What is the FCO and how does it affect our holidays?

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FCO stands for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office or Foreign Office for short. It is a UK Government department that has a £1bn budget and is headed by the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, otherwise known as the Foreign Secretary. At the time of writing this was the Rt Hon. Dominic Raab MP.

How does it affect our holidays?

Well, the FCO has many functions including safeguarding the nations security, building the UK’s prosperity by increasing exports, ensuring access to resources etc. but the two main functions which could affect your holiday are the consular services it provides around the world and the advice it gives on visiting other countries. In fact you will find advice on just about every country and territory in the world you might want to visit from Aruba to Zambia. This matters because if the advice is not to visit a country for whatever reason but you still decide to go, you could find there is no consular help available if you get into trouble and any travel insurance you have will also be invalid.

As of June 9th the FCO is still advising against all but essential international travel. Despite this, many airlines are starting their services once again and are actively seeking bookings.

What advice can you get?

For each country the FCO will offer advice on any entry or visa requirements, including links to any relevant websites. There is information on safety and security and it may advise against travel to a country or certain areas within a country and again, you may find it difficult to get assistance if you travel to a ‘banned’ area within a country. Egypt for example, has been a popular holiday destination for many years and many UK travellers choose to take a holiday there but, there are parts of that country that the FCO advise against travelling to for security reasons so sticking with the blue seas of Sharm el Sheikh is probably wise!  

You will also find advice on any terrorist threats within a country, and very useful information on local laws and customs.

Health advice is included and highlights potential diseases and any vaccinations required as well as local healthcare arrangements. This is particularly important if you are travelling to a country with a less well established healthcare system or a remote area. And of course, in these cases your travel insurance is more important than ever.

The final section of advice from the FCO is about what you can do to obtain assistance in a country if you find yourself in trouble. This could be for many reasons such as your money and passport stolen, you or your travelling companions have had an accident or if you are affected by a crisis while overseas for any reason. Consular services are a very important part of the services of the Foreign Office and it helps thousands of UK travellers every year that find themselves in difficulties for one reason or another. It is well worth checking out this advice particularly for troubled countries or areas that may be remote.

Wherever you want to travel you can find a wealth of information on that country or area. Many resources are available online both from official sources and visitor forums so you can get a good sense of what it’s like to visit. The difference between that and the FCO advice is that the latter is classed as ‘official government advice’ so if it says don’t go, then whatever anyone else tells you, it’s probably best not to go.

Like many thousands of people and companies, Compareholidaymoney is keeping a close eye on the official advice. With restrictions being eased around the world we are hopeful that some international travel will be allowed soon. In the meantime, it doesn’t stop you from booking a flight or travelling to another country if you can get transport, but be aware that you may not get any official help if you need it. You will find much more information directly on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website.

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Posted by Graham Morley

Graham Morley

Graham is the Business Development Manager for Compare Holiday Money.

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