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Know Before You Go

FCO Know Before You Go

By Mark Hodson, Editor of 101 Holidays and author of Your Passport to Safer Travel

Wherever you travel this year, we urge you to be safe and be prepared. That’s why 101 Holidays has become a partner of the Foreign & Commonwealth Office in its Know Before You Go campaign.

Before travelling abroad you should do the following:

•       Ensure you have taken out comprehensive travel insurance.

•       Learn about medical requirements at least six weeks before you travel.

•       Understand local laws and customs in the countries you plan to visit.

•       Learn about your destination on the travel advice section of the FCO website.

•       Understand what British consular staff can and can’t do for travellers.

•       Make a copy of your passport and store it in a safe place.

For many people the first time they encounter British consular staff abroad is when something goes wrong, often when they lose a passport. Many assume it is easy to get a replacement. It is not.

If your passport is lost or stolen abroad you must first go to a local police station and complete a written report. You need to take this along with two passport-size photos to the nearest British consulate or embassy – these are listed at www.gov.uk/government/world/organisations.

In theory, you won’t get a new passport unless you have a police report. In practice, the Foreign & Commonwealth Office acknowledges that not all police forces will agree to issue a report for a lost passport. It says “you need to demonstrate that you have at least tried to report the theft”.

A new passport cannot be issued immediately. Staff will first need to run a check on your identity with the UK passport office, and you will need to complete a LS01 form to cancel your old passport.

Clearly, it’s a good idea to take great care of your passport and to keep a safe record of its details. The best back-up is a photocopy of the relevant page in your passport, which you can present to consular staff.

For added security, scan the page and store it online where it can be accessed anywhere in the world. The simplest way to do this is by emailing the scan to a web-based email account such as Gmail or Hotmail (put it in a separate folder so it doesn’t get lost at the bottom of your inbox).

Until July 2009, some consuls were able to issue replacement 10-year passports, but new security rules mean that you will be issued with a machine-readable Emergency Passport which will be valid for less than a year. Before you are given this, you will need to pay a fee in the local currency.

Finally, if you are in a country without a British consulate, you should either contact the consulate of another EU country or a British consulate in a neighbouring country.

Find the latest Foreign & Commonwealth Office travel advice at www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.

Also before you travel read our complete holiday guide.

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