News tips Holiday hazards: How to cope if things go wrong abroad

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Holiday hazards: How to cope if things go wrong abroad

Losing a passport, phone or wallet is a guaranteed way to ruin your holiday, or at least sour your mood for an hour or two. But what should you do if the worst happens? With advice direct from the Foreign Office, we’ve put together a guide to help you cope should things not go according to plan while you're on holiday.

What should you do if you lose your passport?

While losing your passport abroad isn’t something we’d recommend, it’s not the end of the world, although you’ll need to get in touch with your local consulate as soon as possible. “If your passport has been lost or stolen, our consulates may be able to provide you with an Emergency Travel Document to enable you to get home, but this is something you’ll have to pay for,” says Martin Redmond at the Foreign Office’s Communications and Engagement department. His advice? Avoid losing it in the first place. “Lock your passport away in a hotel safe, or if this isn’t possible, ensure it’s always out of sight, and ideally inside a zipped pocket,” adds Martin.


What should you do if you lose your wallet, or if it’s stolen?

If you lose your wallet or purse, your first priority should always be to cancel your bank cards. “We advise people to contact their bank immediately to cancel their cards, and then report the theft to the local police,” says Mr. Redmond. “If required, the consulate can help you to contact friends and family in order to get money transferred. But travellers should always try and keep some spare cash at their accommodation.”

What should you do if you lose your mobile phone?

If you lose your phone while abroad, the most important thing is to cancel your contract straight away. If you don’t, and somebody else uses it afterwards, you could be liable for any charges incurred. If you think there’s a chance you might find it, simply ask your service provider to place a temporary bar on the phone so that you can use it again if it’s returned to you. Heading overseas? Don’t leave home without checking out our seven top tips for safer travels.

woman taking selfie on phone

What should you do if you end up in hospital?

If a serious illness or injury results in a hospital stay and you need help contacting loved ones or arranging your return journey home, staff at the local UK consulate will often be able to help. “If you’re hospitalised, we aim to contact you within 24 hours of being notified,” says Martin. “We will then make an assessment in order to provide assistance according to your needs. This may include a visit if you’re particularly vulnerable.”

What happens if I’m injured and I haven’t got travel insurance?

This is one scenario where you shouldn’t expect much assistance. The growing number of injured tourists setting up crowd-funding sites from their hospital bed is a stark reminder that insurance is still something many people forget to purchase – despite the fact that a week’s insurance can cost just a few pounds. And if you decide to skip it, don’t expect any financial assistance from the Foreign Office. “People should make sure they’re covered for any medical bills because the consulate cannot pay these for you,” warns Martin. “Everyone should take out appropriate travel insurance before travelling, and insure it covers them for every activity they might be doing,” says Martin.

insurance document

What can’t the UK Foreign Office help you with?

Knowing what the Foreign Office can and can’t help with could save you significant amounts of time and effort. “We receive a lot of enquiries from non-British nationals about obtaining visas for example, but these are dealt with by our colleagues at UK Visa and Immigration,” points out Martin. “Our contact centres receive a very wide range of queries. We’ve certainly had some strange requests in the past. One lady called asking us to recommend a chef who could cook haggis; we also had a gentleman ask us whether we could help treat his cat’s infected paw!”

Finally, remember that although staff at the Foreign Office’s consulates might well be able to provide assistance in a wide range of scenarios, if you fall foul of the law in the country you’re visiting, there’s little they can do. “We can give general information about local police and legal procedures,” explains Martin. “But we cannot intervene in criminal investigations or the legal processes of other countries, nor can we give legal advice, although we can suggest where to get it.” Going it alone? Don’t panic – we’ve come to the rescue with our top tips for solo travelers.


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