Thousands of British expats and travellers behaving badly or in trouble abroad called on embassies and consulates overseas for help last year.
Astonishingly, just 20 countries accounted for nearly three-quarters of all the cases.
The Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) has compiled a list of the countries where British nationals are most likely to need consular help – headed by The Philippines, Thailand and Jamaica.
In total, more than 35,600 cases were handled worldwide – with 25,800 (72%) handled in the top 20 countries where British nationals most called in the consulate.
Calls for assistance broken down into categories show the number of British expats and travellers involved in serious incidents in the top 20 countries as:
- 4,274 arrests, including 527 for drug offences
- 3,085 people died while overseas
- 2,320 hospitalisations
- 186 rapes and sexual assaults
- 3,039 involving other assistance, like domestic violence, child abuse, accidents and repatriation issues
Overall, the number of cases was down in the year ending March 2013 compared with the previous year. They also showed a decrease of 9% in the top 20 countries, although the number of lost or stolen passports and travel documents was up.
The FCO pointed out that millions of expats and travellers visit other countries and only a small proportion involve calls for help to consular officials.
Know before you go
The FCO also gives some suggestions to British nationals overseas about how to stay out of trouble:
- Check out the health risks in the destination and take precautions like inoculations and buying malaria tablets before travelling
- Take out comprehensive medical insurance as treatment abroad can be expensive and the cost of repatriating a sick person or a body back to the UK can cost thousands of pounds
- Don’t break the law – penalties in some countries for even what would be considered a minor offence at home can lead to hefty fines or even time in jail
Many problems overseas could be avoided if expats and travellers found out more about the country they are visiting before departure, explained the FCO spokesman.
“It’s a good idea to look at the Know Before You Go web site to find out about laws, health risks and other cultural information before travelling,” said an FCO spokesman.
“For instance, some countries have laws against possessing certain drugs available on prescription in the UK. We would always recommend taking out comprehensive travel insurance as well.”