SafeTravel: Log on before take-off
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade says increasing numbers of Kiwi travellers are heeding advice about registering with SafeTravel before they head overseas.
“We can’t stress enough the importance of checking SafeTravel (external link) information. We strongly urge Kiwis to seek out travel advice before they depart,” says Consular Divisional Manager Lyndal Walker.
“It is reassuring that more people are registering with us. Over the 2015/16 year we had an average of nearly 4500 new SafeTravel registrations per month.”
Ms Walker says that in the event of a major incident overseas, it is usually registered travellers who are contacted first by MFAT to confirm their safety and well-being.
“Seeking information about unregistered New Zealanders can prove very time consuming. It can also subject family and friends to an anxious wait which is why we urge travellers to ‘phone home’ if they find themselves caught up in a major event.”
MFAT responded to six major crises offshore affecting New Zealanders during the 2015/16 year – terrorism-related attacks in Bangkok, Paris, Jakarta, Brussels and Istanbul, as well as Tropical Cyclone Winston in Fiji.
In all cases, the safety and well-being of a number of New Zealanders in these locations were quickly confirmed. A consular team also provided support to New Zealanders attending the Anzac Day centenary commemorations in Gallipoli.
Already in 2016/17, MFAT’s consular services have provided assistance to New Zealanders affected by armed conflict in South Sudan, the terrorist attack in Nice, an attempted coup in Turkey and a series of incidents in Germany.
In the past year, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade helped more than 2751 New Zealanders in distress offshore.
These were individual consular cases, rather than straightforward enquiries. MFAT recorded nearly 48,000 general enquires across its overseas posts over the year.
In terms of assistance provided to New Zealanders in the past year, MFAT spent most time on cases involving South and South East destinations, followed by North Asia and Europe. The top two cities for time spent on consular work were Bangkok and Jakarta.
“As for what goes wrong, our time is largely spent on New Zealanders who break overseas laws. Deceased holidaymakers come in second followed by Kiwis losing property, local immigration difficulties or victims of crime," says Ms Walker.
“It’s really important that New Zealanders overseas obey local laws and respect local customs. If they don’t, the consequences can be much more severe than they expect.
“People should also remain sceptical about promises from people they meet online. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
“Don’t part with your money and don’t arrange that once in a lifetime overseas trip to meet the person of your dreams – especially if they ask you to pick up or carry something on their behalf.”
Ms Walker says buying travel insurance should be another common sense action for travellers.
“It can cost thousands of dollars a day to stay in hospital in another country. If you don’t have travel insurance, your health emergency can also become a financial emergency for you and your family.”