/ Travel & Leisure

FCO: How we helped 17,000 Brits abroad last year

Bursting holiday suitcase

In this guest post from the FCO’s Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, James Duddridge, we find out how the Government helps British holiday-makers when they experience holiday hassles overseas…

I was delighted to hear that Which? had launched a travel campaign this summer, because holiday hassles happen to the best of us. Whether it’s misplacing your valuables, getting into an accident or finding that your luggage has decided to holiday in a different destination entirely, there’s a long list of things that can go wrong when travelling abroad.

Having been recently appointed as Minister responsible for Consular Affairs at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, I know that many British nationals and their families turn to the FCO for support when things go wrong – whether that’s losing their valuables, hospitalisations or even, tragically, when British people lose their lives overseas.

Whilst it’s important to remember that most people travel abroad without encountering difficulties, in 2013/2014 our consular staff still helped over 17,000 British nationals who needed serious assistance.

Know Before You Go

Sometimes problems are unavoidable – when a British national finds his or herself caught up in a natural disaster or fast-moving political crisis, for example. But many cases are preventable.

In one of our recent ‘Know Before You Go’ campaigns we highlighted a case in Japan from last year, where two British tourists were arrested for swimming across the moat of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo – which would be the equivalent of trying to break into Buckingham Palace!

This is an extreme example but I think it makes my point, which is this – for any British national who gets into difficulties overseas, we’ll always try our best to help, but we’d much rather people prepare appropriately beforehand to help avoid getting into trouble. For most of us, doing a little research before departing and behaving responsibly when you arrive can make all the difference.

Simple steps of preparation such as ensuring that you have all the necessary visas, taking out comprehensive travel insurance and researching your destination and any health requirements, can go a long way to helping ensure that your holiday this summer is one to remember, rather than one to forget.

These are certainly on my to-do list before I travel abroad. We can all do things to help stop the #HolidayHassles.

For more information on what the FCO can do to help British nationals overseas, see Support for British nationals abroad: a guide. Country-specific travel advice and a handy travel checklist can be found on GOV.UK. You can also follow @FCOTravel on Twitter and Facebook.

Which? Conversation provides guest spots to external contributors. This is from James Duddridge, Minister responsible for Consular Affairs at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office. All opinions expressed here are his own, not necessarily those of Which?.