Emergencies Abroad – How Can the British Embassy Help?

British Embassy, Berlin
28th April 2016

If you run into trouble abroad and go to the British Embassy, you won’t be alone: around 50,000 British people rely on embassy services each year. If you are on holiday without travel insurance, help from the Embassy can be all the more valuable – it’s good to know there’s sympathy and practical, English-speaking help at hand in the event of an emergency abroad.


Who can help you in emergencies abroad?


Boarding pass and passport


The British High Commission helps all British passport holders in Commonwealth countries. In non-Commonwealth countries, you’ll need to contact the British Embassy or Consulate office.


Travel insurance


If you have travel insurance* your insurers should help with your medical arrangements and expenses – make sure you contact them as soon as possible. They will often contact a friend or relative back home for you and even liaise with medical staff to make sure you get the emergency treatment you need until you can return to the UK.


If you have no travel insurance, the nearest British Embassy may be able to make similar arrangements but it will not pay for your emergency medical treatment or repatriation. These costs alone could run to thousands of pounds.


What the British Embassy can and can’t do


British Embassy, Moscow


The British Embassy can:


  • Issue replacement travel documents for a lost or stolen passports
  • Supply lists of local doctors, interpreters, lawyers and even funeral directors
  • Help you contact family or friends in an emergency
  • Send a representative to visit you if you have been arrested or are in hospital
  • Offer support if you are a victim of crime
  • Provide information on how to transfer money from abroad


It cannot:


  • Get you out of prison, investigate a crime or become involved in the country’s crime proceedings
  • Search for missing people
  • Pay bills for you or give you money
  • Make travel arrangements on your behalf – for example, if you miss your flight or lose your ticket
  • Help you enter a country if you don’t have the right visa


The British Embassy is unauthorised to get involved in everyday life issues which are not emergencies. Some of the most bizarre enquiries that the Embassy has received include where to watch football matches, where to book a hotel or even how to get translations for holiday tattoos!


Minister for Consular Affairs, Mark Simmonds explains: “We’re not in a position to help people make travel or social arrangements, but help those facing real problems abroad. These can include victims of crime, bereaved families who’ve lost a loved one abroad or Britons who’ve been arrested or detained.”


How can I contact the British Embassy?

In an emergency, you will be able to find details of your nearest British High Commission, Embassy or Consulate office on the FCO list of worldwide organisations, which includes addresses, opening times and out-of-hours phone numbers.


Before you leave the UK, it’s well worth making a note of the contact details of your nearest centre, just in case you run into difficulties while you are away.


The information provided in this blog is non-advisory and merely meant as a general guide to matters covered in our articles. For more information, please consult a professional advisor.
*All travel insurance provided by Talk to TIM is subject to agreement from the underwriters. Terms and Conditions apply, details of which can be found within the relevant Policy Documents

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