FCO - What to Do If Affected by Crisis Overseas

07 Apr 2015 by Olga Brighton

Travel Insurance Tips

In some cases there may be limits to the help FCO can provide during a crisis and accidents abroad, following the FCO travel advice and taking sensible precautions is what every British national should do before they start travelling and whilst staying abroad.

What is crisis?

  • Natural disasters that can lead to injuries and death of many British nationals, as well as major transport accidents, terrorist attacks and pandemics
  • Political and civil unrest
  • Events that may not be life-threatening, but cause disruption and hardship to many British nationals (major airport shutdown, volcanic ash, etc.)
Travel insurance natural disaster

Whom can FCO help?

  • British nationals (whether they live in the UK or not)
  • British nationals with dual citizenship
  • In certain situations, nationals of other EU and Commonwealth states that do not have an embassy of their own
  • Family members of British nationals (spouses and dependent children under 18)

How can FCO help you?

  • Work with local authorities to establish the facts of the crisis and in any British nationals have been affected
  • Support in case you are injured
  • Support in case you are trying to leave the area of crisis or reach your relatives to tell them you are safe
  • Provide travel advice and updates, also on Twitter and Facebook page
  • Send experts to reinforce British Embassy for greater support of British nationals, if required
  • Set up a hotline, sms and online webform facilities for people to contact FCO
  • Support the families of British nationals killed in an incident including repatriation of bodies to the UK
  • Support relatives of a victim coming to the scene of the incident (meeting at the airport, providing information, arranging and attending meetings with local authorities)

Read also: Safety Travel Checklist

Terrorist attacks

Such incidents are exceptional because the individuals involved are random victims of the attacks directed at society as a whole. FCO created Exceptional Assistance Measures for victims and their families. The details of this assistance vary according to the circumstances of each situation. Note that financial assistance can only be provided if the costs are not covered by existing insurance.

Civil unrest

Political or civil unrest

Leave the country as soon as you can, in line with FCO travel advice. It may bу complicated if you are a resident with family in the country, but if you do not leave at the earliest opportunity, FCO may not be able to assist you at a later stage. If your family members are not British nationals, make sure they have up-to-date travel documents for the country of their nationality. Note that during a crisis, visa and passport services of the UK may be extremely limited which can complicate the process of leaving with your non-British family members even more.

Incidents that cause disruption

Collapse of travel companies, volcanic ash, shutdown of the airports are not life-threatening in most cases, but can cause massive disruption to large number of British nationals abroad. Priority of the FCO will be to work with travel companies, local authorities and airports to provide British citizens with their options and also support those experiencing serious health problems. In case of such incident see if your holiday is ATOL protected (see the CAA's website for more information). Also, follow the advice given by by the British Embassy, High Commission or Consulate. If you do not our ability to help will be limited.

Travel pandemic


As far as possible, FCO will continue their consular services, but this may be limited depending on the severity of the situation. In extreme cases British Embassies, High Commissions and Consulates may be closed. Borders of some countries may be closed, disrupting international transport and making travel medically inadvisable. FCO will not be able to repatriate you during a pandemic.

Crisis may catch off guard as they are mostly unpredictable. Ensure the safety of yourself and your loved ones by following FCO travel advice and taking out an appropriate travel insurance policy. This way you will have something and someone to rely on even in the hardest of times.

Read also: Travel Insurance and Health Insurance: What Is the Difference?

We accept