FCO retains travel advice for Egypt

The UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) has reviewed the travel advice that it issued for Egypt last week and reaffirmed it for all but essential travel to Egypt, with the exception of the Red Sea resorts.

The advice update comes as violence returned at the weekend with at least 50 people killed in Cairo. Also, the explosion on Monday in the southern Sinai town of El Tur has extended the violence into the region of Sharm el-Sheikh.

‘It can sometimes be true that different national groups are more at risk than others,’ Louise Proudlove, head of consular assistance, reportedly told the Elman Wall Travel Directors’ Summit in London last week.

The UK position was often ‘more nuanced’ and that advice was reviewed regularly, she said, adding: ‘We try to be as specific as possible.’

While operators have been seeking a speedy relaxation for travel to Cairo and Luxor, Proudlove rejected the idea: ‘The industry appetite for a return to full travel is always going to be more than the government’s. It requires a period of calm,’ she said.

A national state of emergency was declared in Egypt for a period of one month on August 14, after the army overthrew president Morsi in July. It was extended for a further two months on 12 September. The FCO said that there was serious risk of violence and sexual assault at demonstrations and strongly advised all British nationals in Egypt to avoid all demonstrations and large gatherings.

Currently the FCO advises against all but essential travel to most of Egypt with the exception of Red Sea Resorts.

‘We keep advice under constant review but only change it when the situation in a country changes. There was large-scale violence over the weekend. I would not want to predict when [advice on travel to] Egypt might change,’ an FCO official reportedly said.

Young Brits drink to excess while on holiday, FCO

Young British travellers are increasingly partaking of cheap alcohol while on holiday, putting themselves at risk of harm, according to a research.

The research by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) found that 51 percent of 16 to 24-year-olds said they are likely to drink more on holiday than at home, with nearly two thirds attributing this to alcohol being cheaper. Nearly 40 percent said that they drink more due to peer pressure, as friends often compel them to drink more than they wanted to.

The Foreign Office said that consular staff had already been called on to aid British nationals who get into trouble after drinking.

Gavin Cook, deputy head of consular assistance at the Foreign Office, said: ‘Going on holiday is a great opportunity to relax and have fun with family and friends, and enjoying a drink can be part of that. We’re not telling people to stop drinking but we do want people to be aware of the consequences of drinking to excess – and our research shows almost half of young people understand them already.

‘Activities which may be legal in the UK may not be legal in another country. To avoid a night in a jail cell or even a criminal record, it’s important to research local laws and customs, including on alcohol consumption, before you go.

‘Drinking can impair judgment. The effect of being hospitalised or arrested overseas goes far beyond a ruined holiday and can have a devastating impact on family and friends – financially and emotionally. So our message is have fun in the sun, but drink responsibly so you don’t put yourself at risk of harm,’ he added.

The FCO is also asking holidaymakers to show respect and consideration to other holidaymakers and local people while on holiday. Nearly 25 percent of young British holidaymakers have gone swimming while drunk on holiday abroad and one in ten put themselves in a ‘vulnerable’ situation with a stranger while drunk on holiday.

Anne Foster, director of marketing and communications at alcohol education charity, Drinkaware, said: ‘Holidays are the perfect opportunity to relax and have fun, but drinking to excess in the sun can result in more than just a hangover. It’s important to stay hydrated in the heat, especially if you are drinking alcohol, as it dehydrates you even further.’

UK’s FCO advises on travel to riot-torn Brazil

The UK government’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), the department responsible for the welfare of British citizens overseas, has issued updated travel advice for UK residents that are planning to visit Brazil.

The new advice comes in the wake of recent violent protests that have erupted in a number of major Brazilian cities. Sao Paulo was the latest city to witness the violence, following similar incidents that had already affected parts of the cities of Rio de Janeiro and Belo Horizonte.

What started out as a low-key protest over a 10 percent fare increase on many of the South American nation’s buses, quickly became a more general and enflamed demonstration against the cost burden that the country is shouldering as it prepares to host both the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic games. The demonstrators apparently feel that more money should be spent on education, and transport. The level of protest escalated and the BBC has reported that business outlets have been vandalised by protestors wearing masks, who fought with others that were attempting to stop the violence.

The FCO’s statement on the demonstrations says, ‘Some of these have turned violent. You should avoid all protests and demonstrations. Monitor local media, follow the guidance of the local authorities and expect some disruption to travel.

‘If you intend to visit a British Consulate, please check before travelling as some opening hours have been disrupted.

‘Levels of crime and violence are high, particularly in major cities. You should be particularly vigilant before and during the festive and Carnival periods. Bank card fraud is common.’

UK Foreign Office extends warning on Turkey

The UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has repeated a warning for travellers intending to visit Turkey.

The latest warning from the FCO has been issued with the expectation that further demonstrations are to take place in cities across the country. There have also been reports that riot police have entered Istanbul’s Taksim Square, a main focus point in the two-week-long demonstration. The BBC has reported the use of tear gas and water cannon by the authorities, despite Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, having agreed to a meeting tomorrow with organisers of the protest.

The FCO has warned that two major pro-government rallies are scheduled to take place in Ankara and Istanbul this Saturday and Sunday (June 15 and 16) and in a statement it said, ‘Further demonstrations remain possible in cities across Turkey, week commencing June 10. Police may continue to use tear gas and water cannons to disperse protestors. We advise British Nationals to avoid all demonstrations.’

Despite the FCO’s warning, Turkey’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism has said that tourists are safe to visit the country, with a spokesperson saying, ‘There are currently no problems being experienced with either transport or security in Istanbul or any of our tourism regions and thus every sort of touristic activity is carrying on as normal. Flights in and out of Turkey have not been affected by these events and are running as scheduled.

‘The Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism continues to take every precaution regarding the safety of visitors to the country.’

The demonstrations, which were originally in protest at Turkish government plans to build on Taksim Square’s Gezi Park, have now adopted a wider agenda against perceived government authoritarianism and restrictions on sales of alcohol.

British consuls left bemused by odd requests

The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has said that consular officials are constantly left bemused by the strange requests for assistance that they receive from British travellers overseas.

The Daily Mail has reported that while British Embassies are there to perform an important service for those travellers that are in serious difficulty with such problems as lost travel documents or having been the victim of a crime, it is the expectation of a section of the travelling community that consular services and advice are almost boundless.

Among the more bizarre requests that have been received from travellers overseas in the past year were assistance in silencing a noisy cockerel and help in translating a phrase to be used on a tattoo. A visitor to Israel asked for help in forcing her husband on a fitness regime, as she wanted to start a family, while a visitor to Kuala Lumpur wanted to know if funds could be provided to send a child to an international school, and a man in Stockholm wanted to use the local consul’s services to check the background of a woman that he had met online.

In the last year, the FCO handled one million enquiries and assisted 52,135 British nationals that were in genuine difficulty abroad. However, of 131,211 calls received by a call centre that was set up in Spain to handle non-consular inquiries that British embassies received in Southern Europe, 39 percent were enquiries related to lifestyle.

Mark Simmonds, consular affairs minister, said in the Daily Mail, ‘FCO staff help many thousands of British nationals facing serious difficulties around the world every year. We also receive over a million inquiries each year, so it is important that people understand what we can and cannot do to support them when they are abroad. We are not in a position to help people make travel arrangements or social plans, but we do help those who face real problems abroad. These can include victims of crime, bereaved families who have lost a loved one abroad or Britons who have been arrested or detained. We aim to continue to focus on supporting those who really need our help in the coming year.’