Planning to travel during the Christmas break? International Student Advisers Alan Smith and Wenwei Zhou from Kings College London offer some useful tips to make sure that you travel safely.
Be safe, be aware, be confident!
• Store your passport and BRP (as well as other valuables) in the safest place. This is your judgement. If you feel your hotel is the safest place, you may choose to leave your documents in the safe in your hotel room. Or you may prefer to carry your passport and BRP with you. If you do, make sure they are hidden away (for example inside zipped pockets in jackets or bags) and avoid taking them out.
• If you need ID for making purchases or going into clubs and bars, buy an International Student Identity Card, or ISIC. As well as entitling you to various discounts, it is an internationally accepted photo ID that shows your name, date of birth and study location. Find out more on the ISIC website
• Scan your passport and BRP and upload copies in different devices or store them online before you travel. So even in the worst case scenario that some of your belongings are stolen/lost, you would still be able to access the copies somewhere else.
• It’s important to be aware of what’s going on around you - especially at cafes, bars and public transport stations. Frequently, it’s after being in these locations that students find that their wallet, passport or BRP has vanished.
• Pickpockets and thieves thrive in busy, crowded locations where you might not notice others bumping into you, or walking closely behind you. It’s therefore vital that you keep your eyes open and your ears alert to people who are moving closely around you.
• Keep your hands on your belongings, and all bags and pockets zipped.
• Don’t carry your phone, wallet, passport or BRP in the back pocket of your jeans or shorts - these are super-easy places for thieves to grab your things.
• Don’t carry all of your money in your wallet. Keep money in different places (eg in your bag, money belt which can be worn under your clothes, inside pockets or leave behind in the hotel safe) and only hold the amount you think you’ll need each day in your purse or wallet.
• Make sure that you’re covered by travel insurance. Being insured is an excellent idea to guard against theft, unexpected extensions to your stay, medical treatment and other emergencies. Don’t assume it’ll never happen to you!
• It’s also a good idea to look as confident as you can! Even if you don’t feel it, looking as if you know where you are and where you’re going can make you look less vulnerable to a potential thief. Looking up routes and maps in advance can really help with this - try to research any journeys you need to make ahead of time, so that you’re not constantly checking your phone or stopping to read a map.
• It may be better to avoid wearing clothes or carrying accessories that are clearly designer or look expensive – this can attract attention.
• Be aware when you are drinking alcohol. It may be normal for you to drink more than usual when you are on holiday but do remain vigilant: pubs and clubs are common places where you find your belongings might disappear…
What to do if something goes wrong
• If you lose your BRP, the UKCISA website has a great deal of information on what to do to get back to the UK and replace your visa or BRP. This is expensive and takes time, so try hard not to lose it.
• Contact your institution. Keep in your phone - and in your hotel safe - a contact number for your university’s International Student Advice service who may be able to advise you from the UK.
• Contact your embassy. Keep the contact details and address of the nearest UK embassy and nearest embassy for your home country who may be able to help you.
• Keep in touch with your family and friends, and let them know where you are and that you’re safe!