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The documentation you are likely to need when travelling abroad includes:

  • Credit card(s) 

  • Emergency numbers

  • Immunisation record 

  • Insurance details 

  • Passport

  • Tickets

  • Relevant maps, guidebooks and phrasebooks

  • An itinerary for your trip

  • ID cards e.g. student ID card, driving licence etc.

The documentation that you need for different countries will vary so it is important to check carefully what you will need to enter each country you plan to visit. Some countries require visas, proof of return flight ticket or proof of adequate funds to buy one, proof of accommodation, vaccination certificates or in some cases an existing contact within the country. For example, under the US Visa Waiver Programme, it is now essential for travellers to register their details online at least 72 hours before intended entry or travel through the country. If you are using a gap provider, they should provide you with the details of the required documentation.  
You can look at these websites for critical information:

Your credit/debit cards, insurance policy details, immunisation record, passport, visa(s), and ID cards should all be scanned or photocopied. Leave a copy with your parents or guardian, take two copies with you (and carry separate from the original documents), and email a copy to yourself to ensure you always have access to them. 

If you lose your passport whilst away you will need to contact the UK embassy/high commission overseas.  



It is important that your travel insurance includes as a minimum, medical and repatriation insurance (cover for returning you back to the UK on medical grounds). Other forms of insurance you might want to purchase are for dental emergencies, loss or theft of money and possessions and cancellation of your trip. You will need to inform your insurers of any information, particularly relating to any pre-existing medical conditions, which may affect the policy.

When deciding which policy would best suit your needs, examine the insurance policy wording carefully to make sure that it covers the activities that you are doing:

  • Check exclusions to the policy e.g. activities (such as riding a moped, bungee jumping etc), security of your belongings (some policies may not accept claims for belongings that vanish from a beach hut or a shared hostel room).

  • Check the number of countries covered by a policy. Some policies will offer cover for set areas only, which is cheaper if you know you are only going to one or two countries.

  • Check the length of policy: does it cover all the time you are away from the UK?

  • Check any excess you would have to pay on any claim made.

  • Check the policy not only covers medical bills, but that it also covers repatriation.

If you are planning to take expensive items such as a laptop, camera or jewellery, you should check the amount covered for a single item. You may have to take out additional cover for such items. If you cannot afford to lose an item, leave it at home!

If you are using a gap provider, check what insurance is included in your fee and what it covers, and most importantly what it does not cover.

Make note of the travel insurance 24-hour assistance helpline. 


Examples of insurance companies that specialise in gap year insurance include:


Exploratory questions to ask yourself:

  • Do I hold a British passport or other? This may affect which countries you can visit and the visas you require.

  • What is the expiry date of my passport? Is it valid for six months after I plan to return to the UK? If not, where can I renew it and how much will it cost?

  • Do I need a visa for any of the countries I intend to visit and the activities I plan to do there (i.e. paid work, volunteering, travelling)? How long will the visa allow me to stay in the country?

  • How much does the visa cost and do I need to obtain it in advance? Where can I get it from?

  • Is there any other documentation that I will need for entry into each country (e.g. Yellow Fever certificate, proof of accommodation/sufficient funds/return ticket out of country, local currency for airport tax on arrival).

  • What steps can I take to protect my documentation whilst travelling, and what will I do if I lose any important documents?

  • Do I need to organise my insurance or will my gap provider do it?

  • What do I need my insurance to cover? If I book insurance through a gap provider, does the policy cover everything I need it to or do I need additional cover?

  • Do I want possessions insurance? What will be the cost of covering certain items I’m planning to take (e.g. camera or laptop)? Would it be better to leave them at home and take a cheaper version? Some providers will not insure possession against theft if you are staying in a beach hut or shared accommodation.

  • Have I informed my insurance provider of any pre-existing medical conditions that could affect the policy?

  • What is the procedure if I need medical treatment whilst away or if I need to make a claim on my insurance?



It is very important that you research the health issues associated with the country/countries and specific regions and environments you may be travelling in, so that you can fully prepare for these before departure. For example, some regions are high risk malaria zones and you will need to take precautions such as specialist medication, kit and/or clothing. You may require vaccination against diseases such as hepatitis, yellow fever, holera or rabies.

