Travelling on an SA passport? How to get help if things go wrong abroad

15 September 2019 - 00:11 By Paul Ash
In the event of your documents being stolen when travelling overseas, Dirco advises that you leave copies of your passport and insurance policy, as well as ticket details, itinerary and contact details, with family and friends.
In the event of your documents being stolen when travelling overseas, Dirco advises that you leave copies of your passport and insurance policy, as well as ticket details, itinerary and contact details, with family and friends.
Image: 123RF/Marco Herrndorff

Often when we travel, we think only of the basics: how to get there, what to see and eat and where to stay. But what if things go wrong? Imagine, for example, that you are arrested after being involved in a traffic accident. Or your passport gets stolen.

The department of international relations and cooperation (Dirco) website offers tips on what to do if things go awry. This is an edited extract.

Most SA citizens travelling for business or pleasure, or living abroad, do so without serious difficulty. Here are some helpful hints on how to stay safe abroad.

There is a lot that you can do, starting with registering at the SA embassy or consulate after arrival at your destination or even before your departure - visit the foreign relations section at dirco.gov.za for advice on how to do this.

Secondly, take note of news reports of any problems in the area you will be visiting.

WHO CAN DIRCO HELP?

SA citizens and permanent residents as well as dual nationals, provided they have entered the country in question on their SA passport and they are not in the country of the second nationality.

If you are travelling on the passport of your other nationality, you should contact that country's local embassy, high commission or consulate.

WHAT CAN DIRCO DO

We offer non-financial assistance, appropriate to the individual circumstances of each case.

This includes: 

  • Issuing replacement travel documents;
  • Providing help if you have been the victim of a crime, or are in hospital;
  • Providing details of local law commissions, interpreters, doctors and funeral parlours;
  • Contacting you as soon as possible if you are detained; and
  • Assisting the families of deceased persons.

WHAT DIRCO CANNOT DO

Get you out of prison, prevent the local authorities from deporting you after your prison sentence, or interfere in criminal or civil court proceedings.

Dirco also cannot help you enter a country if you do not have a visa or your passport is not valid, nor can it offer legal advice, investigate crimes or carry out searches for missing people. 

The department can't get you better treatment in hospital or prison than is given to local people, pay any bills or give you money or make travel arrangements for you.

GENERAL SAFETY TIPS

Only carry as much money as you need for the day. Leave the rest, along with valuables and a credit card, in the hotel safe.

Keep a copy of your passport and other important documents separate from the originals.

Also leave copies of your passport and insurance policy, as well as ticket details, itinerary and contact details, with family and friends.

Keep the contact details of the local SA embassy, high commission or consulate handy and find out how to get in touch with the local emergency services,  just in case. 

Respect the host country's customs and behave and dress appropriately, particularly when visiting religious sites.

You can e-mail Dirco at consular@dirco.gov.za.


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