Travelling Safely Overseas

Safe travel guidance from an EDI perspective

As a member of the LSE community, this guidance is intended to support you in preparing for overseas travel. While serious incidents are likely to be rare, it is important to ensure that you are informed about the challenges – and potential risks – that you may encounter when you are away from the UK.

Whether you are a student, a researcher, an academic or a member of professional services staff, we would like to support you to ensure that any overseas travel on behalf of the School is constructive, enjoyable and safe. With respect to equity, diversity and inclusion, this will entail a consideration of how aspects of your identity may affect your experiences and how you are perceived in different settings while overseas. Differences in our personal characteristics and attributes – such as our gender identity, our sexual orientation, our ethnicity and our religious and philosophical beliefs – may lead to different, and perhaps unequal and unfair, treatment from other people and from formal authorities.

In some contexts, being understood to be ‘different’ by others on the strength on your identity or conduct may result from good-natured curiosity and, through discussion and observation, can prove to be the basis of new understandings between groups of people. In other contexts, ‘difference’ can lead to issues and complications, unwanted attention from legal authorities and risks to personal safety.

Though forms of mistreatment are unfortunately a feature of life in the UK today, we have an established legal framework under the Equality Act 2010 that is designed to address discrimination, harassment and victimisation. Depending on your destination, a similar framework may not exist, meaning it is important for you to be aware of the local context and the extent of legal protections in place.

Visiting other parts of the world presents exciting and enriching opportunities for making connections with people, for generating new understandings in the social sciences, for personal and professional growth, and for developing promising collaborations. By outlining important areas of consideration for overseas travel on behalf of the School, we hope that this guide will support you in preparing for a productive and fulfilling time away from the School. Of course, if you would like any further information or to discuss an idea or area of concern, then please get in touch with us (

1. Who is this guidance for?

This guide is intended as a general resource for any member of LSE who is undertaking travel overseas on behalf of the School. As a member of the LSE community, you may have one or more roles as a student, an academic, a researcher or a member of the professional services team, and it is important to consider the challenges that you may face.

The School’s travel insurance provider, and for UK nationals, government agencies such as the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), are a leading source of advice on travel to other countries and of direct support in cases of difficulties. For members of LSE who are citizens of other countries, the information outlined on the FCO’s website is a useful resource for overseas travel, but direct consular support in cases of difficulties will be provided by the authorities of your country of citizenship.

This guide is also intended as a resource for members of LSE who are providing line management or academic supervision to others. Consequently, while the information contained in the guide may not always be relevant to you personally, ensuring that you are aware of the potential issues and complications faced by other members of the School will enable you to support your students and colleagues to develop their awareness of what to consider when travelling overseas.

While it is important for individuals take steps in support of their wellbeing, LSE has a key role to play in encouraging members of the School to being well informed about how to be safe when travelling overseas. In support of this, we intend for the information presented in this guide to enable you to think through your circumstances, how to minimise risk and to be aware of the support available to you. We would like everyone to have equal access to study and professional opportunities.

Some support – such as the EDI Office, Student Services, Staff Counselling and the Health and Safety team – is available at LSE. Other advice is available from specialist organisations – such as Stonewall (for LGBT+ people), Transgender Europe (for trans people) and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO – including, among others, for disabled people and for people with mental health considerations). For UK nationals, the primary source of direct support and assistance is the FCO and the UK consulates located in individual countries. If you’re a member of LSE and are a national of other country, then please ensure that are you familiar with the direct support made available to you by the equivalent consular authorities of your country.

2. Why we created this guidance

The purpose of this guide is to identify key areas of consideration for safe travel, and to signpost important sources of further guidance and support, for staff and students undertaking duties overseas on behalf of the School.

There are likely to be many potential understandings of ‘safety’ when travelling abroad, this guide primarily focuses on safety in relation to the ‘protected characteristics’ articulated in the Equality Act 2010 and to equity, diversity and inclusion in general.

In order to develop your understanding and preparation for travel, we have detailed the challenges you may need to be aware of, suggestions of where to find further information on the contexts of destination countries and the particular concerns for individuals with protected characteristics. We have also included details of important School policies related to support, safety and equal treatment. LSE has an overall duty of care to protect members of the School from discrimination, however it is important to remember that LSE cannot operate above national law.

