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Understanding Embassy Services

By: Maggie Lonsdale BA (hons) - Updated: 25 Dec 2012 | comments*Discuss
Embassy Consulate British Embassies Help

British Embassies and Consulates across the world are there to offer help and support to British people in difficulty abroad.

While they are able to help in a huge number of circumstances, there is a growing awareness that some British people abroad are not taking adequate precautions for their safety and so there are relatively strict guidelines as to what can or cannot be done.

Embassies and Consulates are found in most countries around the world; the details of your nearest can be found easily on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website. If you are in a remote place which does not have its own representative office, such as some of the small but popular honeymoon islands like the Maldives, you will be covered by the nearest major city, in this case Sri Lanka. You can also request services from other Embassies in the EU.

How Can a British Embassy Help?

An important definition to be aware of is that British Embassies or Consulates are not, unless in very exceptional circumstances, able to help you with money or, in the event of health issues or committing a crime, enable you to be treated any more favourably than a local.

As such, there is no point travelling to a country with, for example, strict alcohol laws, to then call upon the Embassy to help you when you get into trouble for being drunk and disorderly. British Embassies and Consulates take personal responsibility very seriously, although they do promise not to support as much as possible. Even if your requirements are not within the Embassy remit, they will be able to direct you to the right place, especially in a country where you are unlikely to speak the language or understand cultural norms.

It is worth noting that Embassies and Consulates will not help you in situations where you could be reasonably expected to deal with the situation yourself. For example, if you do not have the money for a return ticket from a trip overseas, the Embassy will contact your friends and/or family to help you pay for the ticket, rather than pay for it.

Most British people abroad that need to contact their local British Embassy or Consulate have an issue that is related to the law, drugs, money or health. Although the offices are keen to point out what they will not do, they are also passionate about helping British people in difficulty, so even if they cannot ‘solve’ your problem, they can help you to solve it. This means that it is always a good idea to contact your local Embassy or Consulate if you find yourself abroad and in trouble, as they will help you.

Where to Get Help

If you are unsure how to contact a British Embassy or Consulate if you are abroad and in trouble, and do not have access to the internet to check the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website, you are advised to go to the nearest police station, although hotel receptions and official tour operators should also be able to help you. It is recommended that you do this as soon as you find yourself in difficulty, as sometimes cultural differences and desperation can conspire to make a difficult situation even harder.

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