Important – we have collated some general information here, but it is not a substitute for checking the full and latest details yourself
Before and after committing to a holiday, there are a number of things to consider. This is not an exhaustive list, nor is it necessarily completely up to date, but it does cover some of the most frequent questions about preparing for travel abroad. We recommend that you also visit the UK government’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office website (www.fco.gov.uk) for additional and up to date information. There you will also discover what FCO can and cannot do to help if you experience problems when you are away.
Each country has different rules about the length of validity you require on your passport when you arrive. We recommend you go to travel advice on the FCO’s website for the country you are travelling to, and check the Entry Requirements section.
Information about the visa requirements for the most common types of travel can be found in the travel advice on the FCO’s website for the country you are travelling to, in the Entry Requirements section. If you are still unclear about whether or not you need a visa, you will need to contact the Embassy or consular office of the country you are travelling to.
TRAVELLING WITH CHILDREN IF YOU ARE A SINGLE PARENT OR NOT THEIR PARENT
Directgov has information and advice about the law on taking a child under 16 out of the UK. You may be committing a criminal offence in the UK if you take a child out of the country without the consent of both parents or, in certain cases, the courts. Seek advice from a suitably qualified UK lawyer if you are unsure whether you have the necessary consent. The country you are entering may require a letter of consent from one or both parents giving authority for the child to travel with you and including their contact details. If you are the parent of the child, it may help if you carry evidence of your relationship with the child, eg. a birth/adoption certificate, or a divorce or marriage certificate if you are the parent but your family name is different from the child’s. If you are the legal guardian, you may need to provide evidence of your guardianship. You should also bear in mind that different countries have varying interpretations of the age limit up to which a person is considered a child. For further clarification, contact the Embassy or consular office of the country you are travelling to. You should also check the policy of your airline or transport provider, as they may have their own requirements.
The AA and RAC offer information and advice on driving abroad, including details of the type of driving license you will need and any additional equipment you may have to carry to comply with local laws.
The National Travel Health Network Centre and NHS Choices have information and advice about travelling with medicines. You should also check the Entry Requirements section of the travel advice for the country you are travelling to. We have included information about bringing medicines into the country where we have been able to obtain it. If there is no information in our travel advice, then you will need to contact the Embassy or consular office of the country you are travelling to for further information and advice. If you are unable to obtain specific advice about the particular type of medication you are carrying, you can minimise the possibility of difficulties at the border by carrying your medication in the original packaging as issued by the pharmacist (including the information leaflet) and taking with you a copy of the prescription plus a letter from your doctor (translated into the local language if you are particularly worried).
Visit your GP around six to eight weeks before your trip to see whether you need any vaccinations or other preventive measures (such as malaria tablets). The National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC), NHS Choices and NHS Fit for Travel also have comprehensive country-by-country health advice and information.
TRAVELLING TO IRELAND
Ireland, along with the UK, is a member of the Common Travel Area. This means that British Citizens do not require a passport to visit Ireland. However, Irish immigration officers will check the IDs of all passengers arriving by air from the UK and most airlines will not carry passengers to and from Ireland unless they have seen satisfactory photographic ID before boarding. We therefore advise travellers to Ireland to take their British passports with them. If you choose to travel with some other form of ID, check with your transport provider first.
TRAVELLING TO THE CHANNEL ISLANDS
The Channel Islands, including Guernsey and Jersey, are members of the UK/Ireland Common Travel Area. If you are arriving directly from the UK or Ireland you do not require a passport at the border. However, immigration officers will check the IDs of all passengers arriving by air from the UK and most airlines and ferry operators will require some form of acceptable photographic ID. Check with your carrier before travelling.
Guernsey’s health service (including Sark, Herm and Alderney) is not part of the NHS so you should get medical insurance before travelling. Jersey has a reciprocal health agreement with the UK, which means that emergency treatment is free, but you’ll have to pay to see a GP and you won’t be covered for the cost of returning to the UK (repatriation) or routine monitoring of existing conditions.
CRIMINAL RECORDS AND POLICE CAUTIONS
A criminal record is a history of any previous crime(s) you have been found guilty of – or have admitted to the police to carrying out. You will not have a criminal record if you have been given a caution, warning or penalty notice, or been tried and acquitted. A criminal record is the most likely trigger for a country to consider imposing entry restrictions on an individual. However, the authorities of the country you are travelling to determine their own entry requirements and you may be asked to disclose certain information about your past even if you do not have a criminal record. For example, if you wish to travel to the United States and have previously been arrested, even if the arrest did not result in a conviction, you are unable to travel visa-free under the Visa Waiver Program and must apply for a visa. If you are concerned that this could be an issue for you, and want to check the situation prior to travel, you could contact the Embassy of the country you are travelling to for further guidance.
