FCO reveals weird and wonderful requests

14th Nov 2011
Written by: Mary Short

FCO reveals weird and wonderful requests

Consulates, embassies and high commissions are there to help you out in an emergency, not to tell you Phil Collins’s telephone number.

The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) have reminded British travellers not to contact them overseas unless it’s in an emergency.

The announcement was made after the FCO received a number of weird and wonderful questions from British travellers.

Our favourites were:

  • A caller asked staff in Malaga in mid-September where she could get a Christmas lunch as everywhere she had phoned was already booked up 
  • A man asked a Consulate in Greece for information on how to go about putting a chicken coop in his garden 
  • A caller in Spain wondered what shoe size Prince Charles wears so they could send him a pair of shoes as a present
  • A man called the Consulate in Florida to report that there were ants in his holiday villa and asked for advice on what he should do
  • A man rang the Consulate in Sydney to find out what clothes he should pack for his holiday

Jeremy Browne, minister for consular affairs, told the FCO: “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.”  

The Foreign Office set up the Iberia Contact Centre in Malaga earlier this year to cope with the volume of non-consular enquiries received by British Embassies and Consulates in Spain, Portugal, Italy and Andorra.  The centre filters calls so that Consular staff can focus their resources on situations where they can provide assistance.

Maria Leng, consular official in Tenerife, said: “A lot of our time was being taken up with queries that we could not assist with but now the Malaga call centre is making a big difference by filtering enquiries.”

What are the strangest calls you’ve ever received? Have you ever phoned someone to ask a stupid question, accidently or as a wind up?

And if you’re looking for visa advice then head to our visa section.


How the FCO can help you when abroad:

  • Issue you with replacement travel documents
  • Provide information about transferring money
  • Provide help if you have suffered rape or serious sexual or physical assault, are a victim of crime, are ill or in hospital
  • Give you a list of local lawyers, interpreters, doctors or funeral directors
  • Contact you if you are detained abroad
  • 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
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