What is the FCO Travel Aware campaign and why is it important?

As university students, travel forms a huge part of our lives. Whether it’s a research trip abroad, a holiday with your mates or a romantic city-break, travelling offers a fantastic opportunity to explore the world. With gap years and study abroad semesters becoming more commonplace, students are constantly exposed to new opportunities that could take them abroad. But we often take so many things for granted, such as travel safety, insurance and respecting the local laws and customs. That is why the Foreign & Commonwealth Office has set up the Travel Aware campaign. 

The Travel Aware campaign provides ‘objective information and advice to help British nationals make their own informed decisions about foreign travel and plan for a safe trip’. Offering advice on local laws and customs, visa and passport requirements, health and travel insurance, the FCO aims to reduce the number of emergency or ‘consular’ cases of British citizens whilst travelling abroad. It also provides country-specific information on 225 countries, so that no matter where you’re travelling in the world, you are fully prepared. 

The reason why the Travel Aware campaign is so important for students is that we often forget to check the safety measures we might need to take when travelling to a foreign country, meaning that a large proportion of the people the FCO need to offer advice and assistance to, are students. To combat this problem, the FCO has launched the #StickWithYourMates campaign. This campaign advises young people on how to stay safe when travelling abroad in large groups. It offers potentially life-saving advice on staying together and what to do if you are separated from your friends. This can prove extremely useful when travelling abroad for events such as music festivals, or grad trips. By familiarising yourself with the FCO travel advice webpage before you travel, you can make sure that if you are ever in a situation where you are lost or alone, you know exactly what steps to take to ensure your safety. 

Another 2020 initiative that is especially useful to all of the football fans out there is the #BeOnTheBall campaign. This offers football-related advice on events including the European Finals, Nations League and Euro 2020. The webpage includes information on tournament schedules, host cities, insurance and healthcare, visas and passports, accommodation and what to do in the event of an emergency. Football tournaments are often high-profile events, which is why it is extremely important that you plan your trip ahead of time, making sure that your safety and security are top priority. 

You can find Travel Aware on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Youtube. For students, this is perhaps the best way to keep up-to-date with the latest travel safety news, as well as signing up to country-specific email alerts. The greatest thing about the Travel Aware Instagram page is that you can read content from other young people; you might find that the lessons they’ve learned whilst travelling abroad prove useful to you on your next trip. The latest social-media-driven initiative on the Travel Aware Instagram page was the #SkiSafe campaign, offering advice and videos on how to stay safe this season. From respecting the weather conditions, to taking out the right insurance and limiting your intake of alcohol, these videos offer great advice on how to ski responsibly. 

Something that is incredibly important to me is the Travel Aware campaign’s commitment to mental health. Mental health isn’t something we usually associate with travel, but it can be a very stressful experience for some people. The FCO offers advice on researching healthcare in your chosen destination, making sure that any medication you take is legal, and who to contact in the event of a medical emergency. Another useful piece of advice with regards to mental health is the FCO ‘travel letter’, a document which gives a brief description of your mental health diagnosis and requirements. This will make it easier for doctors to treat you whilst travelling, and help overcome any potential language barrier. 

In recent years, it seems there has been more and more reason to fear travelling abroad. As a Student Brand Ambassador for this campaign, I hope to demonstrate that there are so many ways to stay safe and have fun whilst travelling. The FCO’s website is full of useful information on how to maximise your trip. So, if you are planning a holiday, a research trip, or a romantic getaway this year, make sure to check out the website before you go. Whatever your reason for travelling, your safety and the safety of others should always be the number one priority. 

Click the link below for all your travel advice needs: https://travelaware.campaign.gov.uk

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