If you plan to work or volunteer in a certain environment, such as in health care, or in remote or less developed areas additional measures to protect yourself against infection and disease may also be wise. It is important to take precautions against the risk of infection from HIV in all countries. Above all, you should seek expert medical advice from your GP or travel clinic before embarking on an overseas trip so you can be prepared for the health risks associated with your chosen destination.

If you have the time and budget and are planning to undertake some independent travel, you may also wish to consider completing a basic first aid course. This will give you both the skills and confidence to cope with any minor medical emergencies whilst you’re overseas and is a valuable life skill in itself anyway.

Pre-existing medical conditions

If you have suffered from, or are currently suffering from, an existing illness, you will need to talk to your doctor about the implications that this may have for your travels. You will need to declare these existing medical conditions when you apply for insurance. Not doing so may invalidate any insurance claim later.

If you need to take personal medication, ensure you obtain sufficient supplies for the duration of your stay abroad. Inhalers and other common prescriptions and over-the-counter medicines are banned in some countries so check with the embassy of the country you are travelling to, that your medication will be legal in that country. If you need to take medication you should ensure that you have a note from your doctor and that the medicine is in its original packaging.

If you have an allergy or a particular medical condition that could have serious implications if it suddenly worsens or that is hard for someone to recognise (such as diabetes or epilepsy, for instance), make sure you wear a medical ID tag or carry a card (preferably written in the language of the country you’re going to). If you are incapacitated for any reason, this will alert anyone who tries to help you to your condition. Similarly, if you are travelling with others let them know how they can help, should your medical condition worsen.


Where to get travel health advice:

  • Department of Health Advice for Travellers: - advice for travellers about planning ahead, staying healthy and getting treatment elsewhere in the world. Also in this area is information about the GHIC, UK citizens’ passport to free or reduced-cost emergency care in most other European countries.

  • - an NHS Scotland website on travel issues worldwide.

  • - English-speaking doctors around the world. 

  • - a medical charity providing specialist healthcare to people working primarily in the aid, development, mission and voluntary sectors both in the UK and overseas. They act as medical, travel health and occupational health advisors and also provide psychological health services.

  • - provides travel health advice on anti-malarials, vaccinations and disease prevention for the public travelling abroad. MASTA Travel Clinics are private travel clinics in the UK. They provide immunisations and medical advice on malaria, yellow fever and a host of other travel health related issues for travellers.

  • Travelhealth provides information and practical advice for people who are travelling abroad. They also provide information about where your nearest travel clinic is.

  • Nomad travel clinics can be found in many major cities in the UK. They also have travel stores where useful kit and equipment can be bought for overseas trips. 


Medical risk assessment 

Use the resources above to identify the key health risks that affect travellers in the places you are hoping to visit. You will then need to decide what precautions you are going to take to avoid them. If health risks are significant, you might like to find an alternative location where you can carry out a similar activity, but where the health risks are reduced.  

Health precautions

Visit the dentist before you leave for a check-up and to have any remedial work done.

Visit your GP surgery or a travel health clinic to discuss what vaccinations you need and plan your vaccination programme - you may be required to start treatment several months before you depart. 

For travel clinics see or for a list in your area see

Ensure that you have got all the medications you will need whilst you are away. Always take spares in case you lose your bag or it is stolen.

Check what you need to help protect yourself against Mmlaria e.g. mosquito nets, repellents, cover up, and which particular anti-malarial medication to take, if needed.

Take a well-stocked first aid/medical kit. Nomad travel clinics provide advice on adventure travel health and can provide advice on first aid kits.

If you feel unwell when you get back, get checked out by your GP and tell them which countries you have been travelling in.

Planning for medical emergencies

  1. Buy a pocket guide to travel health and take it with you to help you cope with common problems such as ‘traveller’s diarrhea’, sun stroke, heat or cold-related illnesses or altitude-related illnesses if you’re travelling to high altitude regions.

  2. Be aware of the symptoms and treatment for other, less common illnesses. In particular, make sure you’re aware of the actions you need to take if you suspect you have been exposed to the rabies virus and remember that even if you have had the vaccination, you are not protected and will still need further post-exposure vaccines if infected. Research whether the country you’re travelling to is likely to have these available or where you’ll have to go to access them. 

