Overseas travel health and safety

The University has a duty of care to all staff and students who wish to travel overseas and needs to be assured that those travelling have fully considered the risks and put appropriate precautions into place. The Overseas Travel Standard sets minimum requirements to ensure that appropriate insurance cover is in place and those travelling to high-risk locations understand the risks they may face and what they need to do to mitigate them. The Overseas Travel Standard requires that:

  • a travel application form is completed for all non-UK travel
  • certain high-risk trips will require a risk assessment and approval to travel must be obtained
  • travellers to high or extreme risk destinations, with a Drum Cussac overall risk or country overview risk rating equal to or greater than 3 (see below), will also need to complete travel training modules

Please read our leaflet for essential information on safe travel (.pdf). Contact HSAS if you would like a copy to take with you on your overseas trip.

Planning your trip (all destinations)

Taking time to plan your overseas travel will minimise the risk of something going wrong while you are abroad, and ensure you know what to do if it does. The following applies to all travellers to non-UK destinations.

Read the FCO travel guide: Plan, Pack, Explore for advice on what to consider when planning overseas trips.

Travel insurance

All non-UK visits require adequate travel insurance. The University's travel insurance is provided by UMAL and Canopius. It is designed specifically for our needs and provides you with the following services:

  • emergency travel and medical assistance
  • travel security advice and alerts
  • health information
  • destination guides

You will be sent your insurance details when you submit the travel application form.

Do check what is covered by the insurance and, if you have any concerns, speak to the Insurance Officer. For example, are you planning any hazardous activities or visits to hazardous areas? Do you have any medical conditions that may affect cover?

Don't assume the insurance company will be able to help you out of all situations, check for instance the non-medical costs in connection with COVID-19 e.g. where additional accommodation or travel costs are incurred. You may also need access to cash to cover emergency vehicles and hospital treatment costs whether or not these are related to COVID-19. Insurance companies can rarely access local services which you may need in the first instance, so if you are travelling to more remote areas, research availability and suitability of local hospitals, and/or emergency vehicles (e.g. helicopters) as part of your trip planning.

Further requirements for insurance cover

For the majority of overseas visits the Insurance Officer will confirm that insurance is in place and provide you with our insurer's emergency contact details. There are additional requirements for certain visits considered to have a higher health, safety and security risk. The section below University requirements for travel to high and extreme risk locations should be used to provide further details on these requirements.

Travel insurance application form

Before travelling overseas on University business/research you will need to complete a travel insurance application form. Submit the form at least two weeks before you travel to allow time for assessment of your travel plans. Be aware that trips may have to be postponed or cancelled if there are safety concerns that cannot be addressed before travel.

On receipt of the travel insurance application, the Insurance Officer will:

  • assess your insurance needs and confirm your cover and how to access it
  • advise you if you need to carry out a formal risk assessment and obtain approval prior to travel (see travel to high risk and extreme locations below)
  • advise you if you need to complete additional overseas travel training prior to travel

Researching your destination (all destinations)

It is good practice to research the country you are visiting prior to travel. This is particularly important if you are visiting a country for the first time, one you have not visited recently, or are aware that there may be security issues (e.g. through press coverage).

Safety and security

Use the following websites to access country-specific safety and security information:

*If you don't have a login for this site please refer to UMAL Drum Cussac online risk management registration (.pdf, Essex users only) for guidance on how to access the destination guides.

The above sites will give a range of safety and security advice, from terrorism and kidnapping to common scams that catch out unwary travellers. Be aware of differences in cultural norms and laws in the country you are visiting. The Gov.uk site also has some specific advice for disabled and LGBT travellers.

Events held at the country you're visiting

Check whether there are any special occasions such as public holidays, local elections, political conferences, major sporting events in the destinations you are travelling to. As well as affecting prices, hotel availability and traffic, security may be heightened and the likelihood of terrorist attacks can increase.

Travel guides 

Consult travel guides (e.g. Lonely Planet, Rough Guides) as good sources of local information on customs and travel safety advice. Trip Advisor includes traveller comments and reviews of accommodation and destinations. Also speak to colleagues or University contacts who may know the area being visited.

Training for travellers

The following courses are available via Drum Cussac and are recommended for all travellers:

  1. Basic travel security awareness (30 minutes)
  2. Natural disasters
  3. Information security abroad
  4. Avoiding bribery and corruption when travelling
  5. Female traveller Security
  6. Kidnap and ransom (15 minutes)

Please follow our instruction on How to Access the Online Travel Security Training (.pdf, Essex users only) to gain access to the course.

