Each year thousands of students go away travelling and, for the most part, these trips abroad take place without any problems. However, it’s always good to know that if something does go wrong, there are Consular Offices around the world that can help!

One of the greatest dangers for students backpacking around the world is the chance that their important documents may get stolen. But thanks to the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, the loss of a passport will not necessarily leave you stranded abroad, as University students Henry and Sophie found out during their travels in the region of Nicaragua.

Can't blame anyone for wanting to visit the island paradise of Nicaragua.

Can’t blame anyone for wanting to visit the island paradise of Nicaragua.

As their group of friends walked back from a night out in the city of Leon, Sophie was unfortunate enough to have her possessions stolen, including her passport. After twelve hours of (quite understandable) panicking they got in touch with a Consular Office in the capital of Managua whose staff, after Sophie filled in a few forms, arranged for an emergency passport to be ‘FedExed’ over from a nearby Embassy in Costa Rica – meaning she didn’t miss her flight home!

However, while the FCO is an incredible resource and help-point for Brits across the world, dealing with over 365,000 calls a year, it is worth knowing exactly what the FCO can and cannot help you with. This is important not only for your own knowledge and travel preparations, but also in helping to reduce the calls that the FCO receives with queries about issues they can’t help with.


For example, last year one man called up to see if the FCO could check if he’d left his phone on a plane, and a woman in Italy even rang up to see if they could help her synchronise her TV to receive English channels. While these examples are funny, calls like this do waste time and hinder Consulates from helping those in genuine need of assistance.

As well as being clued up on what the FCO can and can’t do, there are also simple pre-travel steps that you can take to reduce the risk of getting into difficulty and needing help in the first place. These include things such as taking out comprehensive travel insurance, researching your destination and ensuring access to emergency funds. For a full list and more information about your destination pop onto www.gov.uk/knowbeforeyougo.

Below is a handy list of what the FCO can and can’t do below to help you prepare: 

The FCO can: The FCO cannot:
Issue you with an emergency travel document Help you enter a country if you do not have a valid passport or necessary visas
Provide information about transferring money Give you legal advice or translate documents
Provide help if you have suffered rape or serious sexual or physical assault, are a victim of crime, are ill or in hospital Investigate crimes or get you out of prison
Give you a list of local lawyers, interpreters, doctors or funeral directors Get you better treatment in hospital or prison than is given to local people, but they will raise concerns if treatment falls below internationally recognised standards
Contact you if you are detained abroad Pay any bills or give you money
Contact friends and family back home for you if you wish Provide help in cases of forced marriage
Assist people affected by parental child abduction Make travel arrangements for you