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Thursday, 3 September 2009

Brits abroad running into trouble

  • Published: Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Britons are still getting into trouble abroad, with the biggest problems including drink and drug related cases. Remember that British Embassies and Consulates are there to help in an emergency, but can't get you out of prison.

British Behaviour Abroad report

Arrest and prison overseas and the dangers of drugs abroad

According to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s (FCO) British Behaviour Abroad report, between April 2008 and March 2009:

  • 5,430 Britons needed consular assistance in Spain
  • 1,534 Brits were arrested in the USA
  • 2,446 passports were lost or stolen in Australia
  • 433 Britons were hospitalised in Greece

As well as providing assistance, British Consular staff around the world dealt with 2.1 million enquiries last year.

Foreign Office Minister, Chris Bryant, said: "Helping those who do get into trouble is a vital part of our job, but so many of the problems we deal with can be avoided with a little bit of preparation.

"Researching the local laws and customs before you travel could avoid time in a foreign jail. Getting comprehensive travel insurance means that whilst an accident may disrupt your holiday, it won’t bankrupt you in extortionate medical or repatriation bills.

"The message is clear – have a great time while you’re away, but make the necessary preparations before you go."

Arrests and drug offences

2,290 Britons were arrested in Spain last year, many more than any other country. However, as a proportion of the number of visitors, Britons were most likely to be arrested in:

  • the United Arab Emirates
  • Thailand
  • the USA

There were 991 total arrests for drug offences worldwide which accounted for around a fifth of all arrestable offences.

Topless sunbathing, swearing and public displays of affection can also lead to arrest in some countries. 

Hospitalisations and deaths

The highest number of hospitalisations occurred in Spain, followed by Greece, France then Thailand.

As a proportion of the number of visitors, Britons were most likely to be hospitalised in:

  • Thailand
  • Greece
  • Egypt
  • India

Many of these hospitalisations are due to moped and motorbike accidents as well as drink-related incidents such as balcony falls.


Lost or stolen passports were by far the most frequent problem encountered by British tourists with 29,774 reported incidents worldwide. 

  • 7,548 passports were lost or stolen in Spain
  • 3,228 in the USA
  • 2,446 in Australia
  • 1,932 in France
  • 990 in Germany
  • 871 in South Africa

Travellers are advised to photocopy important documents such as passports and store them separately from the originals to speed up the replacement processes.

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