Travel fears: What worries Brits the most

I'm surprised that terrorism and racism don't rank more highly

With the Christmas holidays imminent, many people are preparing for festive breaks and summer escapes to far flung lands. But, one glance at the news is enough to fill anyone with “travel fears” as headlines range from ‘Christmas travel chaos for millions’ to ‘these five mistakes could blow your holiday travel budget.’

To find out what Brits believe are the biggest travel fears, airport transfers company Taxi2Airport.com surveyed 2,424 people. The research found that Brits are most fearful about the safety/cleanliness of accommodation when travelling abroad (13.9%), followed by the prospect of lost luggage (13.8%) and a misplaced passport or visa (13.7%). Facing disease/medical bills (13.5%) and a language barrier (12.9%) make the top five.

For 12.5% of people it’s the fear of flying or taking an unfamiliar mode of transport. While 12.1% worry about terrorism and 11.6% are fearful of natural disasters. More than 10% of Brits worry about sexual harassment when traveling far from home. Surprisingly, just 9.9% of people are fearful of lack of Wi-Fi or reception. Brits are least concerned by fears surrounding being homesick (7.9%), the exchange rate (6.9%) and racism (5.6%).

This is my “take” on the results.

First, I was slightly surprised that the following was not one of the 20 – fear of being ripped off. In three weeks’ time I’m headed off to one of my favourite spots, Thailand. A common scam there has been to demand money from tourists (sometimes with menaces) for allegedly “damaging” the jet-skis they have hired. The authorities want to clamp down on the practice, but I think their efforts are best described as ‘sketchy’. Not a major consideration for me. I can’t swim, so would never go on one.

Lost luggage can be a pain. Fortunately, I have never had my luggage lost (hope I’m not tempting fate), but one time I went to the Bahamas and, because the plane was so small (my then wife didn’t even want to get on it) there wasn’t room for all the luggage. The items joined us the following day but even one night without your luggage – our children were aged about 10 and eight at the time – was not to be recommended. So, I’m not surprised that this ranks highly on the list.

I’m surprise that terrorism doesn’t rank more highly. I was thinking of saying that much depends on where you are going, but I’m not sure that holds true, sadly. A mental check on countries that have suffered terrorist attacks in recent years suggests there are few places on the map that are “immune” to the problem.

Some of the fears below are unavoidable. I’m thinking of jetlag and exchange rates. Since I have been going to Thailand the exchange rate has literally halved. A place that was cheap and cheerful is now just the latter. You just have to expect jetlag, in my opinion, although the internet is full of suggestions on how to avoid it.

Being homesick should not be a big consideration if you have a return ticket in your pocket.

And last, I find it difficult to agree that racism should be the least of our fears. Like terrorism, few countries are spared displays of racism. It doesn’t have to be about the colour of your skin – though a lot of it is – in my experience there are places on the map where the Brits are as “welcome as a fart in a spacesuit” as Billy Connelly once said on Parkinson. Our colonial past is not appreciated in several countries I have visited.

I used to visit Toulouse on a regular basis – Airbus was a client – and can’t say I truly felt welcome. Maybe books such as Stephen Clarke’s 1,000 Years of Annoying the French don’t help matters between our nations. I found it very amusing, so perhaps my attitude got the response it deserved.

The results:

1Safety/cleanliness of accommodation13.9
2Lost luggage13.8
3Losing passport/visa13.7
4Facing disease/medical bills13.5
5Language barrier12.9
6Getting lost12.7
7Flying (or transport in general)12.5
9Natural disasters11.6
11Sexual harassment10.9
12Breaking unknown laws10.1
13Lack of Wi-Fi or reception9.9
15Causing offence to locals9.6
16Trying local cuisine/unfamiliar foods8.7
17Dealing with customs8.6
18Being homesick7.9
19Exchange rate6.9

The survey comprised 20 fears associated with travel abroad and required respondents to rank each in order of concern (1 = biggest fear, 20 = smallest fear.)

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David Buckley

Dave Buckley is a career journalist. “I once went painting girders for a week and discovered I didn’t like heights,” he says. “Apart from that it has always been journalism for me in one form or another.” Past publications worked for include the South-East London Mercury*, Kent Messenger, Daily Express, Today*, News of the World* and Hong Kong Star*. All those marked with an asterisk no longer exist (trend emerging?). He owned and edited a Thailand-based property magazine before returning to England and currently works as a production editor for an East Midlands-based publishing group.

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