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British Behaviour Abroad – Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) 2009-10 Report

The report highlights the problems Britons encounter during travel which require assistance from the FCO and their in-country representatives. These include the consequences of; 

  • 944 Britons being arrested for drug related offences
  • 19% of Britons travel without insurance
  • Britons spend only an average of 25 minutes researching local laws and customs of the country they are travelling to
  • The FCO dealt with a staggering (almost) 2 million consular enquiries.
  • Although Spain had the highest number of consular assistance cases with over 14 a day (5283 a year), Thailand had the highest percentage of consular assistance cases per visitor / resident with over 2.6 a day (957 a year).
  • Spain had the highest number of arrests (2012) but once again Thailand had the highest percentage of arrests (249 of which 68 were for drug related offences) followed by UAE (265) and USA (1367).
  • Of the 3689 Britons hospitalised abroad, Spain has the highest number (3689) with Thailand having the highest percentage (199) with Greece second (471) and Egypt third (235). Many of these cases were due to motorbike accidents and drink related incidents.
  • A total of 5930 Britons died abroad with Thailand (292) again the country with the highest percentage of deaths to visitors / residents.
  • 27,272 passports were lost or stolen. For once Thailand (827) only comes third on the list of frequency per visitor, with New Zealand (1662) coming top and South Africa (832) coming second.

The complete report can be downloaded from the Foreign Office website (British Behaviour Abroad).

It should be noted that the figures given above are those for cases where consular assistance was sought or where incidents were reported to the FCO; they do not take into account the many people who fail or choose not to do so. We can therefore assume that to one degree or another, the actual numbers may be significantly higher.

It is highly recommended that if you get into any kind of difficulty when travelling you seek consular assistance. Even in cases where you think you don’t actually need their immediate help we would strongly advise people to make contact, as even seemingly innocuous situation can quickly spiral into serious ones.

The British embassy / consulate / high commission in the country you are visiting will be more than happy to offer assistance in whatever form you believe to be necessary (providing it is within their power / remit to do so). This means they will also be more than happy for you just to touch base with them and let them know the situation you are in.

For example if you fall ill and require hospitalisation, you may be very comfortable with the level of medical treatment you are receiving (many countries round the world have health care which easily matches that which we enjoy in the UK) and your insurance may cover your costs. The benefit of contacting the FCO representative in the country you are visiting is that if your condition suddenly deteriorates, they will already have a knowledge of your case, which will allow them to more quickly contact your family or advise you on other local medical opinions you may wish to seek.

The following are some point worth considering in relation to above snapshot of this report:

Drugs – Avoid illegal drugs at all costs and avoid association with others who may be using / dealing illegal drugs. Availability does not indicate legality and it can generally be assumed that those drugs which are illegal in the UK are illegal in all other parts of the world (in places such as the UAE even many drug which are sold under prescription in the UK are illegal). Do not believe those who tell you that drug use is tolerated; they are either kidding themselves as a drug user; kidding you to ‘impress’ you; or involved in marketing (selling) illegal drugs. In many countries the penalties for drug possession can be significant and even association with drug users can land you inside a very unpleasant prison cell.

Alcohol – Alcohol plays a significant part in many injuries, accidents and fatalities in travellers. When travelling we tend to have a more care-free (invincible) attitude then when at home; which considering the risks in most other countries are higher than in the UK, is actually the exact opposite of the approach we should be taking. Alcohol plays a part in many social activities and there is no particular problem with this in itself; however you should take significantly more care and be aware of the relative strengths (sizes of measures) of alcohol and moderate your consumption when abroad. Avoid mixing alcohol with: unfamiliar locations / people; drugs (illegal & prescription); driving / traffic; especially driving scooters / motorbikes; water (being in or on); heights; cultures & countries where it is illegal or not tolerated; ‘extreme sports’ (skiing, diving, riding etc.); confrontation; more alcohol…  Be aware that being under the influence of alcohol or drugs is likely to invalidate your insurance.

Driving - Road accidents continue to be a significant cause of injury and death abroad, with insufficient care being taken by many travellers in regard to safety equipment which they would routinely use in the UK; these are often ignored on roads where the risks are significantly higher and where local road rules / conditions may be unfamiliar. Make sure you are insured and use the appropriate protective equipment even if locals don’t; over 1.2 million people die on roads around the world each year with over 70% of fatalities being in resource poor countries.

Travel Health – Ensure you visit your GP or travel clinic at least six to eight weeks prior to departure in order to allow enough time to complete any course of vaccinations they recommend. For malaria areas always use prophylactic drugs prescribed by your doctor and ensure you finish the course (this may be up to 4 weeks after travel, but is the most dangerous time as far as contracting malaria goes). Take bite avoidance measures as viruses like Dengue Fever cannot be vaccinated against and no vaccination is 100% full-proof; it is vital to have a combination of vaccinations and proactive prevention measures to ensure the best possible protection. Take out comprehensive travel insurance and make sure you are covered for the areas you intend to visit, the activities you intend to take part in and that your insurance will pay out if you need to be repatriated; make sure you tell the insurance company of any existing medical conditions as these may invalidate your insurance if not disclosed.

Rape & Sexual Assault – the FCO reports 132 cases of rape and 140 cases of sexual assault of which were notified. The numbers reported will certainly significantly misrepresent the actual number of such cases in travellers. Although drink / food spiking will be used in a significant number of cases of sexual assault, this is certainly not the only methodology and such assaults are often accompanied by violence or the threat of violence. It should also be noted that a significant number of these assaults will be carried out by ‘fellow travellers’ and that the drug most commonly used in ‘drug assisted sexual assault / rape’ is alcohol. Stick with people you trust and be careful who you trust; it is better to be self-reliant than to rely on someone you have only recently met.

Documentation – Copy all vital documents, take two copies with you, keep them separate from the originals (I keep a copy in the lining of my daypack and backpack) and leave a copy with someone you trust at home; so that if everything goes missing you can be faxed / emailed a copy. Never allow your passport to be used as a form of security against hire / rental or to secure your accommodation.

FCO – The Foreign & Commonwealth Office can and will provide very useful advice and guidance both prior to and (through their representatives in-country) during travel. However travellers must be self-sufficient and should not rely on the FCO for material assistance. They cannot intervene or supersede local laws and law-makers; they can’t fund you even in the case of serious emergencies; they can not issue ‘get out of jail free cards’. They will help you and your family and friends help yourselves and offer you vital support and advice to assist you in resolving your predicament.


The report contains very useful information and case studies on individual locations and offers a great insight into the problems other travellers have encountered in the countries featured; Australia, Canada, China, Cyprus, Egypt, France, Germany, Greece, India, Italy, New Zealand, Pakistan, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Thailand, Turkey, United Arab Emirates (UAE), USA. If you are visiting any of these countries it is worth a few minutes of your time to read the information on the countries you will be visiting, otherwise see the FCO Country Information page of their website, for more information on every country / territory in the world.

At Safe Gap Year our Independent Travel Safety and Cultural Awareness Workshop considers issues of Travel Safety, alongside sessions on Cultural Awareness, Travel Health, Ethical and Responsible Travel, Travel Equipment, Destination Advice, Transport Options, Documentation, Travel Money and Insurance and more.


To view the original article Click Here

Source – FCO

Date – 16th July 2010

Submitted by – Peter Mayhew