Staying safe on your adventure

Our tour leaders, planning and operation team and local teams on the ground will use our experience and expertise to manage your adventure as safely as possible, but by taking a few simple precautions you can minimise the risks you face when travelling to destinations around the world, from busy city hubs to remote moutains treks!

Before you go

Stay up-to-date with the latest developments in the destination you are travelling to by subscribing to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) travel updates. These updates will offer latest news and developments as well as specific advice for the destination or region you are travelling to. Get started here: https://travelaware.campaign.gov.uk/ or visit the destination links listed on your adventure’s trip page.

The FCO also offer advice on Safer Adventure Travel when abroad and specific questions to ask operators before travelling. If having read all of the ‘important travel information’ and specific trip information on this website, you feel we have not answered all questions, or if you would like any further clarification, please get in touch and we will be happy to discuss.

Basic precautions when travelling

  • think about what you are doing at all times and trust your instincts. Don’t take risks that you wouldn’t in the UK
  • don’t openly display valuables such as mobile phones or digital cameras and consider using a padlock on suitcases or backpacks
  • find out how to minimise your risk from terrorism and what to do if there’s a terrorist attack
  • find out about local customs and dress, behave accordingly and obey local laws. There may be serious penalties for breaking a law that might seem trivial at home
  • be careful when taking photographs, videos or using binoculars. These activities may be misunderstood by local authorities, especially near military installations.
  • store useful numbers on your phone such as the local police and the nearest British embassy or consulate
  • whether you’re living abroad or visiting, be aware of the risks of carbon monoxide poisoning, just as you would in the UK; the ‘Be Alarmed’ campaign gives practical advice on how to stay safe and lists the symptoms to look out for

Be scam aware

Where there are tourists, there are scams. They may differ in type around the world but most work around the premise of distraction and separating you from your valuables. A local guidebook is a good place to read about the most common scams for that destination and any specific areas to be more vigilant. Scammers are often looking for easy targets and sometimes just having read about a certain scam will give you enough to avoid becoming a victim if you recognise early warning signs.

Generally, busy tourist traps are places scams are more prevalent. Being bumped into or having something ‘splattered’ on to you should raise alarm bells and you should proceed with caution if someone then approaches you to help. Fake Taxis can usually be avoided by using registered ‘radio taxis’ and Fake Police scams can usually be deterred by asking to go to the local police station.

Your local guide will also be able to inform you of any scams known in the local area.

Most common travel scams by country inforgraphic

Terrorism

The FCO describe terrorism as a serious threat to British nationals travelling overseas globally, attacks often being difficult to predict. The FCO advise that targets are often busy places that aren’t well protected and where Westerners can be found. These include places like bars, restaurants, shops, places of worship, tourist sites and transport networks. They have published a series of recommendations for minimising your risk from terrorism, centred around advice such as following media reports, being vigilant in busy areas and being aware of your surroundings. For all advice around minimising your risk from terrorism please see: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/reduce-your-risk-from-terrorism-while-abroad 

On our tours

You can read about the steps we take to keep you safe on your adventure on our Safety and Risk Management page, but here are a few extra considerations before you travel.

Free time / Optional Activities

Most of our tours have some amount of free time for you to explore the local area or city you are staying in. Our tour leaders or local fixers/providers may supply you with information or recommendations on what activities are available or areas to visit, however, only planned activities listed on your itinerary have gone through our risk assessment and safety processes. Customers should, therefore, use their discretion when considering optional activities, and safety should always be the key consideration.

Getting the right information

As well as the ‘Important Trip Information’ on this website, please also read the ‘Trip Information’ for your chosen adventure. This contains all the specific information on that particular trip, so you can decide if it is for you. Any significant risks identified through our risk assessment procedures will be listed here. These may include things such as any dangers associated with a specific trekking route, an increased environmental risk in a destination or areas in a city to avoid.

Altitude

Many of our trekking tours travel to high altitude, reaching heights of over 2,500m. We plan our trekking routes to increase sleeping altitude gradually and allow time for the body to make small adaptations to the reduction in available oxygen, the process of acclimatisation.

There are risks associated with high altitude including exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, cold and the risk of developing Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS). The higher the altitude you travel to the higher the level of risk.

High Altitude: Between 2400-3658m
Very High Altitude: Between 3658-5500m
Extreme Altitude: Between 5500-8848m

The higher the altitude, the higher the exposure to UV radiation.
Protection against UV light should include:

  • Wearing clothing that covers the skin and is impermeable to ultraviolet light.
  • Using a sunscreen that protects against UVA, UVB and UVC with a high sun protection factor (at least SPF15).
  • Lips, ears and nose should be protected with a high protection sunblock.
  • Wearing sunglasses which filter out UV light (preferably wrap around style).
  • A facemask or balaclava may be required to protect against cold and sun at very high and extreme altitude.

