Planning 101 14th May 2015

Stay Safe on Your Stag

Sure, a stag weekend is meant to be fun, but nobody wants an unforgettable weekend for all the wrong reasons. Here are just seven tips that should help you stay safe when travelling abroad, and allow you and your friends to make the most of your trip.

Ensure you’re insured

You would think that taking out travel insurance is the first thing on most people’s minds when they travel, and for family holidays and the like that’s probably true. However, it is all too easy to get caught up in the excitement of visiting a new, foreign country with some of your best friends and forget a few essentials. Don’t ever forget your travel insurance if you’re going on a stag do outside the UK. These days it is easier than ever to insure yourself for short trips; some banks and building societies even offer current accounts that come with travel insurance included, so you might even be automatically covered already. If that isn’t the case, pretty much all of the big insurance comparison websites (you know, the ones with the weird TV adverts) now offer travel insurance comparison, allowing you to get the best possible deal. However, short term travel insurance can be a snip, A few friends of mine recently paid about £5 each for travel insurance for stag weekend in Brussels. And me? I’m lucky enough to have one of those current accounts that offer insurance.

Research the local area

Some of us might get a little misty-eyed when we think back to trips where we used old, paper maps to find our way around unfamiliar cities and countries, but in the age of the smartphone it is even easier to know where to go, or where you need to be. The easiest way to do this is to use Google Maps. Almost everyone has a smartphone, so fire up Google Maps, search for the city, region, or country you need, and save it to your ‘My Places’ section. Maps will save the area of the map you have on screen to be viewed offline. Please note that you can’t search or get directions when using an offline map, so if you’re taking this approach search for and highlight any places of note (your hotel is always a good start) before you go on the weekend. Sites like TripAdvisor and Yelp can help you discover places you may want to visit, so use these to find restaurants, places of interest, bars, and clubs, and then find and save them in Google Maps before you save your offline map. Sorted!

Only take what is absolutely necessary

It’s easy to get carried away when you pack for a weekend away with your friends, and even more so when you’re on a stag weekend. You start thinking of every eventuality and before you know it you’re trying to squeeze an eight man rubber dinghy into your beaten old Eastpak backpack. Although this rule can mostly apply to packing for your weekend, you should be wary about what you carry on your person all weekend. Passports, car and house keys, and any other valuables can and should be stored in a safe (many hotels and hostels offer this to guests in their rooms, or behind reception), if this isn’t possible you might want to be crafty with hiding such things, although that is at your own risk. When I’m out and about in a foreign city, I tend to keep very little on me. Usually I’ll only have my phone, keys to my accommodation, a credit card (just in case), and cash (but never all the cash I have for the weekend at any one time).

Be wary of pickpockets

Unfortunately, pickpockets are prevalent in most busy towns and cities the world over, so it pays to be alert wherever you are. If you follow the previous tip about carrying as little as possible you’re already half way there. You should be observant particularly in dense crowds, where pickpockets can get away with being in close proximity with people such as tourists. As a stag do, you should be alright, especially if you’ve got a large group of you, as this is likely to deter even the most light-fingered of thieves. However, it always pays to be observant, and if you’ve got a good number of your friends there with you, chances are at least one of them is observant by default. Sticking together is the name of the game here, which leads me on nicely to my next tip...

Don’t walk around an unfamiliar area on your own, especially at night

This should be a given, but it is surprising how many people walk around an unfamiliar, foreign land on their own. Of course, this is acceptable during daylight hours, and in busy tourist areas, but if you want to go off the beaten track be sure to do it with at least one other person. Chances are there will be instances throughout the weekend where your group may split up for whatever reason, so just make sure this doesn’t happen in an area you’re not familiar with. This especially applies to your evenings and nights while you’re away, there can be nothing more worrying and / or stressful than being lost in a new place, in the dead of night. Unfortunately, there are people who prey on lost tourists just like you, and they’ll be well versed on picking up that ‘I’m lost’ body language. So to avoid this happening, just make sure you or anyone in your group is never left on their own, and especially after dark. Drunk tourists are easy pickings for anyone with some slightly sinister intent.

Try and at least learn the language, some people will like that you’ve at least made the effort

There isn’t much to this point, but as Brits we’re pretty bad at learning other languages, and we shouldn’t be. It won’t hurt anyone to spend a little time each day getting to know and learn the most common local phrases. Yes, for most people English is their lingua franca, but it really isn’t hard to learn how to ask for 12 beers in Dutch, or German. Besides, you might even find that you endear yourself to the locals by at least trying. Each time I try to speak local language the person I’m conversing with almost always says ‘ah nice try’ in English before switching to my native tongue. At least I tried, ey?

Learn what is deemed ‘Offensive Behaviour’ in your destination

Finally, I think it is exceptionally useful to research and find out, definitively, what can and will be deemed as ‘offensive behaviour’ in the city or town you’re visiting. If you’re going to spend a weekend away with some of your best friends, chances are you’re going to get a little excited, and probably more so than you would on a standard Friday down the Dog and Duck, so it pays to know what is tolerated in other countries and cultures. You don’t want to ruin everyone’s weekend by going off the deep end (or even just innocently wearing a mankini) and ending up in a pair of handcuffs, because for starters that language barrier is far harder to overcome in a foreign Police Station as opposed to a bar, or a McDonalds (come on, we all visit those golden arches at least once when we’re abroad). If that happens, well you’ll need another article to get you out of that jam, because I wouldn’t even know where to start!   So, I hope that I’ve at least given anyone considering a stag do abroad some food for thought. Don’t let some of the subject matter put you off traveling abroad either, just take the advice on board and you’ll be able to enjoy that stag weekend far more. Stay aware, and stay safe.