The report, based on consular assistance cases reported by FCO offices, reveals that over the period April 2008 – March 2009, nearly 4000 British nationals required assistance from the FCO whilst staying in Africa or the Caribbean.
These regions have their own risks to travellers, especially health related ones. Assistance whilst in hospital and in the event of a death was a problem for many British travellers staying in Africa and the Caribbean, with over 700 cases reported last year. Incidents such as assault, theft and missing persons also ranked highly across the regions, making up 65% of consular cases in Trinidad & Tobago, 54% in Nigeria, 46% in Zimbabwe and over 30% in St Lucia, South Africa and Ghana. Lost and stolen passports also ranked highly with 2258 incidents reported.
Philip Lord, Know Before You Go spokesperson at the FCO, says, “Travel to Africa and the Caribbean is becoming increasingly popular with over 3 million British travellers visiting in 2008. Many are visiting friends, or have family roots in the region, and therefore neglect to take out travel insurance or take health precautions. This can lead to serious and expensive problems”
Chris Bryant, Foreign Office Minister says: “Pre-travel preparation can be vital, as parts of Africa can be a challenging place for many visitors and situations can arise that cannot be dealt with as easily as if you were at home. If you were to fall ill, be injured, be a victim of crime or lose your luggage, then being protected by travel insurance can help with resolving your problem more efficiently. That’s why we’re encouraging everyone travelling to Africa and the Caribbean to check the FCO website (www.fco.gov.uk/travel) for advice on the simple steps they can take to have a safe and enjoyable trip.”
The FCO advises British nationals travelling to Africa or the Caribbean to take the following action:
1. ALWAYS TAKE OUT TRAVEL INSURANCE
• Medical expenses can be extortionate for example it can cost approximately £35,000 to get transported by air ambulance back to the UK from the Caribbean
• It is unlikely you will have free access to good quality medical treatment, and costs can be extremely high if you become ill or injured
• If you are a dual national, seek advice from your insurer on whether this affects your cover
2.VISIT YOUR GP TO CHECK WHETHER YOU OR YOUR FAMILY NEED VACCINATIONS OR OTHER HEALTH PRECAUTIONS, SUCH AS ANTI-MALARIALS
• Even if you have lived in a country in the past, you may no longer be immune to diseases local to that region
• Ensure all required vaccinations are up-to-date and take anti malarials if needed
• Check the Department of Health website at www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk for advice on current inoculations required for the country you are planning to visit
3. UPDATE YOURSELF ON THE AREA YOU’RE TRAVELLING TO
• The situation in countries can change very quickly. For up to date country information, check the Foreign Office website on www.fco.gov.uk/travel and click on ‘Travel Advice By Country’.
• Register online with LOCATE to make it easier for the FCO to find you in case of a crisis. For more information visit www.fco.gov.uk/locate and click on the ‘online form’ to add your details.
4. ENSURE ALL DOCUMENTATION IS CORRECT
• Make sure the name on your passport is the same one you give when booking flights and arranging other travel documentation
• If you have dual nationality, make sure you have entry clearance when you arrive at your destination, and that you have right of re-entry to the UK.
• Make a photocopy of the relevant pages in your passports (back page of your British passport containing your photograph and pages with relevant immigration stamps or vignettes on) and keep them separately to your originals.
5. KNOW YOUR NATIONALITY STATUS
• If you are a dual national in the country of your other nationality, Her Majesty’s Government can provide you with consular assistance only if there is a special humanitarian reason to do so. These circumstances might include cases involving minors or an offence which carries a death penalty.
• Dual nationals in their country of other nationality are not normally eligible for consular assistance.
6. KNOW THE FOOD IMPORT LAWS
• It is illegal to bring meat products & pickles, milk, dairy or other animal products (e.g. bushmeat, fish, eggs, honey), chestnuts, potatoes or potato seeds into the UK from any country outside the EU.
• Check www.direct.gov.uk/foodimports for more information.
Examples of what the Foreign Office can and cannot do for you when you are in Africa or the Caribbean:
• Issue a replacement passport if yours is lost or stolen
• Provide help if you have been the victim of crime or are in hospital
• Provide details of local lawyers, interpreters, doctors and funeral directors
• Offer support in cases of child abduction, death of relatives, missing people or kidnapping
• Make special arrangements in cases of terrorism, civil disturbance or natural disaster
• Help you enter a country, for example if you do not have a visa or your passport is not valid
• Give you legal advice, investigate crimes or carry out searches for missing people
• Get you better treatment in hospital or prison than is given to local people
• Pay any bills or give you money
• Make travel arrangements for you or business arrangements on your behalf
• Get involved in land disputes
• Check ‘Support for British Nationals Abroad: A Guide’ on the Foreign Office website at www.fco.gov.uk/travel for further information
For specific travel advice by country, visit www.fco.gov.uk/travel