Need help while you’re travelling Australia? In real emergencies ask the FCO. In all other instances, think twice before you call them.

Last year, the Foreign & Commonwealth Office in Belgium was asked if it could recommend a Scottish chef in Brussels who could serve a mean haggis. A traveller in New Zealand thought the FCO was the natural choice for cheap flight recommendations (it isn’t). And a British citizen travelling Italy called their local FCO for advice on TV reception.

In Australia and around the world, FCO contact centres received more than 365,000 calls from British nationals last year. Most were appropriate, asking for help connected with crime, accidents or making arrangements following a death.

But as the FCO’s Know Before You Go campaign has revealed, a staggering 38% were asking for help with things the FCO simply can’t (and shouldn’t) do. Things like this:

  • A caller asking for help with setting up ‘British-style’ hanging baskets at a trade show because the professional gardener hired for the purpose had stage fright
  • A British woman asking the consulate in Albania how to find out if her son’s fiancée was already married
  • A caller asking for advice on how to treat a cat’s infected paw
  • A man called requesting that staff at the Embassy in Mexico City go to the airport to check whether he had left his mobile phone on a plane
  • A caller asking for help in finding his son’s missing suitcase – as it had apparently been lost by a British airline, the caller thought the British consulate would be able to locate it

A significant chunk of requests also relate to events which, with a bit of planning and adequate travel insurance, wouldn’t require the help of the FCO.

As Foreign & Commonwealth Office Minister, David Lidington, said:

“It is important for FCO consular staff to be able to focus on our most vulnerable customers…


“Consular staff support thousands of British nationals who encounter difficulties overseas every year. We will always try to help where we can but there are limits to what we can do, so it’s important for people to be aware of how we can help.


“We can issue an emergency travel document if your passport is lost or stolen, offer support if you become a victim of crime or visit you in hospital or prison, but we aren’t able to pay medical bills, give legal advice or get you out of jail, or indeed act as veterinary surgeons.”

You can find more information on how the FCO can help you if you get into difficulties while travelling Australia here.
And you can find out more about the #TravelAware campaign (formerly Know Before You Go) here.

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