The report, based on consular assistance cases reported by FCO offices, reveals that over the period April 2008 – March 2009, 1411 British visitors to India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka reported problems to the FCO whilst staying in the country. Nearly 20% of all reported consular cases in India required assistance whilst in hospital and nearly half needed support in the event of a death. For British travellers in Pakistan, 86% of consular cases were to do with issues such as child abduction, missing persons, assault and forced marriage. Lost or stolen passports also ranked highly with 687 incidents reported across the region.
David Grahame, Consular Regional Director in South Asia says: “South Asia is an increasingly popular region for many British travellers. Last year India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka attracted approximately 1,189,000 visitors from the UK alone, a significant proportion of whom went to visit family and friends. Although lost and stolen passports remains the number one incident for travellers, we deal with many situations, including hospitalisations where British travellers haven’t got travel insurance and end up with enormous medical bills. We therefore urge anyone travelling to these countries to be fully prepared and visit www.fco.gov.uk/travel before flying out.”
Jess Prasad, Know Before You Go (KBYG) Campaign Manager at the FCO says, “Many British Asians regularly travel to South Asian countries such as India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Many make the assumption that because they have friends and family there, or because they once lived there, that they do not need to take health precautions or get travel insurance. This can lead to serious and expensive problems whilst abroad, which could be avoided by making simple pre-tip preparations.”
The FCO advises British nationals travelling to India, Pakistan and other South Asian countries to take the following action:
1. Always take out travel insurance
• Medical expenses can be extortionate. For example it can cost up to £45,000 to get transported by air ambulance back to the UK from the Indian subcontinent
• 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 as to 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
• 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, forced marriages or an offence which carries the death penalty.
• If you or your father were born in Pakistan, Bangladesh or India, you may be considered a national of that country by the authorities, even if you don’t hold a passport of that country. This, again, may limit the assistance that the British government can offer you – so the onus is on you to be prepared for your trip.
6. Know the food import laws
• It is illegal to bring meat products & pickles, milk, dairy or other animal products (e.g. fish, eggs, honey, mithai), 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 countries such as India, Pakistan, Bangladesh or Sri Lanka
• Issue a replacement passport (for a fee) if yours is lost or stolen
• Provide appropriate 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 kidnapping and forced marriages
• 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 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
• Intervene in dowry disputes involving Indian/British marriages
• 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