Go-Overland.com - Risks

home The Overland Expedition Resource
tours & transferstravel healthvisa informationoverland traveltravel shop
contact first48help & questionssearch Uncover the World websiteUncover the WorldUncover the World network
Home > Independent Overlanding > Articles > Risks


Short Stories


Country Guides



Overland History

Charity Events







General Articles





It is not easy to make an objective assessment of the risks involved in undertaking long distance overland travel. You will talk to people who will be completely negative and who are inherently not willing to take any risks at all. At the other extreme there are those who say "go for it" without a thought for the risks. So make your own list and judge for yourself whether the risks involved exceed the level you are willing to accept.

Here is my list of risks.

Medical/hygiene risks
The first thing is not to get ill! Strict hygiene is important - only drink (and clean your teeth in) carefully filtered water or bottled water (as long as you aren't sold a bottle refilled from the nearest tap). Don't eat any suspect food specially pork, fruit and salads. Well cooked food is best but take care over meat. Many long distance travellers take ample supplies of food from home.

If you do get ill many expeditions have found that the giant medical kit is not a lot of use and a patch up and move to "hospital" approach is better. Do get all the jabs and make sure you do this in ample time - some courses need up to 6 months to have lasting effect. Do take a medical kit and include at least 10 sterile hypodermics.

As a last resort there is Medivac. This is a great imponderable as it depends on how near an airport you happen to be. I could go into a lot of detail about this but it's too much at this point.

Political risks
Another imponderable. In 3rd world countries, problems can flare up overnight. Use the Foreign Office's advice to travellers info service (available on the internet). The USA also provides good advice. Keep in touch with world events and use the BBC world service on shortwave while travelling. Obviously avoid any trouble spots

Vehicle capability
This means that the vehicle you use is capable of coping with any conceivable conditions you are likely to meet along the route with a margin to spare. As with most things this is bound to involve compromises. Do you take a 4x4? What size of vehicle do you take? Well a 4x4 is more capable than a 4x2 of traversing difficult terrain. However, a well driven 4x2 can do better than a poorly driven 4x4. The size of vehicle depends on the weight of supplies you want to take and the quality of accommodation you want. In general a small 4x4 (eg a land rover) will cope with most things but you won't be very comfortable. If you want the ultimate, the 6x6 Pinzgauer expedition vehicle can go virtually anywhere and still provide lots of room at an astronomic price.

So what sort of roads are we likely to meet. I don't know yet. The club will have info on this from their recces. However our view here is that there will be 100s of miles of unmade roads with numerous potholes - lots of dust with the occasional diversion into the fields. If you add in bad weather (so there's lots of mud) then that's probably the worst we will meet. Weather data can be checked for the route.

Vehicle reliability
It goes without saying that on such a journey, reliability is paramount. This means that all vehicle systems must function at all times required without breakdown. Breakdown can occur for a number of reasons:- poor design, inadequate maintenance, misuse, foreign substances, age, inherent faults etc. So the choice of vehicle requires consideration of all these factors some of which are fixed at the point of purchase and others which depend on how well you treat it in use.

Accidents/natural hazards
You will probably be faced with crazy drivers, crazy pedestrians, animals, dust, extreme heat, extreme cold, getting stuck, tracks with deep ruts, deep wading, and rocks on the track - see later.

You will need to prepare your van thoroughly, prepare yourself (get training if necessary), drive defensively, be aware of your surroundings (if in doubt - don't) and be aware of safety within your van.

It is wise to take the fullest precautions to thief proof your vehicle. These measures where possible should be aimed at keeping thieves away instead of waiting until they have struck and then sounding an alarm. Hijacking a vehicle is not unknown - the thief waits for the owner to open up and then takes over - there are ways to combat this - see later.

On a personal level again be aware of your surroundings at all times - don't enter into any confrontational situations.

Its best to be as self sufficient as possible - this needs a lot of planning. Specialist skills are valuable. A language specialist and a first aider can make a big difference. If the worst happens and outside help is needed then communications are essential. The first line of defence is to travel in convoy with a minimum of 3 vehicles. Help can be sent for. Radio communication is also useful but most countries are very wary of anything looking like a transmitter. A mobile phone in many countries is acceptable but may not be in range when you need it. This can be solved with a satellite phone but these cost a fortune. In addition there is the normal phone (but some countries only have international calls through an operator with considerable delay) and e-mail via the web as hotmail.

Simply summed up as - have the right paperwork, don't ever lose it, and be patient. Otherwise the consequences can be disastrous.

You may be able to think of other risks.

Are you still with us? Not put off? Good preparation is the key and this requires thought, planning and a lot of effort. You will have your own ideas and budget. Hopefully our own ideas that follow will give you a good start in making your own preparations.

Written by Clive Barker in preparation for UK to China and back.


terms of usedotprivacy policydotaffiliates and jobsdotabout Uncover the World
Copyright © 2009 Uncover the World Limited. All rights reserved. Contact the webmaster. All maps & flags copyright © Uncover the World.