Travel health (all destinations)

Your fitness

If you have an existing medical condition that may affect your fitness to undertake overseas travel, you should discuss this with your GP, get confirmation of whether you are fit to travel and, if so, what precautions may be needed to ensure your health while away.

Bear in mind that access to medical support may be poor in some countries or remote locations. Staff can also seek advice from the Occupational Health Service. When applying for insurance you will be required to confirm that you are medically fit to travel (your insurance could be invalidated if it is subsequently found you were not).

Travel health risks at your destination

You may need vaccinations, medication or to take specific precautions to protect yourself from health risks prevalent in the country or area you are visiting. NHS fitfortravel gives general travel advice and health information for people travelling abroad from the UK. In addition the following sites will help you to identify specific precautions required.

You should arrange for appropriate vaccinations/medication with your GP or a travel clinic at least eight weeks before travel (as sometimes a course of vaccinations is needed). If you are a member of staff, let your manager know you will need vaccinations or medication for travel, so that you can reclaim the cost on your expenses.

There are a number of infectious diseases that can affect un-prepared travellers. The following are examples that you may particularly need to be aware of.


Many UK travellers are diagnosed with malaria on their return, some die. You may be at risk if you are visiting:

  • Africa and Asia
  • Central and South America
  • Haiti and the Dominican Republic
  • parts of the Middle East
  • some Pacific islands

Make sure you are protected, please read the NHS advice on malaria.

Tick-borne encephalitis (TBE)

In Europe, thousands of people contract TBE every year and many die. Read the following guidance to find out how to protect yourself.

Medical provision at your destination

Check the medical provision in the country you are travelling to before you go. Although you will be covered by University insurance, you may not be admitted to the hospital without cash payment on arrival (even as an emergency case in an ambulance).

Global Health Insurance Card

If you are a UK and EU national resident in the UK and will be travelling to Europe, you should ensure that you have an up to date Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC). Please note, it is not a replacement for travel insurance but will assist you in accessing medical treatment which you may otherwise have to pay for. You should also check the country-by-country guide on the GHIC website to see what health care you will be entitled to.

Your medication, glasses and contact lenses

If you wear glasses or contact lenses, pack an extra pair. When carrying your own medications, take a copy of your prescription with you and the generic names for the drugs.

If you have any doubt about the legality of carrying a certain drug into a country, consult the embassy or consulate of that country first. Keep medicines in their original, labelled containers. If a medication is unusual or contains narcotics, carry a letter from your doctor attesting to your need to take the drug. Take enough medication for the duration of your trip plus seven days (for emergencies).

Booking your travel (all destinations)

If you are travelling for work, research or as part of your studies, you must use one of the University’s approved travel management providers to arrange travel and accommodation. As well as sourcing suitable flights/transport and accommodation, they offer a range of services to enhance safety, such as travel risk information email/texts and a 24-hour emergency travel reschedule service. They will also have carried out health and safety checks on the suppliers they recommend.

If you need to use a third-party agency, source a reliable organisation with high standards of customer service. Online companies may be convenient to use but they can be ineffective in an emergency.

Use hotels you know and trust, or have been recommended by the University’s travel management providers. Reputable four/five-star hotels are not just for comfort, they have higher security standards and good medical emergency procedures. Note that the University does not allow the use of Air BnB. (See: Finance Compliance FAQs)

Group travel and field trips

If you are organising overseas travel for five or more you should complete a group travel planning form (.docx)

Our advice on organising field and off-site trips safelyorganising field and off-site trips safelyorganising field and off-site trips safely will also help you to plan for group travel.

University requirements for travel to high and extreme risk locations

The Overseas Travel Standard requires additional precautions (formal risk assessment, training and formal approval) for travellers to high or extreme risk locations or undertaking adventurous activities abroad, to ensure that travellers are aware of and prepared for the risks they may encounter.

High-risk travel is defined as:

  • Travel to countries or locations with a Drum Cussac overall risk or country overview risk rating that is equal to or greater than 3. The rating is found in the searchable travel advice matrix supplied by Drum Cussacs Risk Monitor for travellers. Access to the travel advice matrix can be obtained by completing the UMAL Drum Cussac online risk monitor registration (.pdf, Essex users only)
  • Travel to countries where either a location/city in that country, and/or a listed risk area for that country may have a listed score of 3 or greater even where the overall risk or country overview risk score is below 3.
  • Overseas travel that includes adventurous activities (e.g. diving, water/air sports, trekking in remote areas, caving).

