid 19 virus will spread rapidly in densely populated arears of Africa causing mutliple deaths. Check the FCO website for the latest travel advice. Whilst cases are growing in South Africa the government has begun to ease lockdown measures and international travel will resume on 01 October.

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Indian Sub Continent

Due to Covid 19 the India Governmant suspened all travel visas from 13 March for 1 month and both India and Sri Lanka have closed their borders to foreigners. The virus is now spreading, especaily in India and transport restrictions are being put in place. The India Government has imposed a counry wide lock down, at very short notice, which has left millions of workers stranded. In early June India started easing lock down measures with internal flights resuming & shops opening but cases of Covid are rising but the government feels it has to get the economy going. But cases are now beginning to rise at an alarming rate, in the south as well as the north and as of mid September India had recorded over 5m cases with daily increases in excess of 90,000. The virus is now spreading to rural area where medical services are more scarse.  It is estimated that over 70,000 people have died. Flooding in July and August in NE Assam has caused over 4m people to be dispaced and killed scores of people.

Key Travel Safety Points when travelling and backpacking in India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar (Burma) & Nepal:

The greatest risks are from road traffic accidents (RTA's) and getting sick, especially in India. Contracting Dengue Fever is certainly a risk in many parts. Use insect repellant with 50% DEET to reduce the risk. In the winter months, pollution is a serious problem in the big cites of India and seems to be only getting worse. The 2019 monsoon in India is causing extensive flooding acorss the country, notably in Kerela and Assam. Relations between India and Pakistan are currently very strained following the withdrawal in August 2019 of special status that India had given Kashmir since 1947. Pollution is causing a serious health risk in most cities in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. 

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The Middle East

The Covid -19 Coranavirus has affectecd all the Middle East although Iran is the epi centre with ten of thousand of  cases and officially 14,000 but the true figure maybe nearer 40,000 deaths. In mid July Iran saw a further increase in cases whcih may prompt the government to reimpose some control measures. Turkey & Iraq have implimented strict border controls and many flights across the region have been cancelled. The number of cases in all Middle East countries are growing and there is particualr concern in Aghanistan where thousands of migrant workers have return from Iran raising fears of imminent infections.  The main air hubs of Dubai & Doha are restricting transit flights. On 4 August a huge commercial explosion in the docks area of Beirut caused very extensive damage to most of the city. Over 200 people were killed and thousands injured. Public anger against what is seen as a corrupt political elite is rising prompting political resignations. The ecomony was in thq dire situation evern before this blast.  

Countries across the Middle East (Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, Israel, Jordan, Iran & Libya) face political turmoil following the revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt, and the ongoing one in Syria. Libya remains highly unstable due to inter-factional fighting & criminal activity, including kidnapping that are on the rise. The British Embassy closed in July 2014 due to security concerns and FCO is advising Against All Travel to Libya. The FCO also advises 'against all travel to Syria', unrest will continue and the country in now in a state of civil war. Lebanon remain relatively stable and Beirut is a wonderful city to visit but the general level of unrest in the regions is putting strains on the country. Resentment against Iran's involvement in the region is on the rise, in October and November 2019 violent protests have occurred across Iraq and Lebanon against Iran's axis of influence namely the Shia dominated Iraqi government and Hizbollah. This comes at a times when more mass protests have also broken out in Iran following a 50% hike in fuel prices. The killing by the USA of Iran's top General & IRGC leader Gen Soliemani in iraq on 3 Jan 20 will dramatically increase tension in the region and its very likely that the Iranian regime will have to react against the USA in some form. UK citizens should keep a low profile if in Iran. 

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Central and South America

Cases of Covid 19 are growing and the FCO now advises agiast all but essential travel to most South and Central American countries and most of them are or have shut their borders to foreigners.  Brazil and Mexico have witnessed a rapid rise in deaths, over 94,000 in Brazil and more than 30,000 in Mexico. Argentina has banned all flights, domestic and interantional, until 01 September 20. Cases continue to rise in Argentina, Bolivia and Peru. 

Most visits to South and Central America are trouble free, but the threat from crime is of concern in many of the continent's urban areas. It's essential to ensure your valuables are split up - not all eggs in one basket! In popular tourist areas across South America (Buenos Aires, Cuzco, Bogota & Quito), travellers face a significant threat of being mugged - always comply. Argentina and Brazil are both experiencing severe economic difficulties which in turn is leading to social unrest and some public protests. Venezuela is in a state of permanent unrest, the economy is collapsing and civil protests against the Maduro govenment are growing. The UK FCO currently advises against all but essential travel to Venezuela. 

