When you get into trouble abroad, you can ask the British consular services to step in and help.
But some travellers do not quite understand what situations warrant such a request. Providing insight into the plot of Mel Gibson’s 1995 film Braveheart, for example, is perhaps beyond their remit.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has included this query in its list of the oddest requests it received in 2018, to highlight what it can – and cannot – do to help Brits in sticky spots.
Ten of the more unusual enquiries included:
1. A caller in the USA asking which contestant had been voted off Strictly Come Dancing the previous night.
2. A man asking where he should send a 5ft piece of wood he had found on a beach, which he thought may have come from an 18th-century British warship.
3. A caller in the Netherlands who had just watched Braveheart and had some questions about the plot.
4. A person in Italy asking the embassy to help arrange their wedding, recommend a florist and get them tickets to see the Pope.
5. A caller in the Canary Islands requesting that the Foreign Office persuade his hotel to give him a different room as a stray cat had “broken into” his existing one and urinated on his bed.
6. A man enquiring if there were vampires in Poland because a woman he had met online asked what blood type he was before they met for their first date.
7. A man in New Delhi asking what time the British High Commission opened, as he had heard it sold vegetarian sausages and wanted to buy some.
8. A man in Kuwait asking if any staff wanted to adopt his puppies.
9. A caller asking if the office could provide a list of women in Argentina he might be able to marry.
10. A man requesting staff speak to a massage parlour in Bangkok on his behalf, as he had fallen asleep during a massage and felt he should not have to pay for it.
The Foreign Office said while it was unable to help with the types of problems listed above, staff can help British people in trouble while they are abroad in a number of ways.
- Getting in touch with family or friends if you can’t contact them yourself;
- Providing details of local services such as lawyers, interpreters and doctors;
- Offering information on how to transfer money if you need to make payments;
- Issuing emergency travel documents;
- Visiting those who have been hospitalised or imprisoned.
A Foreign Office spokesperson said: “I can regretfully confirm that the Foreign Office isn’t able to offer advice on vampires, rogue stray cats or Strictly contestants. And our capacity to deploy veggie sausages remains sadly lacking.
“But in all seriousness, getting into trouble abroad can be daunting and upsetting. If you find yourself in an emergency in another country, contact the nearest British Embassy, High Commission or Consulate and our consular staff will do everything they can to help.”
The FCO said it received more than 330,000 calls from British people who needed help in 2018. This included more than 3,400 who had been hospitalised and 4,900 who had been arrested. More than 29,600 emergency travel documents were issued to help those who had lost their passports make onward journeys.
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