Extreme risk travel is defined as:

  • Countries or locations with a Drum Cussac overall risk or country overview risk rating that is equal to or greater than 4.5. The rating is found in the searchable travel advice matrix supplied by Drum Cussacs Risk Monitor for travellers.
  • Countries where either a location/city in that country, and/or a listed risk area for that country may have a listed score of 4.5 or greater even where the overall risk or country overview risk score is at a lower level.


Formal risk assessment

Prior to travel, you will need to carry out a formal risk assessment if your travel is high risk. When you complete the travel insurance application form, the Insurance Officer will inform you if a specific Overseas Travel Risk Assessment is required. It is important that you complete the travel application form in good time to allow time to complete the risk assessment.

You will need to identify the significant risks, using the Drum Cussac's Risk Monitor for travellers site to help you. It is very important that you research your destination. As well as reading the Drum Cussac Country Travel Advice Report, you should also read the government travel advice and NHS country-specific advice. If you have contacts in the country being visited, you may also find it useful to discuss safety and security needs with them, as they may be able to help you. If you need help with your risk assessment you can contact the Insurance Officer or the Workplace, Health, Safety and Wellbeing team (WHSW).

Once you have completed the risk assessment you will need to gain approval (see below). If you are the leader of a group going overseas you must communicate the outcome of the risk assessment to the other travellers.


For students working or travelling overseas:

For staff working or travelling overseas:

Training for travellers to high and extreme risk destinations

All travellers to high and extreme risk destinations with risk scores of 3 or above must complete the Drum Cussac travel training modules including for basic travel security awareness (30 minutes) course. Researching Your Destination (above) provides details about these courses.

In addition, if you are going to a location with a high kidnap risk, you must complete the Kidnap and Ransom module (15 minutes).

The module provide practical advice to help you recognise and avoid problems when travelling. Please follow our instruction on How to Access the Online Travel Security Training (.pdf, Essex users only) to gain access to these courses.


Before you travel you will need to obtain approval:

  • from your head of department or section for all high-risk travel and activities
  • for travel to extreme-risk locations you must also obtain approval from your executive dean or, for Professional Services, the Registrar and Secretary
  • heads of department or above must obtain approval from their line manager

Once you have completed the travel risk assessment and all travellers have read the online travel training modules, send the risk assessment, accompanied by all the travellers' training certificates, to your head of department or section (or line manager for heads of department or above). Once travel has been approved you should forward the risk assessment and training certificates to the Insurance Officer (Essex users only).

Adventurous activities

If you will be undertaking adventurous activities (e.g. diving, water/air sports, trekking in remote areas, caving) you will need to ensure that the activity is supervised by a suitably qualified person who is familiar with the environment where the activity takes place.

Please read the adventurous activities advice on organising fieldtripsadvice on organising fieldtripsadvice on organising fieldtrips for further guidance on requirements. The following publications are also relevant:

Please note that the University’s travel insurance only covers adventurous activities which are part of work, research or study. If you do plan adventurous activities as part of your own leisure time, you will need to arrange your own insurance.

Other competence and training considerations

Depending on the nature of your trip you may also need to demonstrate additional competence. Those authorising non-UK visits will need to assess the competence of the independent traveller or group leader, taking into account:

  • the nature of the visit
  • the traveller's past experience and knowledge of the country being visited
  • access to competent local support during the visit
  • knowledge of:
    • the University's and your department's standards/requirements for non-UK visits
    • relevant aspects of the UCEA/USHA guidance on health and safety in fieldwork (.pdf)
    • risks associated with the country/environment you are visiting and appropriate precautions to protect yourself and others you are supervising
    • good travel safety practice
    • specialist field skills training should also be considered for higher risk trips
  • experience of:
    • carrying out fieldwork relevant to the trip for which approval is being sought
    • for fieldwork group leaders, managing, leading and supervising groups, possibly under adverse conditions
    • the country/area being visited
    • appropriate qualifications may be required in some circumstances. For example for hazardous activities such as trekking or water sports, unless supervised by a suitably qualified person
    • appropriate first aid qualification where group leaders or supervisors may need to provide first aid

Competence can be gained in a variety of ways, including formal training, self-development or learning from others.