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South East Asia

Thailand has a reputation for scams, crime and drugs and therefore travellers need to be very careful. It must be remembered that there are severe penalties for drugs smuggling in all South East Asian countries, the execution by Indonesia of five foreign drug smugglers in June 2015 is a timely reminder. In China cases of Coronavirus (Covid -19) is now slowing with over 120,000 cases and over 3300 deaths and some movement restrictions remain in place. Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam, Cambodia and South Korea have all had a smalll number of cases but have been sucessful in controlling the virus.  Thailand has extended its emergency measures until 31 August with a continued ban on non nationals entering the country. In early August Vietnam has seen a slight increase in infections, especaily in the Da Nang area. Indonesia has banned all foreign tourists to Bali for the remainder of 2020.

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Visiting Vietnam

I recently travelled to Vietnam for a very brief fact-finding tour, gathering information to help our gap year students plan their travels in this wonderful country. I have previously visited Laos, Thailand and Myanmar (February this year), so I was really keen to see why Vietnam rated so highly. I travelled as a gap year student, staying in dormitories, hostels and getting about by both bus and train. Whilst in Saigon, I had a very useful meeting at the British High Commission. I say Saigon as I didn’t see a single bus or train timetable or a local person who referred to it as Ho Chi Minh.

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Courses and Talks for Schools

Objective Gap Safety can provide tailored made Gap Year Safety or Urban Safety Courses for schools.

The gap course is typically delivered in a half-day course and is a shortened version of our highly successful one day Gap Safety Course. It's designed to prepare 6th formers for the challenges of overseas travel and is full of life skills.

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Water – Safe abroad? Good question!

Can I drink the tap water? Or rather too many young travellers assume they can and are in for a nasty shock when they realised they actually can’t. Living in the UK, we just take this for granted and have done so for decades. Where would I feel safe drinking the tap water? Central Europe, North America, Japan and Australasia for certain and perhaps Chile and Argentina.  A Chinese audience recently said to me ‘absolutely not’ and quite definitely I would not be drinking tap water in India, Laos, Vietnam, Bolivia and Peru to name a few. 

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Festivals Abroad Checklist

Festivals abroad are a great way to discover new cultures and let’s face it, what’s not to like about partying in a fabulous field in the sunshine! 

However, it is so important to prepare for your Festivals abroad and our Festival travel checklist below will ensure both your safety and enjoyment whilst travelling abroad.



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Japan - First visit

My first impression of Japan was bizarre to say the least. I wondered whether I had landed in a SARS or Ebola zone. I was greeted by a mask wearing immigration official who was very polite but looked completely ridiculous amongst scores of non mask-wearing human beings! It's been a delight to be here on business. Tokyo is a modern city (the US Air Force flattened most of bit in the latter months of the war) and works well. It's clean, doesn’t feel very crowded (but suspect I have got lucky) and everyone is so polite.

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Thailand - Full Moon Party

Thailand – The Full Moon Party

In order to make sure you are staying in the best hostel (this matters as it's where you will ‘pre’ and often you go to the party with people you have met in the hostel) it's best to pick a date and book the hostel about 2 to 3 months in advance as the best ones go quickly. The Full Moon happens once a month with a half moon once a month too (I didn’t go to a Half Moon but have heard good things).

Best time to go to Thailand is from about March onwards until July, as this is when most people of a similar age will be in Thailand and South East Asia. Some good hostels are Relax Corner, Slumber Party, Lazy House Shenanigans or Phagnan Arena. Most of these have a pool and they run events like beer pong in the evening that are fun and definitely worth taking part in for free drinks etc.

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Myanmar Burma

Myanmar is the most wonderful country to visit and it's a good time to go at the moment due to lack of other tourists. I had been before, in 1983, when one could only get a visa for six days and it was all rather fraught but exciting. Today Myanmar, in a semi-democratic mode, is a joy to visit and it’s relatively easy but perhaps a little more expensive than its neighbours.  The unrest in the north of Rakhine and the publicity surrounding the exodus of thousands of Rahinga Muslims has had a negative effect on the tourism trade.  Some estimates suggest that tourism may be down by up to 40%.

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Travelling East Africa Feb 2018

I have just returned from a short trip to Kenya and Tanzania. The former was returning to Nairobi and visiting the highland area around Nanyuki whilst in Tanzania it was a familiarisation trip to Zanzibar.

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Dengue Fever, Zika & Chikungunya Fever

In South America, Central America and South East Asia, Dengue Fever is a persistent threat & now Chikungunya in spreading into Central & South America too. The Zika virus is now spreading across much of South America, especailly in Brazil.

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South Island New Zealand

First visit to South Island New Zealand and some thougths on Wanaka, Queenstown, Milford Sound and Kaikoura.

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Colombia Nov 2016

In the middle of November 2016 I returned to Colombia for the first time since 1990. The country has clearly had a torrid last two decades (well really five), just mentioning it’s name prompt comments about Pablo Escobar, rebel gangs and a generally thoroughly dangerous place. Happily things are improving, Escobar met a sticky end in a roof top shoot out in 1993 and from the turn of the century President Uribe took on the rebel groups, principally the FARC and ELN

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