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Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Country travel advice

If you are planning to travel abroad, there is a variety of information and advice available. This section includes advice from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Identity and Passport Service about travel around the world.

Notice of potential threats

You can check the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's (FCO) website for its travel notices about potential threats to personal safety from:

  • political unrest
  • terrorist activities
  • lawlessness
  • violence
  • natural disasters
  • epidemics

The travel notices also give you information on local laws and entry requirements.

The information is reviewed every month and at the time of any significant incident. When an area has a developing crisis, the advice is updated more often, sometimes several times a day.

Cultural awareness

Appreciating cultural and legal differences can help you avoid potentially embarrassing or difficult situations.

It's best to:

  • get a good guidebook and find out about local laws, customs and culture
  • take a phrase book
  • respect local customs and dress codes, think about what you wear and how you fit in
  • be discreet about your views on cultural differences and behave and dress appropriately, particularly when visiting religious sites, markets and rural communities
  • not offend Islamic behaviour relating to sexual relations, alcohol and drugs - in some countries, it's illegal to drink and import alcohol into the country
  • always ask an individual's permission before you take a photograph - in some cultures, taking a woman's photograph can cause great offence
  • not haggle too aggressively, but with humour and not for too long - it is important to remember that the discount could be a few pence for you, but a significant amount for a seller
  • be cautious - behaviour that would be regarded as harmless elsewhere can lead to serious trouble

Travelling in Europe: take your passport

Although the UK is part of the European Union (EU), you still need to carry a full British passport every time you travel to Europe. This includes day trips and travel by Eurostar. For adults this means carrying a ten-year adult passport; for children a five-year child passport unless they are included on a parent's passport.

Many countries no longer check passports at their land borders, but they still expect visitors to carry a valid form of ID. For UK travellers this is a British passport.

And remember, you will need to show your passport at immigration control when you return to the UK.

Travelling to the US: do you need a visa?

Most British citizens visiting the US for less than 90 days don't need a visa. This is because of the US Visa Waiver Programme (US VWP). The US VWP allows nationals of certain countries (including the UK) to travel to the US without a visa for tourism or business. These visits must be shorter than 90 days.

If you think you are covered by the US VWP, you have to apply for authorisation before you travel. You can do this through the US Department for Homeland Security website using their Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA).

Not every traveller from the UK is covered by the US VWP so it is always best to check well before you book any travel.

You can find further information on the US Department for Homeland Security website, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) website or the US Embassy website.

Travelling to Libya on a British passport

If you're travelling to Libya on a British passport, you must get an Arabic transcript of your passport's detail page printed in your passport. (This is a requirement that the Libyan authorities re-imposed in November 2007.)

The Identity and Passport Service (IPS) can add a stamp that provides blank fields in Arabic. You will then need to contact the Libyan Embassy to find an acceptable translator to fill in these fields with your details in Arabic.

To find out how to get this stamp added to your passport, please call the IPS Passport Adviceline on 0300 222 0000. You can contact the Libyan Embassy in London on 020 7201 8280.

Checking if there are safety concerns about an airline

Although flying is generally a very safe way to travel, safety standards vary in different parts of the world. The European Commission has a 'blacklist' of carriers that are banned from flying to the European Union because of safety concerns. Follow the link below and choose the country in which the airline you intend to use is based.

The travel advice from FCO includes information on local airline safety. Follow the link below and choose the country from which you intend to fly.

Foreign nationals or Commonwealth citizens travelling to British overseas territories

If you are a foreign national or Commonwealth citizen you will need a visa to visit British overseas territories (like Bermuda or Gibraltar).  If you are already in the UK, the Identity and Passport Service (IPS) can supply you with a visa for these territories.

For more information on this service please call the IPS Passport Adviceline on 0300 222 0000.

Getting more advice

You can get travel advice by phone by calling the FCO's travel advice call centre on 0845 850 2829. You can also use the FCO website for a range of detailed travel advice.

For advice on travelling to EU countries you can use the Your Europe website.

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