Articles and Case Studies

Staying Safe on Overseas Electives

27 Nov 2013

Alexa Chandler from The Electives Network has spent many years working and travelling in Africa, and knows the eastern region well. She offers some great advice for those travelling there for the first time.

Travelling abroad to a totally different culture can be an exhilarating experience. The new sites, sounds and smells are a constant reminder that you’re a long way from home. But sometimes it can be hard to remember that you have to be extra careful, vigilant and considerate while away. Even though I’ve found myself in some sticky situations, I’ve always been lucky enough to escape unscathed. So what are the secrets to making sure your dream elective doesn’t turn into a nightmare?

Local knowledge

I’ve found without doubt that local people can be the key to really enjoying your experience and getting the best out of travelling abroad. People you meet through work or through where you stay while travelling abroad often want to show off the country they’re proud off and can help you discover some hidden gems of sights and experiences. They can also give you a much better understanding of what and where is safe, and what and where might not be – so don’t be afraid to enjoy the local hospitality.

Be sensible and culturally sensitive

The way you dress, talk and behave in your own country may not be acceptable in other countries, and can be considered both offensive and shocking – so while on your elective, try to adapt and adopt.

Avoid excessive drinking and never take drugs

Some countries have very strict rules about the possession and consumption of alcohol and drugs. This is not an area to act like the locals do, but an area that you must be very careful about. Make sure you research which drugs are legal and which are not, as many over-the-counter pharmaceuticals can be banned in some countries and it’s not worth the risk of being caught. While you might like a drink (and in many countries you can still enjoy one), avoid overdoing it. Drunken behaviour nearly always leads to poor decisions; and whilst abroad what can go wrong is often much more extreme.

Follow advice from your local embassy

Always register with your local embassy in the country if there are areas of unrest or you plan to travel to remote locations.

Be wary when using local transport

It may be a sad truth, but more of you are likely to be maimed and killed on elective in transport related accidents than all the ebola outbreaks, military coups and hate crimes. So think “safety” when you travel. That means if you’d wear a helmet or a seatbelt at home, try to do so abroad. Don’t drive whilst inebriated and don’t use any form of transport if you suspect the driver might be intoxicated. Make sure you take advice from local people and travel guides about safe forms of transport for foreigners.

With these tips under your belt, your elective should be an enjoyable and memorable experience!



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