Health and Safety While Overseas

Going on an exchange will expose you to new cultures, people, landscapes, and many other exciting experiences, but it can also expose you to new health and safety risks. While it is impossible to prepare for every potential risk abroad, there are a few standard practices that can go a long way in ensuring your health and safety.

  • Try to maintain a general awareness of what is going on around you. Keep a watchful eye on your surroundings.
  • Avoid large political demonstrations as these could potentially become dangerous.
  • Try to avoid walking alone at night, especially in dimly lit areas.
  • Lock the doors in your accommodation. Even in relatively safe areas petty crime can be common.
  • Keep photocopies and digital backups of important documents such as your Passport and other forms of ID
  • Try to avoid acting in a manner which draws unnecessary attention to yourself
  • Try to carry as few valuables with you as possible, this includes cash. Do not show large amounts of cash in public.
  • Be wary at ATMs. Try to use ATMs that are indoors rather than on the street to avoid being targeted by criminals.
  • Keep your family and friends updated throughout your exchange and especially if you plan to do additional travel.

Register yourself on the Safe Travel section of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade website. This ensures you can be contacted in the event of an emergency/security risk.

Students who are not New Zealand citizens can use the Safe Travel website to check travel information, but should register with consular officials from their home country.

Subscribe to MFAT’s travel advisories and have updates sent directly to your email.

Considerations to Research

Many health and safety risks can be avoided by doing research on your destination. Here are a few suggestions of things to investigate:

  • Learn the local cultural customs and practices of your host culture to avoid offending local sensibilities
  • Learn which areas in your host destination are considered dangerous.
  • Research local laws and law enforcement.
  • Many things that are legal in New Zealand may not be in foreign countries.
  • Look into common illnesses and environmental issues in your host country. This information can help you prepare should you get sick or if a natural disaster occurs.
  • Learn about common forms of crime as well as scams that might target you.
  • Research the availability of any prescription or over the counter medication in your host country. You may need to bring enough medication to last your entire stay.
  • Research reputable forms of transportation. Taxi companies will often try and scam foreigners out of money so make sure you and the taxi driver agree on a price if the car has no meter to keep track of cost.
  • Learn how to contact local Police and Medical Assistance. This includes finding out the local emergency number (it is not 111 in all countries) as well as the contact information for the host university's security office.

Don’t let your research scare you away from going on an exchange. Think of it as a way of guaranteeing that you get the most out of your experience rather than as a deterrent.

In the Event of an Emergency

Should an emergency occur while on exchange, the Wellington Global Exchange office and your host university are here to support you.

Prior to leaving on exchange, you will receive an Overseas Emergency Services card. This card contains contact information for the Wellington Global Exchange office and has room for you to fill in emergency information related to your host university. If you are not in a condition to contact anybody, having this card on your person will allow for others to make contact with Wellington Global Exchange office and your host university on your behalf.

Other things to consider in an emergency:

  • If possible, keep as many people (family, friends, fellow students) and agencies (Wellington Global Exchange, host university) updated as to your whereabouts and condition. This will make it easier for them to assist you
  • Try to stay with people that you trust
  • If you are arrested and/or detained, ask the authorities to contact the local New Zealand embassy.
  • In the event of a natural disaster or terrorist attack, follow whatever evacuation or safety procedures you are given.
  • Do not be afraid to seek help.
  • Your safety is of primary importance. Always prioritize your own safety over other concerns.
  • Feeling panic or extreme anxiety is normal in an emergency. Take things one step at a time and focus on finding a safe environment.

Useful Health and Safety Links

A list of all New Zealand embassies overseas:

SafeTravel provides up to date information on safety concerns throughout the world as well as general tips for staying safe (The section titled “When Things Go Wrong” is definitely worth a look):

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFAT) provides detailed information about New Zealand foreign affairs as well as general travel advice: