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Emergencies Abroad - did contacting your embassy help?

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After being robbed, or in some other emergency - did you contact your embassy? did they help? or shrug their shoulders?
12 years ago, November 13th 2008 No: 1 Msg: #54498  
B Posts: 5,195
After being robbed, or in some other emergency - did you contact your embassy? did they help? or shrug their shoulders?

Any real stories?

If you've blogged the experience - please put a quote or two in and link to your blog entry ([diary=1234]😉 - if not why didn't you blog about it?

I must admit that my expectations from the embassies are low the bare minimum - but I'm lucky enough never to have used an embassy for anything more than a visa - I hope some stories prove these expectations wrong! Reply to this

12 years ago, November 13th 2008 No: 2 Msg: #54499  
When we were in Cuba and our credit card and American Express travellers cheques didnt work because of the US boycotting Cuba we contacted the Dutch embassy. My boyfriend is Dutch.

They were helpful as in they offered to allow us to use their satalite phone to call the Netherlands. International calls from Cuba are very expensive, especially for those who have less than 50 US dollars between 3 people in cash left. There is an agent in Havana which helps people who are in our situation. What they do is receive money being wired at their agency(we did not have enough money to do what it would take to have it wired to a regular bank. Maybe that was not even possible. I forget the details) in return for a fee and interest(and expensive they were too). It also cost us money to get to the agents office and/or to phone them to ask if the money has arrived yet. We ran out of money and it was the last day and we had a hotel bill to pay, a plane to catch and a tourist card that would run out in a few days and our money being wired had still not arrived. I dont think we would have been allowed to leave the country without paying the hotel bill. The hotel was a government run place and they are serious about getting their money. We called the Dutch embassy and put the cost of the call on our hotel tab. When we told them of the situation they called the agency for us. Then they called us back a few hours later and told us we can go collect the money at the agency now.

Mel

PS. I used to have a blog about this, but the Hotmail people deleted it. 😞 That was in the old days when server space was not so available.
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12 years ago, November 13th 2008 No: 3 Msg: #54501  
I dont think embassies are eager to help people who have been robbed or run out of money. Where they do help is when somebody is arrested in the third world. They visit the prisoners to try to see that their human rights are not being abused. They dont manage to prevent all human rights abuses but the embassy presence does prevent executions in some countries.

For example, there is a British guy I know who used to be in prison in Bangkok. The police arrested him and told him he is going to be executed. The consulate representative arrived soon after the arrest and told him he will likely spend some time on death row(which he did) but execution of British prisioners is rare. This is not the same for prisoners who do not have the protection of the British or a consulate from another country which cares about the welfare of their citizens. The British embassy also gives some food every month to British prisoners in prison in Thailand. Starvation for prisoners who dont have money is a definate maybe. A consulate representative also visits the prisoners periodically to try to assess if they are being abused.
I used to send postcards and letters to the British prisoner. He received only around 1 in 5 of them. I reported this to the consulate who looked into it.

Consulates in some countires receive mail and packages for prisoners who are in prisons in countries where they cant have mail sent to them. They take these things to the prisoners on their visits to them. For example, there is a British prisoner I am writing to in Laos. The Australian consulate(there is no British consulate there) there receives all mail and packages for him and deliver them to the prison.
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12 years ago, November 13th 2008 No: 4 Msg: #54505  
B Posts: 11.5K
When I was parted from passports and more money than I should have taken out of the ATM in Paris I went straight to the NZ embassy the next morning. Waiting overnight til I could go wasn't the nicest feeling. Apart from already being angry plus some, I couldn't do anything about it for another 12 hours or so.

The NZ embassy in Paris were brilliant. Not only were they sympathetic - come on, however strong a personality we are, in that sort of situation a little sympathy is much appreciated - they were efficient in helping me sort out what I needed to do, and in what priority I should do them. They provided phone numbers for other places I needed to call to cancel credit card, second passport etc, and let me take over one of their phones for a while til I finally got through.

They were able to have an emergency passport approved and processed by opening time the next day, enabling me to make a flight already booked back to London. One flight I didn't need to cancel :-)
(When in a foreign country in this sort of situation, the sight of your country's flag flying outside the embassy you finally found is a pretty sweet sight).

Not such a good experience with the Australian embassies unfortunately. I rang the one in Paris from the NZ embassy to cancel my Australian passport (which I should never have taken with me, too late for that). Although I was asked for very little identifying information, which I thought strange at the time, I was assured it was canceled.

After applying for a replacement full visa (included in the fee for the emergency passport if express processing isn't required) at the NZ embassy in London - another friendly bunch :-) - I headed for the Australian embassy to do the same.

After waiting in a queue for at least a couple of hours the guy at the counter would not let me take 20 seconds to summarise the situation. He kept interrupting me, and would not do anything to help until I went back to the waiting area to get an application form for a new passport, which I fully knew I would not be able to fill in and submit at the time. This he would have found out also if he had given me the chance to speak.

Form in hand, I had to listen to him read out a set speech before things progressed. Yeah, I was pretty damn annoyed at this stage. I also had my sister's cell phone for the day as the only means of contact with my mother and other sister. The phone rang while I was at the counter and that didn't go down well, even though I tried to turn it off without answering it.
Turned out the passport hadn't been cancelled in Paris, so had to go through another circus act with Mister Powertrip.

Maybe I'm being a little harsh on him, but I reckon it's a pretty safe bet he's never been on the other side of the counter.....
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12 years ago, November 13th 2008 No: 5 Msg: #54546  
B Posts: 6
I had a very positive experience with the British embassy in Burundi.