3. What are examples of work and study that you might undertake overseas?

Depending on your role at LSE, there are a number of potential reasons for going overseas in connection with your work or study at the School. These include:

As a student

  • Enrolling at a partner university as part of a joint degree programme
  • Participating in an exchange programme as a student
  • Pursuing an internship or a work experience opportunity
  • Attending conferences and events
  • Undertaking fieldwork, data-gathering and/or archive visits 

As a member of staff           

  • Undertaking fieldwork, data-gathering and archive visits as an academic or a researcher
  • Spending time as a visiting fellow at another university
  • Setting up a partnership with another university or research institute
  • Attending conferences and events

Visiting alumni groups in particular countries

  • Representing LSE at recruitment events in different regions
  • Providing consulting services for a government agency, commercial entity or non-government organisation
  • Meeting with prospective donors to the School.

4. Protected characteristics

How this is characteristic defined?
A person belonging to a particular age (for example 32 year olds) or range of ages (for example 18 to 30 year olds).
Examples of potential risks associated with this characteristic
No discriminatory risks as such, but travellers should be aware of a more explicit social hierarchy when interacting with older people.

How this is characteristic defined?
A person has a disability if they have a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.
Examples of potential risks associated with this characteristic
Difficulty with accessibility of travel and buildings, availability and accessibility of healthcare and medications, lack of legislative protection, lack of acknowledgment of hidden disabilities and cultural attitude towards ‘ability’ and ‘disability’.  

Gender identity (known as ‘gender reassignment’ in the Equality Act 2010)
How this is characteristic defined?
The process of transitioning from one gender to another. Each person’s transition will be different, and may include, but is not restricted to, physical, psychological, social, and emotional changes.
Examples of potential risks associated with this characteristic
Few jurisdictions legally recognise the gender identity of trans people. Risk of hate crime may be much higher and in many countries legal gender options are restricted to female and male, which therefore excludes non-binary people. A crucial resource for detailed, destination-specific information is the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA).

Marriage and civil partnership
How this is characteristic defined?
Marriage is a union between two people. Same-sex couples in the UK can alternatively have their relationships legally recognised as 'civil partnerships', and a recent legal challenge suggests this right may be extended to all couples. Civil partners must not be treated less favourably than married couples (except where permitted by the Equality Act).
Examples of potential risks associated with this characteristic
Some countries may not recognise marriages of same-sex couples, and regrettably in some countries the relationship may be deemed illegal which could even extend to public displays of affection. Relationships of people who are not married may not be recognised. All of the above may have consequences for accessibility of services such as accommodation and healthcare.

Pregnancy and maternity
How this is characteristic defined?
Pregnancy is the condition of being pregnant or expecting a baby. Maternity refers to the period after the birth, and is linked to maternity leave in the employment context. In the non-work context, protection against maternity discrimination is for 26 weeks after giving birth, and this includes treating a woman unfavourably because she is breastfeeding.
Examples of potential risks associated with this characteristic
Attitudes towards breast feeding in public may be different. Physical health risks may be significantly increased and healthcare provision may differ from that in the UK.

How this is characteristic defined?
Race refers to a group of people defined by their race, colour, and nationality (including citizenship) ethnic or national origins.
Examples of potential risks associated with this characteristic
People of certain ethnicities may attract unwanted attention if a minority in the destination country or may be at increased risk of harassment, hate crime, persecution or racially-motivated violence.

Religion and belief
How this is characteristic defined?
Religion has the meaning usually given to it but belief includes religious and philosophical beliefs including lack of belief (such as Atheism). Generally, a belief should affect your life choices or the way you live for it to be included in the definition.
Examples of potential risks associated with this characteristic
Certain religious groups may be unrecognised, denied, harassed or persecuted. In some countries atheism may not be legally recognised, and atheism, blasphemy or the conversion between religions may be illegal, with serious legal consequences. Brief, destination-specific information can be found on the 'freedom of religion by country’ wiki page.

Sex (‘gender’)
How this is characteristic defined?
A man or a woman. [Please note that the legislative definition is limited in not recognising other forms of gender expression, such as trans or non-binary.]
Examples of potential risks associated with this characteristic
Women still do not have the same rights as men in many countries, and may face restrictions or be targeted when travelling alone. Cultural expectations regarding dress code may be much more explicit, or dictated by law. The Global Gender Gap report compiles detailed statistical data on gender parity around the world.