In areas at very high altitude, low temperatures combined with low oxygen levels increases the risk of frostbite. The risk is even greater in those who already have poor circulation e.g. Raynaud’s disease.

To help prevent injury from the cold:

  • Wear correctly fitting clothes that are approved for cold climates; gloves, hats, socks, boots.
  • Keep hands and feet dry, change wet socks and gloves promptly.
  • Wear goggles at very high altitudes.
  • A facemask or balaclava may be required to protect against cold and sun at very high and extreme altitude.
  • Cover up against the sun, wind and cold.
  • Apply sun block/sunscreen regularly.

At altitude, the air pressure is lower than at sea level and gets lower as you climb higher. This means that although the amount of oxygen in the air remains constant, the amount of absolute oxygen in the lungs and the blood is less.

Oxygen is necessary for energy and for the body to function normally. The body will adapt to lower oxygen levels and responds by breathing faster and deeper and making more red blood cells to carry oxygen around. This response, called acclimatisation takes around 3-5 days to occur but will vary between individuals and conditions.

AMS is more likely to occur in those who do not take time to acclimatise properly or arrive directly at areas of high altitude e.g. Cusco in Peru (3300m). The higher and faster the ascent, the more likely that AMS will occur. Anyone can suffer from AMS regardless of age, gender, level of fitness or training.

Signs and Symptoms of AMS

Symptoms of AMS do not usually develop immediately upon arrival but occur during the first 36 hours at altitude.  There is a wide variation in the rate of onset and the height at which they occur. Early, mild symptoms are similar to that of a hangover.

  • Headache.
  • Dizziness.
  • Nausea/vomiting.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Fatigue, flu-like symptoms.
  • Breathlessness.
  • Poor sleep and irregular breathing during sleep.

AMS can be diagnosed using the Lake Louise Symptom Score (LLSS), a self-assessment score for adults. (A LLSS scorecard can be found in the MedEx: travel at high altitude booklet below).

If AMS is ignored and ascent continues then there is a real risk that the condition will rapidly progress to either or both of the two serious forms of the illness: High Altitude Cerebral Oedema (HACE, caused by fluid building on the brain) and High Altitude Pulmonary Oedema (HAPE, caused by fluid building on the lungs). Both conditions are medical emergencies and require medical attention as soon as possible. Both conditions can be rapidly fatal and descent must be carried out immediately. The person suffering from these conditions should be carried down to the lower altitude as added exertion would worsen their condition. If descent is problematic, air evacuation by helicopter (if available) may be required.

Prevention of AMS

  • Gradual ascent is the most important preventive measure.
  • Choose a trip with time for gradual acclimatisation built in.
  • Ideally avoid flying directly to areas of high altitude.
  • Take 2-3 days to acclimatise before going above 3000m.
  • Do not climb more than 300m a day.
  • Have a rest day every 600 – 900m of ascent or every 3 – 4 days.
  • Maintain a good intake (not excessive) of fluids.
  • Gentle exercise only for the first 24 hrs.
  • Eat a light but high calorie diet.
  • Avoid alcohol.
  • Consider using a medication called acetazolamide (Diamox) which increases blood and tissue oxygenation at high altitude and is useful for some (but not all) individuals. It can be prescribed by your GP or Travel Advisor if felt appropriate for you.
    • Diamox 125mg twice daily can be taken as a trial at sea level for two days before a visit to high altitude. It should be started 24 hours before ascent. For individuals ascending to and staying at  one height for several days, Diamox may be stopped after 2-3 days at target altitude. For those ascending to a high point and then descending to a lower level, Diamox should be stopped once descent has begun.
    • It is a diuretic so urine output will be increased.
    • Using Diamox does not rule out the need for gradual ascent and will not prevent AMS if other advice is disregarded. It will not mask the signs of AMS.
  • Be aware of the signs and symptoms of AMS and recognise them early. Let someone know that you are beginning to feel unwell.

Treatment of AMS

  • If early signs and symptoms of AMS are noticed then stop and rest at that level.
  • Do not go any higher.
  • Take analgesics to treat any headache e.g. ibuprofen or paracetamol.
  • Take anti-sickness medication if necessary e.g. promethazine.
  • Maintain a good fluid intake.
  • Once fully recovered ascent can begin again with care.
  • If the symptoms of AMS do not improve over a day then descent of 500-1000m is necessary.

If travelling to altitude, we recommend reading and taking a copy of the MedEx: Travel at High Altitude booklet. You can also read more about the risks of travelling to high altitude on the NHS Fit for Travel Altitude advice

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