Almost a third of all backpackers will either fall ill, miss a flight or become a victim of crime when they are travelling, research commissioned by the Foreign Office reveals today.

The survey, by Mori, suggests their misadventure is often avoidable. Nearly half of those who experienced problems abroad admitted they should have taken more time to research their destination. Richard Morris, deputy head of the Foreign Office's consular division, said: "The survey results highlight the fact that many holidays off the beaten track are spoilt because people don't do some basic preparation beforehand.

"Backpacking or going it alone is tremendously rewarding, but it can end up being very expensive and worse if you don't have insurance."

Of the 2,006 adults surveyed, 13 per cent of independent tourists or backpackers have fallen ill, almost one-tenth have missed flights and one in 16 has been mugged. The survey revealed 17 per cent of those questioned felt with hindsight they should have had vaccinations or taken tablets before embarking on their trip.

One in five admitted they had travelled independently without insurance while 6 per cent never bothered with insurance. One in 10 of those who have run into problems acknowledged they should have taken out cover but, of those who had chosen not to, 23 per cent thought it was unnecessary, while 15 per cent believed the trip was "too short to worry about".

Young travellers were also more likely to become caught up in a civil disturbance (13 per cent against an average of 5 per cent for all travellers).