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What We Can Do To Help

This summary highlights some of the main ways you can help yourself stay safe abroad and what help we can provide if you do get into difficulty.

Staying safe overseas
  • Check our travel website on www.fco.gov.uk/travel or call 0845 850 2829. Keep an eye on news reports of any problems in the area you are visiting.

  • Get full travel insurance or an overseas health plan. If you do not take out proper insurance, you will normally have to pay the costs of any emergency yourself, including expensive medical bills.

  • At least six weeks before you go, check with your doctor what vaccinations and other health precautions you may need to take for your trip. Take any prescribed medicine with you and keep it to hand.

  • Make sure your passport is valid and in good condition, and that you have any necessary visas. Fill in the next-of-kin details in your passport.

  • Leave copies of your passport, insurance policy (plus the insurer’s 24-hour emergency number), ticket details, your itinerary and contact details with your family and friends.

  • Take enough money for your trip and some back-up funds, such as traveller’s cheques (in sterling or US dollars) or credit cards. Before you leave, find out how you can replace your traveller’s cheques and credit cards if you lose them, and keep a separate note of their numbers.

  • Before you go, get a good guidebook and get to know your destination. Find out about local laws and customs, and follow them. Be aware of your personal security and take sensible precautions to protect yourself.

Who we can help

We can provide the support detailed in this guide to people outside the UK who are:
  • British nationals (whether or not they normally live in the UK – but see page 7);

  • in certain limited circumstances, British nationals with another nationality – ‘dual nationals’; and

  • European Union or Commonwealth nationals whose country does not have a local mission, in circumstances where we have agreed to help their nationals.

We cannot provide this support to other countries’ nationals, even if they may have been lawfully living in the UK.

DOC A framework for Government provision of support and aftercare for victims of disaster, including acts of terrorism, overseas  (DOC, 49K)


Major catastrophes

Some major catastrophes involving British nationals abroad may need exceptional levels of response beyond what is described in this guide, as detailed on page 30. It is not easy to define every possible circumstance, but these events may be the result of natural disasters or large-scale accidents, or of terrorism or conflict. No one set of responses will meet all circumstances.


If the Foreign Secretary considers an event to be a major catastrophe affecting significant numbers of people we can help, we will:
  • consider very early on whether exceptional help should be provided from public funds;

  • Set up an emergency line for those who believe their loved ones may have been involved;

  • provide information if we have it, and if we believe it to be reliable, to people who have been affected and their family members who we are in contact with; and

  • consider sending appropriate extra staff to the country involved.
When offering you support, we will:
  • be polite and professional;

  • maintain confidentiality;

  • answer enquiries and requests for help in person, on the phone or in writing as soon as possible;

  • explain clearly, from the start, how we can help you;

  • provide appropriate cover so that someone can deal with genuine emergencies outside normal office hours; and

  • make sure our help is accessible and equal to everyone, no matter what their sex, race, age, colour, sexuality, disability or religion.

You should:
  • treat our staff with respect (if you are physically or verbally abusive, we may refuse to continue to help you);

  • have full travel insurance, or health care and any other appropriate cover if you live abroad;

  • have made preparations before travelling, for example, packing medicine, having any necessary vaccinations, and leaving details of your itinerary with family or friends;

  • have researched your destination, including checking our travel website;

  • follow local laws;

  • take local advice about what is safe or unsafe, and follow this advice;

  • avoid unnecessary risks and take care of your travel documents and money; and

  • be prepared to pay for some types of consular support, for example, issuing an emergency passport (we do not make a profit from these charges but instead use the funds to help British nationals).