Staying safe abroad Staying safe abroad

While most students do not encounter any difficulties while abroad, it is useful to think ahead about what to do and who to ask if you do find yourself in a situation where you need help. Students need to be aware that there are some risks associated with travelling, working and studying overseas, but with preparation and care, potentially hazardous situations can be mitigated.

Carefully read the UK government travel advice to be aware of any potential issues and an insight into legal matters in your host country, and Travel Aware information to assist your preparation for travelling and living abroad.



  • Keep local emergency numbers for your host country with you for any immediate emergency;
  • Contact your host university’s study abroad office or work placement supervisor about safety concerns;
  • During 9-5pm UK time call UEA Study Abroad on +44(0)1603 591871;
  • Out of hours, call UEA’s 24-hour emergency number +44(0)1603 592222. Emergency staff will assist you or contact the Student Support Services or UEA Study Abroad on your behalf.


Other useful information:

Foreign and Commonwealth office website (FCO) - foreign travel advice and checklists specially tailored for the different needs of travellers; regularly updated information on travel advice following a significant incident that might affect British nationals visiting or living in the area.

Support for British nationals abroad guide - Foreign and Commonwealth advice on staying safe abroad.

Join the Foreign and Commonwealth (FCO) on social media for updates on the current situation in- country - and

Familiarise yourself with the contact details for emergency services in each country you travel to, and save these directly into your phone so that you can access them easily if you need to. In all European Union countries, you can dial 112 to reach emergency services. 

Know how to contact your nearest relevant Embassy or Consulate and save it on your phone. They can provide general support and liaison with the UK particularly if you have been admitted to hospital or detained by the police.

Keep important documents safe and retain two sets of scanned/photocopies (one with you, one at home) of your passport (of your information & photo ID page and any relevant visa pages), visa, EHIC card (if going to Europe) and bank cards, so that if documents are lost or stolen you have all the details.

Complete the emergency contact page on your passport before you travel abroad.

Keep in touch with your host university’s Study Abroad Office. Save their contact details into your phone, as they may be able to help you more adequately based on their proximity and the lack of a time zone difference and it is always important upon your arrival to ensure that you have a contact in the host country if you need it. In accordance with data protection legislation, they will also keep UEA updated. 

Obtain appropriate health insurance cover for the whole duration of your study placement. Pay particular attention to where compulsory policies are required. Obtain the student EHIC card before travelling to Europe.

If you have a pre-existing medical condition, make sure you research whether and how you will be able to obtain any required medication while abroad. Speak with your GP about taking prescription medications with you and be sure to research local restrictions on carrying medication into your host country. Check the National Travel Health Network and Centre and NHS Choices advice about travelling with medicines and contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country you’re travelling to if you need more information.

Contact the UEA Medical Centre for their private Travel Clinic services and appointments such as for completing Health Forms, medical tests, arranging Travel Clinic vaccines and x-rays at the Norwich and Norfolk (N&N) Hospital. Information is also on their website with full instructions of what students need to do, timeframes and costs, etc.

Don't fall foul of the law. All exchange students are subject to the laws of the host country and so you must research in advance the legalities for consuming alcohol, age of sexual consent, and drug legislation. Be aware that your travel and/or health insurance may be invalid if you are under the influence of alcohol/drugs. For example, some medications that are legal in the UK are not in other countries (even within the EU), and could potentially lead to criminal conviction and/or deportation.

Purchase travel insurance (study placements). Choose a policy that will, where possible, cover any medical bills, repatriation (getting you home after an emergency), loss or damage of possessions, missed flights, or costs associated with having to end your trip earlier than planned. Always read the small print!

Work placement students can apply for free travel insurance from UEA if connected with a credit bearing placement as part of their degree:

Keep in touch with UEA. Should there be a natural disaster or incident to warrant concern within the country of your placement, staff from the Study Abroad Office will contact you to check that you are safe. Such correspondence is vitally important; therefore please answer these emails promptly. Be sure to check your UEA email account regularly (at least weekly) or you may find your access is locked due to inactivity. 

Risk Assessment form. You must complete the online risk assessment form, which is a required part of the study year or semester abroad. This form will help you to start thinking about various practical aspects of your year abroad, identify any problems you may face and start to consider how you will adapt to the challenges that come with living in a different environment. Please refer to the Guidance notes for Study Abroad Programmes Risk Assessment Form before completing the online form.

Be careful when on your own. Whatever your gender, try to avoid being alone with strangers, stay in public and well-lit areas, and exercise reasonable caution when meeting new people. Sexual harassment is completely unacceptable wherever you are in the world, so make sure you report any unwelcome advances or attention to the local police and Study Abroad Office at your host university.  

Be alert. Pay attention to how local students behave and don’t be afraid to talk to them about safety precautions or ask them about local customs. Observe the normal patterns and behaviors in your community, be aware of behaviours that may deviate from that norm and trust your instincts - if it doesn’t feel safe, it probably isn’t! Remember that it’s better to be over-cautious as you get used to a new environment. Use reliable means of transport and beware of pickpockets! Don’t display money or any other valuable items while traveling. Be careful if using a money belt /wallet to keep money and documents safe as you could be a target when taking items out.


Harassment and sexual harassment. Harassment (unwanted conduct that creates an intimidating or hostile environment) and sexual harassment (unwanted verbal, visual or physical conduct of a sexual nature) can happen to anyone anywhere in the world, and are never the fault of the victim. 

Cultural sensitivity does not mean that you have to tolerate behaviour that makes you feel unsafe or encroaches upon your personal boundaries. Trust your instincts and always prioritise your safety. If you experience harassment or sexual harassment while abroad, we strongly encourage you to report it and make use of the support services available to you. You can talk in confidence to:

Stay in touch. Get in touch with a family member as soon as you get to the country to let them know that you have arrived safely. Update your new contact details and address on UEA’s E:vision, and via the Erasmus Address Form (if applicable) to the Study Abroad Office and share them with your family and friends in the UK.  If you plan to travel during the year, remember to let a friend or a family member know about your plans in advance and leave them your contact details, insurance policy details and itinerary. 

LGBTQ+ and Study Abroad

“Every country varies in its acceptance, awareness and understanding of the LGBT community, and it is important for LGBT students to understand what type of environment they will be walking in to. The types of laws, policies, and organisations present in any country are huge factors in determining its social environment, so these are all things LGBT students should consider before studying abroad.” An LGBT Student Guide to Studying Abroad 

Research your destination thoroughly, and identify issues that may affect your experience studying/working there, for example occurrences of homophobia, or failure to recognise same-sex marriage rights. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has regularly updated information on traveling that you may find useful, as does NAFSA: Rainbow Special Interest Group. 

The charity Stonewall have prepared this excellent resource which is a country-specific briefing outlining laws and attitudes.

Identify support services that can provide help, should you need it. For example, your host university may have a LGBTQ+ society, or a dedicated member of staff in their Student Services team. There may also be LGBTQ organisations in your destination country that you can join.

Other Useful Travel Tips

  • Research local customs, clothing, language and tipping. For example, in America tipping is expected but in Japan it is an insult!
  • Research bank options in your host country including withdrawal fees in advance. Your Arrival Pack from your host may give details of banks/ATMs available on campus. Other options include money transfer sites like Transfer Wise or pre-loaded credit cards.
  • Use our checklist in your pre-departure pack and refer to our Guides – they are written for YOUR benefit!