  3. Know your blood group. 

  4. Know how to access medical help when travelling. Note the name and contact details of the nearest doctor/hospital for your destinations. 

  5. Medical insurance is ESSENTIAL. Check what you need to do if you need help and in particular keep safe the telephone numbers you need to call to get help. For travelling in Europe, it is essential to carry a UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC). These are free to order and can be obtained easily from

Exploratory questions to ask yourself:

  •  What are the health risks to consider in the countries/environments I want to travel to, (for example: dirty drinking water, diseases such as malaria, high prevalence of HIV, high altitude or extreme environments).

  • What can I do to protect myself against these health risks? 

  • Do I need to undertake any training to ensure my personal fitness and ability is suitable for my chosen activity? How will I do this if so.

  • Do I need any specific vaccinations for travel to these regions? When do I need to start having them or taking the medication.

  • Do I have any pre-existing medical conditions and do they limit where I should travel, the activities I may be able to undertake or environments I could travel in? Would I require any special travel arrangements?

  • Will I need to take personal medication with me and is it legal in the countries I want to travel to?

  • Have I informed my insurance company and the organisation or companions I’m travelling with about my medical condition and suitable treatment in the event of a medical incident? 

  • What is the procedure if I need to see a doctor whilst travelling in the country?

  • What is the name and location of the nearest hospital for each area I plan to visit? How far will it be from my place of accommodation and how will I get there if needed?

Other Safety Precautions

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) website has handy hints and travel tips for gap year travellers. It is recommended that you: 

  • Buy insurance

  • Have local knowledge

  • Check visa requirements

  • Be health aware

  • Do not take drugs

  • Be careful with alcohol

  • Be vigilant

  • Take care of your belongings

  • Take enough money and several means to access it

  • Keep in touch with contacts at home

  • Keep abreast of what is happening in the country you’re visiting from a political, social and environmental point of view

The FCDO website has travel advice and individual country profiles, including details of any common scams or crimes and any particular areas to avoid.
Supplement this with other information from travel forums such as The ‘Lonely Planet Travellers’ Facebook page where travellers exchange travel information, advice, hints and tips; and on the ‘Safety net’ in Objective Gap Year designed to give travellers safety tips and advice from the road.
Use the information on individual country profiles, guidebooks, and other sources, to find out:

  • How the safety of your destination country is rated by the FCDO.

  • Whether or not it is politically stable.

  • Whether there any particular risks or dangers you need to consider whilst travelling in the country, for example weather/climate, particular areas of the country and common scams or crime.

  • What precautions you can take against these, for example specific equipment or kit, changing your timings or altering your travel route.

There are many things that you can do to keep both your personal possessions and yourself as safe as possible when you are travelling. Advice can be found on many of the gap year websites and the FCDO website. Some of the basic advice will recommend NOT taking expensive or valuable items with you and being careful not to advertise possessions such as cameras or personal money. Keeping spare copies of personal documents such as your passport, visa, insurance details etc is also highly recommended.
If you are travelling independently or feel that you would like additional assistance to that provided by the company with which you are travelling, you may wish to attend a specific travel safety course. 


Placement safety

If you are using a gap year provider they should also be giving you advice on preparation and training either in the UK or in-country, and should be able to supply you with a Risk Assessment and Safety Management Plan, either for the venture or the activity that you are going to do. The section on ‘Choosing a Provider’ goes in to more detail on this. 

In the event of an emergency

Even on the best-planned gap years, things can and do go wrong. You need to have a plan for both minor and major incidents. This involves knowing who can help and how to contact them. Often you will need to get yourself to a place where there is someone to assist you, so you also need to plan how you might get there. This is your Emergency Response Plan.
UK Embassies and High Commissions overseas can help travellers who get into trouble overseas but there are strict limitations on what they can and cannot do. For more information and to find the website of the British embassy in the country you’re going to, see: Remember that emergencies can also happen at home, so it is important that your family know how and when they can contact you.
Before you depart, sign up for FCDO country-specific travel advice updates via email at .