ISRAELI PASSPORT STAMPS
Check the travel advice page for the country you are travelling to. Where possible, we have included information in the Entry Requirements section about potential difficulties that could arise if you have an Israeli stamp in your passport. If there is no information in our travel advice, then you will need to contact the Embassy or consular office of the country you are travelling to.
TRAVEL COMPANY REPUTATIONS
We are unable to verify the credentials of individual companies. If you are enquiring about a tour operator or travel agent, you could check whether or not the company belongs to a reputable trade association such as TTA, Worldchoice, ABTA or the Association of Independent Tour Operators. If you are planning adventure travel, you could check whether the travel company you are using complies with British Standard ‘BS 8848’ for the provision of visits, expeditions and adventurous activities outside the UK. You may be able to obtain further information about a particular company offering volunteering abroad or gap year packages by posting a question on a travel forum such as those on the Lonely Planet or Tripadvisor websites.
VISAS TO VISIT THE UK
The UK Border Agency website has information on visa requirements for the UK, including contact details. If you wish to enquire about the application process in a particular country, or to follow up an existing application, you can find further information and the contact details of your nearest visa application centre.
BRITISH PASSPORT RENEWALS
If you are resident in the UK, you can find information on how to renew your British passport on Directgov. If you are resident overseas, you can find information on how to renew your British passport from your country of residence.
DO YOU NEED A NEW PASSPORT IF YOU HAVE CHANGED YOUR NAME OR APPEARANCE?
Guidance on how and when to renew your British passport following a change of name can be found on Directgov. Guidance on whether you should renew your passport if your appearance has changed can be found there. If you have any questions about whether or not you need to update your passport following a change in gender identity, you should contact the Identity and Passport Service.
You can find information about whether or not you may qualify for British nationality on the website of the UK Border Agency.
DANGEROUS ITEMS AND CUSTOMS
You will need to check with your airline and the customs authorities of the country you are entering. You may be able to find information on the website of the customs department of the country you are travelling to. If not, then you will need to contact the Embassy or consular office of the country you are travelling to in order to find out whether there are likely to be any problems on entry.
PREPARING TO TRAVEL
We suggest you read the FCO travel advice for the countries you intend to visit, check the FCO website for information on how it can help when things go wrong and what you should do next, see the FCO’s practical tips on staying safe and healthy and avoiding problem situations and considering following the FCO on twitter and facebook to receive travel advice updates.
FEAR OF FLYING?
Some people dream of sunning themselves on golden sands or watching a glorious sunset over tropical seas. Statistics show that 500 million people worldwide have a fear of flying, so some support may be required by people who have such a fear, but who nonetheless would love to take a holiday. Such support can help them identify and overcome the fear or phobia which prevents them from realising their dreams. Fear of flying is a common phenomenon often underpinned by the fear of losing control. IT might take the form of worrying about turbulence, terrorism, technical issues with the aeroplane, or feeling trapped, worrying about panicking, agoraphobia, claustrophobia or fear of heights. All of these can be part of a fear of flying. A ‘freedom to fly’ programme delivered by a properly qualified ‘cognitive behavioural therapy’ specialist such as www.freedomtofly.biz can help people gain control and allow them to enjoy air travel, a fundamental part of modern life. Such programmes typically begin with a telephone consultation to assess suitability for treatment, and are followed by a classroom based session in a small group of like minded people, or one-to-one, and then an accompanied international flight. Such programmes have been known to achieve a 95% success rate, by using highly effective ‘CBT’ to help people overcome their fear of flying. CBT can also be applied to other fears and phobias.
LOST AND STOLEN PASSPORTS
Replacement passports can be issued, but you will have to pay – and FCO do not make a profit from these charges. If you have comprehensive travel insurance, you may be able to claim the cost back.
LOST AND STOLEN MONEY
FCO cannot pay for you, but they can contact friends and family for you and provide information about how you can safely transfer money from the UK. See their advice on keeping your money safe.
IMPRISONMENT WHEN ABROAD
FCO cannot get you out of prison but can contact you and your friends and family if you wish. They can provide a list of local lawyers, make sure any medical problems are brought to the attention of the prison and provide general information about the
country, prison conditions and the local legal system.
REFUSED ENTRY – VISAS
FCO cannot help you enter a country as they cannot interfere in another country’s immigration policy or procedures, but they do have advice on entry requirements and passport validity for every country in their travel advice.
If you are sick or injured abroad, FCO cannot pay for your medical treatment or provide treatment themselves, which is why they strongly advise you to make sure you have comprehensive travel and health insurance before you travel. They will contact you and your friends and family, and can liaise with travel insurance companies on your behalf. If you’re travelling to Europe, some emergency treatment is free if you have a European Health Insurance Card, but you should still take out separate travel insurance.
VICTIMS OF CRIME
If you are a victim of crime, FCO can help you get medical attention if you need it, contact your family and friends to let them know what has happened, help you get money safely transferred and provide you with a list of local lawyers and interpreters.
If you are going abroad, we suggest you take the British Embassy’s phone number with you.