Guidance

How to deal with a crisis overseas

Precautions you should take in case of a crisis overseas and what help and support we can provide.

Overview

British nationals travelling to or resident in areas where a crisis could occur should take sensible precautions. Read and follow the advice provided by the British government and local authorities, and take responsibility for your own safety, particularly if you are travelling to or living in a high risk location.

There may be limits to the assistance the British government can provide in a crisis, depending on the security and transport situation.

Stay informed

Be prepared

  • take out adequate travel insurance; expatriates should assess and consider the risks against any personal or corporate insurance policies

  • if you’re working overseas, familiarise yourself with your own employer’s evacuation and contingency policies, particularly in high risk locations
  • keep in regular contact with family and friends so that they know your whereabouts (you can no longer register your details on LOCATE as this system has been discontinued)
  • make sure your employer has your next of kin details in case of an emergency

  • keep your passport, and those of immediate family members, up to date, and any visas that they may require; during a crisis, local UK passport or visa services may be limited or closed, which could make travelling more complicated

  • find out if your holiday is ATOL protected and what your rights are in the event that your tour operator or travel company collapses before or during your holiday (see the Civil Aviation Authority’s website for more information)

  • you, or your employer, may consider it prudent to lay down sensible supplies of items that would be useful, or more difficult to secure, in an emergency, including sufficient medical supplies (first aid kit, specific prescription medications that you or family members require), a flashlight, batteries, and access to several days’ supply of food and water

  • ensure that your vehicle and any domestic generator fuel supplies are as full as possible

What you should do in an overseas crisis

A large-scale crisis can put a strain on local and international services, potentially leading to delays in routine services or emergency assistance reaching you. You may therefore have to take increased responsibility for your own safety and security during this time, particularly if there is an uncertain security environment.

Precautions and advice

  • during civil or political unrest, or if you feel threatened, leave the country at the earliest opportunity, in line with our travel advice. If you do not, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to assist you to leave the country at a later stage

  • avoid all demonstrations or large gatherings

  • if you are a visitor, remain in touch with your airline or tour operator and insurer.

  • if you are visiting and staying in a hotel, identify the emergency procedures in place, including the location of any emergency shelters or secure areas. Remain in your hotel until it is safe to attempt departure

  • if you are a resident, identify the most secure space in your home (with minimum of external walls, windows and openings) that can be used in case of a security threat. Remain in your home until it is safe to attempt departure

  • in some situations, agree to pay back any costs or fees we incur on your behalf (e.g. travel costs, travel documents, cash advances, charter flight costs) by signing an Undertaking to Repay form

  • secure supplies that may be useful in an emergency, if it is safe to do so. This includes food, water, flashlight, batteries, first aid kit and specific medications that you may need

If you wish to leave, but are unable to do so owing to disruption, cancellation or overload of commercial transportation operations, we advise that you:

  • follow the advice of the local authorities

  • if you are a visitor, remain in touch with your airline/tour operator and insurer

  • remain in your home or hotel, and take sensible precautions, until it is safe to attempt departure

  • if you need consular assistance, call the FCO on (+44) (0) 207 008 1500
  • depending on the crisis and location, we will offer a number of channels for you to request help (eg in person to a member of our crisis team on the ground, by phone, the internet or SMS) - we’ll advertise these channels widely at the time

How we can help you in an overseas crisis

Due to the exceptional nature of crises, it is impossible to predict every eventuality. The information below is an outline of the principles we follow when assisting British nationals and other eligible persons in a crisis.

  • provide travel advice and crisis updates for you on our travel advice pages & social media. We may also set up an information hotline or an information desk at the airport or closest point of safety, if required

  • work with local authorities – including hospitals and police – to establish the facts of the incident

  • work with tour operators and commercial airlines to give the best possible information about their response to incidents which cause significant disruption to travel

  • during terrorist attacks we have in place Exceptional Assistance Measures for victims of terrorist incidents overseas, and their families, to take account of the exceptional nature of terrorism in which individuals are random victims of attacks directed at society as a whole. We will not provide this financial assistance if victims have travelled against our travel advice

  • in exceptional circumstances, we may organise an assisted departure where we help you to access transport, or provide transport for an evacuation to an appropriate place of safety. However, there are limits to the assistance we can provide in a crisis, depending on the security and transport situation. We therefore recommend that if you feel threatened, you should leave the country at the earliest opportunity, if it is safe to do so, in line with our travel advice. If you do not, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to assist you to leave the country at a later stage

  • deploy expert teams to support British nationals and to reinforce our Embassy staff including experts from the British Red Cross and the UK Police Disaster Victim Identification teams

  • during a pandemic we will, as far as possible, continue to provide a consular service for British nationals resident or travelling overseas through our network of embassies, high commissions or consulates. But this may be limited, depending on the scale and severity of the situation. In extreme cases we may have to close our embassies, high commissions or consulates. We will not be able to repatriate British nationals during a pandemic

  • in events causing disruption to British nationals we will liaise with tour operators and commercial airlines to give the best possible information about their response to incidents which cause significant disruption to travel

Who we can support

  • British nationals if injured in a crisis incident or trying to leave the affected region

  • families of any British nationals killed in an incident – in particular around the repatriation of bodies to the UK

  • families of victims coming out to the scene

Help us improve GOV.UK

Please don't include any personal or financial information, for example your National Insurance or credit card numbers.