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British behaviour abroad - Foreign Office reports

A lack of travel insurance and inadequate preparation compound the hazards faced by many Britons abroad, according to the Foreign Office’s new British Behaviour Abroad report.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

The Foreign Office’s latest British Behaviour Abroad report shows that Britons are still getting into preventable problems abroad. The report is based on incident figures reported by British visitors and residents to FCO offices around the world between April 2009 and March 2010.

Whilst lost or stolen passports were by far the most frequent problem encountered by British tourists and residents (27,272 reported incidents worldwide), other more serious problems highlighted by the report include drink and drug-related arrests, high numbers of road traffic accidents, and extremely high treatment and repatriation bills resulting from a lack of adequate travel insurance.

Arrests and drug offences

The report shows high numbers of drink1 and drug related cases: 944 Brits were arrested for drug-related offences last year, accounting for a seventh of all arrests of British Nationals around the globe.

Lack of preparation

Separate FCO research2 also highlights a risky lack of preparation, leading to many preventable incidents. Research found that Britons are spending an average £12.00 at the airport on magazines and sweets - more than double the cost of a standard single trip insurance policy3 - yet one in five (19%)4 are still travelling without travel insurance. Britons are also spending nearly twenty minutes longer cleaning their house before they go abroad (46 minutes), than they do researching the local laws and customs of where they are travelling to.

Spain is at the top of the list for consular assistance cases (5,283), although as a proportion of British visitors and residents, most assistance was needed by Britons in Thailand (957), Pakistan (273), and Cyprus (736). There were 563 British deaths in Germany and 471 Britons hospitalised in Greece. In addition to assistance cases, FCO staff around the world dealt with 1.95m consular enquiries last year.5

Preventable problems

With so many of the reported incidents being preventable, the FCO is appealing to British Nationals travelling or going to live abroad to make some simple preparations before they go in order to minimise preventable problems.

Foreign & Commonwealth Office Minister, Jeremy Browne, said:

“This report shines a light on the number of Britons who get into difficulty abroad each year. The worrying fact is that so many of these situations are preventable. Helping out Britons in trouble abroad is part of our job, but we can?t get you out of jail or pay your hospital bills.

A bit of preparation before you go, such as arranging travel insurance and checking our website, will ensure you get the most out of your trip without bad memories and big bills.

The message from the Foreign Office is clear - have a great time while travelling or living abroad, but make the necessary preparations before you go.”

Jeremy Browne: ‘Prevention is better than cure’


In this video, Minister for Consular Affairs Jeremy Browne explains the key precautions you can take to avoid getting into problems when travelling.

You can download the British Behaviour Abroad report 2009 - 2010 here (PDF 160 KB)

For more travel advice and information, see Travel and Living abroad

Published 16 July 2010