Safe Sex: Make sure the only things you come back with are souvenirs

When two friends and I were planning our year abroad we were inundated with advice: “’Always stick together’, ‘Don’t get kidnapped’…”, and we also came across the uncomfortable situation of our parents trying to broach the subject of sex. Needless to say these attempts were stopped before they could gain momentum, we were three in-the-know girls and we didn’t need their advice.

My friend’s dad, keen to impart his wisdom to us and keen for us not to escape his advice as we had with so many, took us for a drink one night. Looking over his glasses at us I remember the horror of the moment when he said to us:
“Girls, when you’re away, I want you to be extra safe, you need to triple up, condom, the pill and the morning after pill.”

At first as well as feeling incredibly uncomfortable – I didn’t even talk about my sex life to my own parents – I also felt a bit amused. He was being a bit cautious; there was no need for us to go overboard. We would deal with it if and when that situation arose.

Then I thought about it, I had prepared myself so thoroughly in other ways: I had had a multitude of injections, I had malaria tablets to last me a year and all I had done to prepare for safe sex was a couple of condoms. I didn’t even know whether I could get the morning after pill in the countries I was going to.

In this country contraception is so easily available but what a lot of people don’t realise, me included, is that the situation may not be the same in other countries; even in neighbouring Ireland the morning after pill can only be procured through a prescription and the total price will cost around the same as a night in a hotel. In very Catholic countries in Europe getting the morning after pill can be really difficult, especially if you do not know how to speak the language. Luckily you can get the morning after pill in most countries, but in many places you will only be able to get it in large cities or towns.

Don’t just rely on the morning after pill either as condoms – while generally more available – may not be accessible to you all the time. You don’t want to ruin a trip that you’ve spent a lot of money on with the humiliating experience of trying to explain symptoms of the most private parts of your body in a language you can’t speak properly. I don’t think that’s the kind of experience you went travelling to be.

Ruth Edwards


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