While you are away (all destinations)

Be prepared

Make sure that you know the emergency contact numbers at your destination, how to obtain emergency help from UMAL, Canopius, Control Risks International SOS (or your travel insurance company) and who to contact at the University if you need help. Keep the information with you at all times. It is recommended that you use the form on the back of the Going Overseas? Stay Safe (.pdf) leaflet. Where relevant, a completed Field trip emergency incident procedures form will assist in any response to an emergency situation involving students or staff.

Make a note of the contact details of the nearest British Consulate or Embassy. Find out what help is available and read the Government's guidance on how to deal with a crisis overseas.

Sign up to travel advice while you are away

Once fully registered you can sign up for regular e-mail alerts on the Drum Cussac site. Instructions are on page 10 in UMAL Drum Cussac Online Risk Monitor registration (.pdf, Essex users only).

You can also follow the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) or your nearest British Embassy, High Commission or Consulate on Facebook and Twitter for real-time travel advice. See Gov.uk advice on how to deal with a crisis overseas.


Attacks in the UK and abroad remind us all of the terrorist threat we face. Although these attacks are rare, it is important that you consider the risks in the location where you are travelling, be vigilant and be aware of how to protect yourself if the need arises.

As well as following Country specific advice from Drum Cussac or Gov.UK, you may find the following guidance helpful:

  • Stay safe: Leaflet and film advising on the steps you can take to keep yourself safe in the rare event of a firearms or weapons attack.
  • citizenAID: is a free app which gives guidance on what to do in the event of an incident.

Other tips

Charge your mobile phone daily - you don't want the battery to run out in an emergency or when you are on a long journey in-country. Programme in the numbers of local contacts and emergency contacts. Do not take pre-paid phones unless you know you will be able to top-up credit while abroad, and make sure your phone will work in the country you are going to.

Note the location of hospitals, police stations and the nearest British Embassy, High Commission or Consulate.

Keep in regular contact with friends, family or work colleague, so that they know you are safe.

Road traffic accidents are a significant risk and standards of safe driving vehicle condition can vary. Use reputable transport providers. Choose vehicles with seat belts where possible, and wear them.

Where relevant a completed Field trip emergency incident procedures form will assist in any response to an emergency situation involving students or staff.

Work or study abroad (advice for students and placement organisers)

Students undertaking study abroad will also need to complete the travel insurance application form. Additionally, a formal risk assessment and completion of overseas travel training modules will be needed for: travel to high and extreme risk locations and/or carrying out high-risk activities, (e.g. diving, water/air sports, trekking in remote areas, caving), as part of their study abroad activities. Please see University requirements for travel to high and extreme risk locations or for high risk (adventurous) activities for details. Please note that the student placement overseas travel risk assessment form (.doc) will need to be used.

(Note that if students partake in high-risk activities in their own time they will not be covered by the University’s insurance and so will need to take out their own insurance cover).

Essex Abroad can provide guidance to students who need to carry out a risk assessment if needed.

Students who are arranging their own accommodation should be advised of how to choose safe accommodation. We recommend they are given guidance on choosing safe accommodation (.pdf). They must be advised that the use of AirBnB is not suitable.

Travel security training modules

Students visiting high or extreme risk locations with a risk rating of 4 or above will also need to complete the online travel training modules.

Please read our advice on student placements for further guidance on health and safety requirements.

COVID-19 Overseas Travel

The University has updated its travel process to include a central COVID-19 risk assessment for overseas travel (separate version for students and for staff):

The traveller will be expected to refer to this risk assessment when planning their trip and will be required to check the COVID-19 restrictions of the country they are visiting. The general control measures in this risk assessment will be relevant for the majority of overseas trips, therefore there will no longer be a requirement for a separate COVID-19 risk assessment for every trip.

Where there is an additional COVID-19 risk identified which is over and above that detailed in the central COVID-19 risk assessment (for example if the type of activity increases the risk of transmission, or if the Drum Cussac 2 medical category risk rating is > 3 due to COVID-19) then the traveller will need to address this in the relevant staff overseas travel risk assessment form or student overseas travel risk assessment form, in line with pre-pandemic overseas travel processes. There is no need to duplicate the information already contained in the central COVID-19 travel risk assessment. Only additional COVID-19 risks need to be considered on the overseas travel risk assessment.

Further help

The following assistance is also available from the University:

  • coaching or briefings on overseas travel requirements and processes for overseas travel risk assessment can be arranged by contacting Workplace Health, Safety and Wellbeing team (WHSW) or the Insurance Officer (Essex users only)
  • coaching on carrying out overseas travel risk assessment from the Health and Safety Advisory Service 
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