It’s that time of year again when everyone it seems is starting to plan their vacations for the coming year. Choice of destination is very often decided by the glossy photos of sun kissed shores, fine sand and turquoise waters. But everything is not always as rosy as it at first appears.
What I’m not going to do in this short article is delve into the Do’s and Don’ts of overseas travel, I just want to make you aware of an outstanding travel advisory resource.
Let me tell you a story.
In July 2008, a friend of mine booked his annual holiday and for the first time decided to visit Turkey. An increasingly popular tourist destination over recent years with just over 2 million Britons visiting in that year alone. No cause for concern there then…..Right up until he was robbed at knife-point in a quiet, unlit area of Istanbul where he had been enthusiastically checking out “the real Turkey.”
Goodbye cash, credit cards, passport and all other means of identification. He’d managed to hold on to his mobile phone but didn’t know any emergency or police numbers to call. After eventually trudging back to his hotel, in a very shocked state, he was able to obtain contact details for the British Consulate and make arrangements to rectify the situation and get his holiday back on track.
Go To Jail – Go Directly To Jail – Do Not Pass Go!
The next day my hungry friend (he had no money for breakfast) made his way on foot (he had no money for a taxi) towards the consulate only to get caught up in the aftermath of a terrorist attack on the US Consulate a short distance away. 3 dead Police Officers and 3 Dead PKK terrorists equals utter panic and a lot of checking of identity documents – of which he had none! And that is an offence in Turkey.
Lets just say that he didn’t spend that night in his hotel room. With more pressing matters on their minds that day, it was a good few hours before my friend said goodbye to his Police hosts and finally made it to the Consulate a day later. His intended 2 day short stay in Istanbul before going on to Marmaris had extended to 4 days after which time he was more than ready to return to the UK and start saving for next years holiday – to the Isle of Wight!!
And The Winner Is……
Now remember, the point of this story – it’s true by the way – is not in any way to detract from Turkey (which is a fantastic vacation destination), it’s to give you an indispensable travel resource that almost certainly would have helped prevent this disaster if only my friend had consulted it and followed a few very simple and readily available tips.
The travel resource I’m talking about is: The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO)
(In Australia: The Government ‘Safe Traveller’ Website)
(In USA: Department of State Website – International Travel Page)
What Do You Get?
A couple of mouse clicks takes you to the ‘Travel and Living Abroad’ page of the FCO Website. This is a publicly accessible site that is jammed packed full of useful information on overseas travel including topics such as:
Staying Safe and Healthy
Crime and Terrorism
What To Do If Things Go Wrong
Local Laws and Customs
Emergency Points of Contact
Responsible Ethical and Environmentally Considerate Travel
Registering of Births, Deaths and Marriages and much much more.
Planning a trip with advice from this site in mind would have discouraged my friend from visiting certain dangerous areas, advised him to store important local numbers in his phone, prepare duplicate copies of important identity documents and to be aware of criminal and terrorist activity. In short he could have avoided the whole sorry episode.
Is It Really Necessary?
Am I being melodramatic? Well, not when you consider that last year 715 Britons required Consular assistance after having their passports stolen whilst on vacation in… Italy.
So remember. A vacation (or holiday as we Brits call them) is supposed to be a time to rest, relax, unwind and enjoy yourself. A little bit of research beforehand will help ensure a safe and happy holiday/vacation and will also equip you to deal with any problems that do arise, keeping stress to a minimum.
Here’s to Safe and Happy Travelling