I had hurt my testicles and couldn't walk. I needed my visa extending but couldn't stand to do so. I called the embassy, they came round to my hotel, took my passport and got me an extension. I asked to borrow some books as I was bed bedridden and going a bit mad, but got more than that, as a really nice girl from the embassy came round with a TV and DVD player for me with a huge pile of movies. She invited me to her house for dinner that night etc etc. Once I was better we went out partying all night a few times with her and her friends. She really really did a lot for me and I was more than very very grateful for her help.

I think a lot to do with it is that Burundi is such a small untraveled country people like me were a rarity there. There's no British embassy in Burundi just a small consular office with three "representatives". If she'd been working at the embassy in say Bangkok, and had drunken backpackers coming in everyday with stories of their liaisons with questionable women and missing passports I can't quite see her inviting them for dinner!

Read about my pain So I finally go and rupture a testicle



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12 years ago, November 14th 2008 No: 6 Msg: #54587  
I had a mildly positive experience with the Italian consulate in Singapore 4 years ago when my passport was stolen (or lost, never knew). Apart from that, the usual attitude I found inside Italian consulates is so terribly aloof, often openly hostile that I try to stay away from them as far as I can.
In Istanbul -not Buenos Aires or Chicago- a place where there might be 100 Italians residents altogether, they didn't even considerate writing me a letter for their Syrian counterparts despite the lot of them was basically doing nothing and despite I offered to fully pay for any expenses that might have arised from it.
So I would say my opinion in regard with embasies is quite low, similar to Ali's, let's say.
Marco Reply to this

12 years ago, November 14th 2008 No: 7 Msg: #54609  
When I was traveling in Munich for Oktoberfest I had my entire contents of my purse stolen. Including my passport, all my ids, credit cards and money, as well as my camera and sunglasses, in retrospect I should not have had everything in one place but I did not even think about it before going to the tents. I didn't actually realize that my things were taken until around 2am and by that time it was too little to late. So luckily I still had my phone and was able to call my mom in the states to cancel my cards. Back at my hotel I tried to explain that I needed the American Consulate to the guy working the front desk, through tears and random Italian men trying to make me feel better. When I got ahold of the emergency phone number for the consulate in Munich, there wasn't much they could do because their office is closed on the weekends. The woman was able to give me a list of things I needed to do about reporting/replacing my passport but other than that, she was only able to suggest western union to get money. Okay yes I could have gone to Western Union to have money wired to me, but it was not an option for me because you needed some form of id, which I did not have. I was able to have my friends pay for me the rest of the weekend but all I had in terms of id was a photocopied passport photo (thank goodness I had brought that). I reported my passport to the police in Munich the next day and got a copy to bring with me to the Consulate in Florence where I am currently living. I had much better luck with the Consulate here in Florence because they were quick and were able to replace my passport in one day, after my mom faxed here credit card number of course, since the replacement passport cost $100 and I still had no money. The woman that I talked to at the Consulate however was very kind and simpathetic, letting me know that I could call the states there for free using their phone anytime I needed too, so long as their office is open.

Although in convenient, replacing my passport was not a huge ordeal, however I was traveling between Germany and Italy by bus. Had I been flying or taken the train it would have been much more complex and frustrating since you need a passport.

Oktoberfest!!! Reply to this

12 years ago, November 22nd 2008 No: 8 Msg: #55278  
N Posts: 47
In my experience the Australian embassies have always been pretty useless.
When we were in Benin and the airline lost our luggage (including essential medicines) we called the emabssy in Nigeria to see if they could help.. we got no response.
In Togo when we couldn't get money anywhere (all the ATM's were broken.. we went from town to town and none were working!) I think we also got no response.
In Bangkok, flying home to Australia, I had only my British passport with me (which I had used to return home only a month and a half before) and the airline told me I would be denied entry to Australia without an Aussie passport or visa ... we called the embassy and eventually they sent a representative, he called Sydney airport and seemed to have sorted things out... thankfully, they let me on the plane... but when I arrived in Sydney they said they had never been contacted!
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12 years ago, November 24th 2008 No: 9 Msg: #55420  
Now, I remember another one. Around 20 years ago, an Austrian friend of ours was put in prison in China for working there without his permit papers. The Austrian consulate got him out. He was then escorted to the airport by the Chinese police and put on a plane. Reply to this

11 years ago, October 8th 2009 No: 10 Msg: #88762  
I am just reading this extract from a blog now. What a nightmare!

At that point, after 20 minutes of struggle, I went to the phone in the restaurant, asked the owner to allow long distance calls, and I called my embassy, explaining to them that I am being held locked in a restaurant by two local strangers.
The embassy put a translator on the line who talked to the violent man who looked in our passports. After a long conversation with him they explained to us that this man is a police officer, we arrived to a place that is restricted for foreigners, and that he claims that we also attacked him. They also said that the police requires us to hand them our passports, which means that we will need to pay a fine in order to get them back.
We couldn't believe it. We arrived to a place that was recommended to us by a travel agency, not knowing that it is restricted, nobody stopped us along the way, we were there for less than 30 minutes, sitting in a restaurant, agreed to leave as soon as we found out that we are not welcomed there, were attacked by a police officer who refused to identity himself as one, and eventually we are the criminals here???
Our embassy wasn't such a big rescue - all they did was to tell us to do whatever the police tells us, to stop making any troubles, and to ignore the fact that we were attacked. They even mentioned the fact that China has the highest rate of death penalty in the world - so maybe we should be happy that we only got a fine.


Quote from The real face of China
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