Sexual orientation
How this is characteristic defined?
Whether a person's sexual attraction is towards their own sex, the opposite sex or to both sexes. [Please note that the legislative definition is limited in not recognising other forms of sexuality, such as asexualism.]
Examples of potential risks associated with this characteristic
Many countries continue to criminalise same-sex relationships and acts, and suppress acknowledgement of same-sex relationships, which has serious consequences for LGB travellers. A crucial resource for detailed, destination-specific information is the IGLA.

5. Before travel

Around the world, there is considerable cultural variation between and within individual countries with regard to attitudes to diversity in personal identities, attributes and lifestyles. Just as this can reflect fascinating culture differences and diversity, it may also lead to forms of intolerance or hostility.  

Though it may be important not to make assumptions or jump to conclusions about how you may be regarded in your destination country, it is helpful to consider the relationship between how you may be perceived by others and the predominance of particular attitudes to difference within local cultures. If you are travelling with friends or family members, you should also consider how this will affect them.

We recommend discussing your trip with your manager or supervisor, who can work through this material with you and should be able to assist in preparing a safe travel plan. If you don’t feel comfortable discussing aspects of your personal identity with your manager, you can contact the Staff Networks, the Faith Centre or the EDI Office before you begin travel planning, and the Health and Safety team can offer formal advice. Whilst travelling, it’s good practice to establish a safe contact in the UK (this could be your manager, or someone else) and arrange regular phone calls to check-in. If this is available to you, it may be helpful to establish a safe contact in your destination country. This could take the form of knowing how to seek consular support in case you encounter any difficulties, but someone you feel personally comfortable with is preferable.

Local groups can act as an excellent resource to understand the lived experience in your destination country. Depending on the information you would like to know, LGBT+ groups or LSE Alumni organisations may be a good place to start, or the local EDI, Ethics or Health and Safety teams at the host institution. The EDI Office can assist with contact in these instances.

Feeling like you need to hide aspects of your personal identity can be an incredibly isolating experience. It could negatively affect your mental health and wellbeing and impact your relationship with your work and your colleagues. Preparing for this in advance of your trip should go some way to help, but we also encourage you to seek support upon your return.

5.1 Legal factors

LSE is a public body, and under the Equality Act 2010 and the Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED), it has a duty to eliminate unlawful discrimination (both direct and indirect), harassment and victimisation in its study and work environments. While the policies and actions of the School do not have a direct connection to the laws in place in countries outside the European Union, LSE has an overall duty of care to its students and staff to protect members of the School from discrimination.

Most travel will take place without incident, but conditions can change rapidly, with little or no warning. LSE therefore ask all those travelling on School business to complete a notification to travel form.

Written risk assessments are not normally required for travel where the risks are no greater than the traveller would experience in their day-to-day life. Where the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has a warning against non-essential travel, or the School's insurer classes the country as a high or extreme threat destination, staff and students will be required to complete a Risk Identification Form and an Overseas Travel Risk Assessment. The completed risk assessments should be authorised by the Head of Department or Service (or equivalent).

For degree students, approval for travel must be granted by the relevant authority as School level. For example PhD students must have approval for fieldwork or periods residing outside of the UK from the Chair of the Research Degrees Sub-Committee via application to the PhD Academy (who can provide advice on requirements)

The legal landscape of your destination country may differ significantly from the UK. In some extreme cases, small gestures such as holding hands with someone may put you in danger. When preparing for your trip, you should research legal factors which are likely to influence how you are treated by local authorities:

  • Lack of anti-discrimination law
  • Restriction of rights such as freedom of expression, assembly or medical freedom
  • Lack of legal recognition of your relationship, religion, parenthood or gender identity (or active denial)
  • Criminalisation of certain activities or behaviours

5.2 Non-legal factors

Although the legal landscape may paint a serious picture, your interaction with local people and the authorities may be more heavily influenced by non-legal factors. Non-legal factors are extensive and nuanced, if you are able to learn about the lived experience from a regular visitor or local citizen, this will add more accurately to your understanding:

  • Religious and cultural customs and practices
  • Prejudicial stereotyping based on gender, colour of skin and ethnicity, national origin, ‘ability’ and ‘disability’, and religious beliefs
  • Social and political hierarchies
  • Gender roles and norms that are informed by particular traditions
  • The consumption and availability of particular foods
  • The consumption or purchase of alcohol (may also be a legal factor)
  • The general context for the coexistence of groups following different faiths
  • Openness to a plurality of political perspectives and freedom of the press
  • The availability of medications and health-related treatments
  • Attitudes to wealth and charitable giving
  • The interplay of two or more of your personal characteristics

5.3 Social media and online presence

It is important to be aware that what you post online while in the UK may be accessible to people elsewhere in the world. This encompasses social media, but also your online presence in relation to publications, talks or conferences.

