How it can affect your holiday and travel insurance
You’ll find countless references to FCO Advice on our website and blog… ever wonder why?
The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) is one of 25 Ministerial Departments and promotes the UK’s interests overseas, supporting our citizens and businesses around the globe.
One of the FCO’s main functions is to provide consular services around the world, to assist UK citizens when they travel or live abroad.
The FCO also researches and provides some of the best travel information available, and supplies regular advice and updates on safety around the world. This information relates to terrorism, hazardous weather, political situations, and anything else that could pose a risk.
Each country or territory is allocated a terrorism threat level, which provides additional guidance. Spain’s threat level, for example, has just been changed from “high” to “general”.
Using all information available, the FCO will sometimes issue advice against travel, or advice against all but essential travel, to a country, city, or region.
Why advice against travel is such a big deal
Advice against travel (or all but essential travel) is not given lightly, and it means that the FCO believes there’s a serious risk involved in going there. You really should not ignore this advice, ever.
- Travelling despite FCO advice makes most travel insurance invalid.
- If there’s advice against travel to an area and you run into trouble, the British Government may not be able to assist, or assistance could take a long time.
- In such cases, it may be difficult for you to find medical or other assistance.
Advice can be issued for an entire country or for specific areas only, so check carefully whether your destination is in fact affected. For example, some areas of Turkey have advice against travel – such as the zone within 10km of the Syrian border – but this does not affect Istanbul or most holiday resort areas.
How FCO advice can affect travel plans
The objective of FCO advice is to keep you safe. Even if you desperately wanted to go somewhere, it simply isn’t worth ignoring that advice, and there’s a good chance you wouldn’t have a very pleasant trip anyway.
1. If you want to go somewhere but haven’t booked yet when advice against travel is issued…
Find another destination – simple as that. Most travel agents and tour operators won’t book a trip if this is the case, and transport will be extremely limited or unavailable.
2. If advice is issued for your destination after you have booked a trip…
Package trip providers in the UK are governed by EU Package Travel Regulations. If advice against travel is issued for your destination, the provider must change your trip to an equivalent alternative, or give you a refund.
Airlines and other non-package travel providers are not subject to these regulations, and it’s up to them to decide whether or not to provide an alternative or refund.
“The question of refunds is a matter that must be resolved between the customer and the relevant airline, tour operator or travel agent. We don’t dictate when travel can or can’t take place.
“If you have booked a package holiday, your travel company must comply with the Package Travel Regulations. Part of this law says that customers are entitled to a refund or an alternative holiday if there has been a significant change since the time of booking.”
3. If you’re already at your destination and there’s terrorism or another incident which causes the FCO to issue advice against travel…
You’ll need to leave the area as soon as possible. Again, package travel suppliers must help with this and provide a refund or alternative for the unused part of your trip, but other providers can decide what to offer.
Remember, it’s not the FCO’s job to get you home if you’re in an area affected by terrorism or other risks. They can help you make contact with your travel insurance provider or someone back home through their consular services, and help you to make arrangements to get home.
The FCO advises ALL travellers to ensure that they have appropriate travel insurance for every trip. Please heed their advice, make sure you have the appropriate travel insurance for yourself and your destination, and enjoy peace of mind wherever and whenever you travel.
For more information about the FCO and to view international foreign travel advice, visit their website here.
Want to find out how Safe Journey can help if there’s an act of terrorism near your destination but FCO advice against travel is not issued? Start here…