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What the British Consulate abroad can do for you

Friday 11th November 2011

...And what they most definitely can't!

Your Embassy, Commission or Consulate abroad is an important contact to note down in case of emergency. They can help you if you have lost or had your passport stolen, if you have been a victim of crime, are in hospital, in jail or they can help you with contacting family at home if you have no other means of doing so. So the key thing to remember is that Foreign Office staff are there for you in a real emergency.

However, Foreign Office staff have had to remind British travellers abroad that they are unable to help with non-emergencies, as travellers have been contacting their consular representatives with some very random requests. Our favourites include the British man who rang the Consulate in Dubai to ask if they could collect his dog from the airport, the man who called the Consulate in Florida to get advice about ants in his villa, and the caller in Spain who contacted the Embassy to ask what size feet Prince Charles had, so he could send him some shoes.

Consular staff are not a concierge service, and enquiries such as these are also wasting Consular staff time, and potentially preventing them from helping travellers who are in real need of help.

Jeremy Browne, Minister for Consular Affairs, said: “We will always try to help where we can but there are limits to the support that we can provide. It is important that people understand the level of help we can offer. Our priority is to help people in real difficulty abroad and we cannot do this if our time is diverted by people trying to use us as a concierge service. We need to be able to focus primarily on helping victims of serious crimes, supporting people who have been detained or assisting people who have lost a loved one abroad.”

So by all means take a note of the Consular details below for your travels for example, but make sure you are clear about why you are contacting them, and that the matter is an emergency, before making the call.

Australia, Sydney, British Consulate-General, Level 16 Gateway Building 1 Macquarie Place Sydney, NSW 2000 (+61) (0) 2 9247 7521

New Zealand, Wellington, British High Commission, Address: British High Commission Wellington 44 Hill Street Wellington 6011 Mailing Address: P O Box 1812 Wellington 6140 Phone: (+64) (4) 924 2888 

For more information on visas, take a look at our visa section.

Note: Embassies are basically the main offices of the diplomatic mission in that particular country, the one where the ambassador is based, which is usually in the capital city. Consulates are based in other cities, and focus on helping citizens of their country whilst abroad. High Commissions are Embassies which are located in Commonwealth countries. Instead of an ambassador, they have a high commissioner. But this stuff is just technicalities - the main point is that they are there to help you as a visitor or traveller in that country in case of emergency.