For example, if you are a person who is LGBT+, it may be that discussing your sexual orientation or gender identity online may give rise to risks and difficulties in other parts of the world.

People whose faith or religious beliefs differ from those that predominate in a destination country may face hostility, perhaps especially in the case of those championing non-belief and atheism in settings with strong religious traditions. This may be a particular concern for members of the School from outside the UK whose belief system has changed while away from their country of origin (whether as a result of converting to a new religion or expressing non-belief), and who are going back to a context where religious freedom is poorly established. State authorities may monitor social media in your destination country.

5.4 Travelling in a group

All members of the group who will be travelling should familiarise themselves with this guide and acknowledge the importance of accidental disclosure when visiting a sensitive environment. Details about personal characteristics which may be freely shared within members of the group at home may be restricted entirely when travelling overseas.

6. During travel

6.1 Staying aware

Monitoring the social and political landscape while you travel is essential to ensuring you have an accurate picture of the situation around you. Before travel, you should discuss this with your manager or supervisor, and you are both encouraged to relay updates during your regular check-ins.

Factors to pay attention to:

  • Public figures who express discriminatory views may ‘normalise’ certain language or behaviours in your destination country. If they are elected into power or make a public statement while you are travelling, this may put you at risk.
  • Dressing in accordance with local customs can go some way to preventing unwanted attention. This may take the form of covering your shoulders or removing your footwear in a place of worship or wearing loose or long items.
  • Understand what is considered respectful and appropriate body language; this includes touching, eye contact, personal space and greetings.
  • The working week may be different to the UK, and services, accommodation offices or transport may be closed. Mapping your day and route ahead of time will help to plan for this. If it’s unsafe, never go out alone at night or travel alone in deserted areas.
  • Gender roles and expectations may be much more prescriptive than in the UK, you may find yourself excluded from certain activities or areas. These expectations may also intersect with your relationship/marital status in terms of accessing accommodation or healthcare.

6.2 In case of difficulty

Contacting the insurer, consular information and support

If you encounter difficulties, legal or otherwise, your first point of contact should be the School’s insurance provider in the first instance. They are able to offer immediate assistance and can advise on consular support in-country, and whether it would be appropriate to contact the authorities. Contact details should be gathered before your trip.

Contact LSE
If you are safe and able to do so, you should then contact LSE. Your manager, supervisor or safe contact should be first. They will determine who is best placed to be your contact in case ongoing support is required.

7. After travel

7.1 Support at LSE

It’s most likely that your trip was successful and enjoyable, however if you experienced any difficulties, or if the experience of feeling like you needed to conceal your identity was uncomfortable or distressing, you are encouraged to utilise the support available at LSE.

Staff Counselling

Student Counselling

Faith Centre

PhD Academy

LSE Student Union Advice Team

BME staff network

Gender Equality Forum
Academic women’s network

LSE Power
Professional women’s network

LGBT+ staff network

Parent’s Network
Parent’s staff network

If you are happy to share your experiences with other's travelling overseas on LSE business, please get in touch with We can use this feedback to review the effectiveness of this guide and develop it as a useful resource for individuals and groups travelling overseas on LSE business.

7.2 Confidentiality

Whilst some of your personal characteristics may be visible, others, such as sexual orientation or gender identity are often invisible. As an organisation, we hope to create an atmosphere where people feel comfortable to speak to about these parts of themselves. Please be assured than any discussion you have with your manager, supervisor or other individual in preparation for safe travel will remain confidential. You may discuss whether you’d like to talk further with anyone else in the School with more specialised knowledge to support your travel planning (e.g. Health and Safety Travel Risk Consultants).

8. Supplementary Information for managers and supervisors

In addition to familiarising yourself with the information included in this guide, the following points are particularly relevant for managers and supervisors.

8.1 Business case

LSE’s reputation as an inclusive place to work and study is powerful and important. Ensuring that our credibility as an institution who is committed to equity, diversity and inclusion remains strong, we have a responsibility to ensure that these values are upheld and applied consistently. Under the Equality Act 2010, we have a duty to protect our employees and students when carrying out LSE business, regardless of where they are in the world.

