How the Foreign and Commonwealth Office puts together travel advice
Information on how the FCO puts together travel advice.
Each year British people make around 50 million trips abroad. Almost all of these trips are trouble-free. But every year the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) help tens of thousands of British nationals who have got into difficulty overseas. In many cases, these difficulties could have been avoided.
Our travel advice can help make sure you have a trouble-free time while you’re abroad. Read it alongside a good guide book and other resources like social media, online message forums and blogs.
We keep our travel advice under constant review and will update it as quickly as possible if we’re aware of an incident that might significantly affect Britons travelling or living in the area. Our travel advice may be updated several times a day in a developing crisis.
About our foreign travel advice
The purpose of our travel advice is to provide objective information and advice to help you make better-informed decisions about foreign travel. No foreign travel can be guaranteed as safe and you take personal responsibility for any trip you make abroad.
Any decision to travel to, stay in or leave a country is for you to take on your own responsibility on the basis of the best available information from our travel advice and other sources. The government can’t make these decisions for you.
We know our travel advice can have a knock-on effect on trade and political considerations, but we don’t let this determine the advice we give. The safety of British nationals is our main concern.
While every care is taken in preparing our Travel Advice, the FCO does not assume any responsibility, including legal responsibility, to those who read the travel advice and who choose to take it into account when making any decisions relating to a particular country, or to those affected by their decisions. Read our full terms and conditions.
Our sources of information
We base our travel advice on information from a number of sources including local knowledge from our embassies abroad and in some cases information gathered by the intelligence services.
The level of detail in our travel advice may vary from place to place according to the amount of information we are able to gather. For some parts of the world, we may be able to offer very detailed advice; for others less so.
The detail in our travel advice may not always extend to individual streets or neighbourhoods. Even countries that are generally safe to travel to are likely to have neighbourhoods that you may not want to go to, particularly at night. You should seek local advice about these places.
Where the FCO doesn’t have the expertise to offer advice about a particular issue (for example the vaccinations you need before travel), we may link to other sources of information and advice.
When we advise against foreign travel
We sometimes advise against all travel or all but essential travel to a particular place. In cases of non-terrorist threats like coups, civil unrest or natural disasters we will advise against travel only when we consider the risk to British nationals is unacceptably high.
In the case of terrorism we will only advise against travel in situations of extreme and imminent danger, where the threat is sufficiently specific, large-scale or endemic to affect British nationals severely.
Definition of ‘essential travel’
Sometimes we say that only essential travel is advised. Whether travel is essential or not is your own decision. You may have urgent family or business commitments to attend to. Circumstances differ from person to person. Only you can make an informed decision based on the risks. Is it safe for me to travel?
Is it safe for me to travel?
The FCO is often asked whether or not it’s safe to travel to a particular place at a specific time. Wherever you travel, it’s your responsibility to plan for a safe trip and to make decisions about whether or not it’s safe enough for you to travel. Each individual trip is different and each person has their own very different view of what an acceptable level of safety means for them.
No travel is completely safe, but our travel advice always puts your safety first. We try to make objective judgements and we will advise against all or all but essential travel when we judge that the level of risk is unacceptably high.
Different types of traveller
Our travel advice is aimed at British nationals generally, whether they’re visiting or planning a longer stay. Different risk levels may apply to different types of traveller. Some travellers may know the place they’re travelling to very well and blend in with the locals. Other types of traveller may stand out more from the crowd. Some people may be at greater risk in some places – for example people of different gender, ethnic background or sexuality. Whatever your circumstances, you should take personal responsibility for your safety and use our travel advice as one source of information among others.
How we describe the threat from terrorism in each country or territory
We constantly review the threat of international terrorism to inform and advise British nationals travelling and living abroad.
Where possible, we will offer information and advice about the likelihood of an attack taking place, potential targets, details of groups or individuals that are posing the threat and steps being taken to counter the threat. We may also provide details of previous terrorist activity. We don’t advise against travel to every country where there is a risk of terrorists operating.
Information and advice on travel-related risks and disease, including vaccine recommendations, is provided by health professionals in the UK. The country travel advice pages on GOV.UK advise travellers to consult a health professional at least 4 to 6 weeks before travel and to check the information and advice on the National Travel Health Network and Centre’s TravelHealthPro website, NHS (Scotland)’s fitfortravel website and the NHS Choices website.
How travel companies and airlines use our travel advice
Travel companies and airlines often take our advice into account but the decision to cancel or reschedule a flight, holiday, tour or excursion is a decision that can only be taken by the travel company and the customer. The question of refunds is a matter that must be resolved between the customer and the relevant airline, tour operator or travel agent. We don’t dictate when travel can or can’t take place.
If you have booked a package holiday, your travel company must comply with the Package Travel Regulations. Part of this law says that customers are entitled to a refund or an alternative holiday if there has been a significant change since the time of booking.
Travel insurance companies sometimes refer to our travel advice in their policies. For example, your policy may not provide cover if you travel to a country where the FCO advise against all, or all but essential travel. Some travel insurance policies may allow you to claim if you cancel a journey because of a change in our travel advice.
Make sure your travel insurance policy includes the cover you want. See our Travel Insurance page.
The Travel Aware campaign is a joint venture between the FCO and the travel industry to help make sure British travellers are better prepared when they go overseas. The FCO does not endorse any of the companies who are part of the Travel Aware campaign. The FCO is not involved in the production or sale of the companies’ products, nor do we monitor their quality.
Lists of additional resources abroad
British embassies may provide lists of lawyers, translators and doctors, but FCO staff don’t take any responsibility for the competence or probity of any firm or professional on these lists, or for the consequence of any legal action initiated or advice given.
Feeds to third parties
Our travel advice is available through feeds to third parties for use on websites or smartphone applications. These applications may use an edited or cached version of our Travel Advice. The most up-to-date and definitive version of our travel advice will always be available on GOV.UK.