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Faroe Islands - Health and safety
With Dr Felicity Nicholson
The health risks while travelling in the Faroe Islands are minimal and healthcare is of an excellent standard. Language is rarely a problem and health workers are generally proficient in English. However, should you encounter any communication problems, the local tourist office should be able to point you in the direction of a doctor or dentist who does speak English. Under Faroese law, a national of any country is entitled to emergency healthcare in the case of an accident; it is the responsibility of the individual doctor treating you to decide just what ‘emergency care’ consists of. If, however, you suffer from a medical condition requiring regular treatment or medication, this is not free and you will have to pay for all treatment received. It is necessary to present your passport at the hospital to receive any form of emergency care. It goes without saying that you should have comprehensive travel insurance.
As far as safety is concerned, the main risks are the Faroese landscapes – vertical sea cliffs that drop into the sea from heights of up to 900m should obviously be approached with great care. It’s also important to remember that when you’re out in the countryside the weather can change at any moment and hiking conditions can very quickly become hazardous; however, with common sense, it’s unlikely you’ll encounter serious danger. In relation to crime, the Faroes are one of the safest parts of the world you will ever visit: police figures put the yearly number of break-ins and cases of theft at barely 500 for the entire country.
Travel clinics and health information
A full list of current travel clinic websites worldwide is available on www.istm.org. For other journey preparation information, consult www.travelhealthpro.org.uk (UK) or http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/ (US). Information about various medications may be found on www.netdoctor.co.uk/travel. All advice found online should be used in conjunction with expert advice received prior to or during travel.
Women travelling alone are unlikely to encounter any problems. Faroese males are generally well mannered and far too shy to create trouble. On Friday and Saturday nights in Tórshavn, when the beer starts to flow, it’s obviously sensible to keep your wits about you but, once again, you’re unlikely to become the target of abusive behaviour.
Quite remarkably for a country where religion is still widely respected (and feared), there has been a sea-change in attitudes towards homosexuality in recent years. In 2006 it became illegal to discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation following a change in the law. The new legislation was prompted by a well-publicised gay-bashing incident on a well-known musician in a pub in Tórshavn which appalled the public. More recently, in 2012, a staggering 5,000 people (over 10% of the population) marched through the streets of Tórshavn during Faroe Pride, calling for gay marriage to be legalised in the islands, in line with the law in Denmark. Taking their cue from other gay organisations, namely those in Iceland and Denmark, the newly formed Faroese LGBT group has won the support of the media in its campaign for equal rights and is a vocal opponent of any reactionary church leader or politician who argues against equality. For the first time ever, young gay Faroese now have role models to look up to and a public voice.
Faroe Pride is now an annual event and is undoubtedly the best time for any gay traveller to visit the islands; it’s held on 27 July, the day before Olavsøka. Otherwise, there is now a once-monthly gay night, organised by http://lgbt.fo, held at the Sirkus bar in Tórshavn. For more gay information about the Faroes, check out http://lgbt.fo or their Facebook page lgbtforoyar.