Having the best possible support for all groups, and ensuring that the best person for the job feels comfortable and able to travel will produce optimum outcomes. Staff feel engaged and empowered if they are able to take advantage of overseas working opportunities, and it will ensure that we are able to develop and retain talented staff.

8.2 Risk & compliance

The School’s Overseas Travel Policy underpins this guidance and outlines our formal responsibilities, along with the Equality Act 2010, Health & Safety at Work Act 1974, the School’s Health and Safety Policy and the Ethics Code. The Fieldwork, overseas travel and off site activities information should be read, and all relevant documentation should be completed in advance of any overseas travel on LSE business, to ensure compliance with LSE travel insurance. Training is available for staff travelling to high risk areas.

Crucially, any decisions regarding travel for LSE business made by the School or its travellers should be guided by the following risk appetite statement:

LSE treats the safety, security, health and well-being of anyone travelling on School business with the utmost importance. The School will not approve any overseas travel where a high residual risk can be foreseen of:

• a traveller, or any of their interlocutors, suffering serious physical or psychological harm; or

• the School’s finances, reputation or ability to attract new talent suffering serious damage.

LSE does not consider any of its overseas activities critical enough to warrant tolerating a greater level of residual risk, regardless of how important the need to travel may be in the opinion of the traveller, their manager or supervisor.

All travel carries a degree of risk, and whilst it is not possible to eliminate these risks entirely, LSE has an obligation to ensure that they are being minimised as far as reasonably practical. If the decision is made not to travel, by the School or by the traveller, based on increased risk in the light of personal characteristics, the employee must be fully supported and understand that the decision will have no negative repercussions on future opportunities or career development.

With the employee’s permission, more detailed guidance can be sought from the Health and Safety team when it comes to risk assessment.

8.3 Supporting your staff and students

Staff or students may or may not feel ready to talk about certain aspects of their identity at work. Ensuring an inclusive environment can help promote discussion, and mentioning protected characteristics and their significance to a travelling group is a crucial step in safe travel preparation.

It’s important to be honest and manage expectations about the support you can offer, and the limitations LSE face when managing experiences abroad. The institution cannot operate above national law.

When an employee or student expresses concern, it’s important to take them seriously. Some may choose not to be out or open about other aspects of their identity, and may be concerned about the visibility of their personal characteristics when travelling.

8.4 Confidentiality

Diversity markers in staff are often invisible, which means that unless employees choose to disclose them, institutions won’t know how best to provide support in travel planning. To address this, we hope to foster an inclusive and accepting environment which encourages people to speak about their personal characteristics. In order to facilitate this, full confidentiality is mandatory in every conversation, and you are encouraged to make this explicitly clear. 

It may be that employees prefer to discuss such matters with someone else in the School before they begin travel planning (e.g. Faith Centre, Staff Networks, EDI).

9. Resources

Able magazine
A disability lifestyle magazine with tips and ideas for travellers.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) foreign travel advice
UK government advice for travelling abroad, destination-specific.

FCO foreign travel advice for people with mental health needs
UK government advice for people with mental health needs to prepare for travelling abroad.

FCO foreign travel for disabled people
UK government advice for disabled travellers preparing for travelling abroad.

FCO LGBT foreign travel advice
UK government advice for LGBT tourists travelling abroad.

Freedom of religion Wikipedia           
Wikipedia page combining history and current statistics on freedom to practice religion overseas. Destination-specific, but some countries with limited info.

Global Gender Gap Report
Compiles detailed statistical data on gender parity around the world.

International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association
Detailed maps and reports reflecting sexual orientation and gender identity laws across the world. Destination-specific.

Limitless Travel
Wheelchair accessible and supported tours for disabled people.

OutRight Action International
Organisation fighting for human rights for LGBT people everywhere.

PFLAG Destination Pride
Data-driven search platform visualising the world's LGBTQ+ laws, rights and social sentiment. 'At a glance' rather than in-depth.

Stonewall Global Workplace Briefings
Detailed, destination-specific briefings outlining the legal, socio-cultural and workplace considerations for LGBT people.

Transgender Europe
Advocacy group supporting the rights of trans people across Europe, with legal and social mapping projects.

Travelling in pregnancy NHS guide
NHS guide, focused on physical health.




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