Simon Calder: Foreign Office seeks to enlighten travelling fans


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The Independent Travel

Think twice about drinking in Poland: "You can be taken to a drying-out clinic, where you'll be medically assessed and not released until sober. You will be required to pay the cost of any overnight stay."

That advice, aimed at Euro 2012 football fans, is part of a long tradition of cautions issued by the Foreign Office in a thankless quest to stop us misbehaving abroad.

British travellers, especially football fans, have an alarming tendency to get drunk, have accidents and tangle with authority – often all in the same evening. Thankfully, with the publication of Free Lions (a guidebook for England supporters heading for Poland and Ukraine) the Foreign Office is now in the same business as Lonely Planet and Rough Guides: inspiring and enlightening travellers.

The free guide naturally seeks to minimise risks, but equally it recognises that attending a football tournament is a special experience, usually rewarding for all concerned. In an effort to foster good relations with the hosts, the guidebook offers examples of famous Ukrainians, such as the composer Sergei Prokofiev, the late Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev and the former Israeli prime minister, Golda Meir.

But the target market is probably more interested in the assertion that "Those who drink Lviv beer will live 100 years".

An old Ukraine hand, Neil Taylor, urges fans to "Check restaurant and bar prices before ordering and point to the menu when doing so".