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Where to Turn for Help Outside of Canada

If things go wrong while you’re on holiday, who can you turn to for help? The Consular Affairs Bureau of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada is there to assist, but the onus is on the traveller to be smart and follow the three Ps: Plan, Pack and Proceed. Make sure your passport is valid, your travel insurance is valid and comprehensive, and have the necessary vaccinations.

The Country Travel Reports and the Global Issues section of the Consular Affairs website have up-to-date information on safety and security conditions, health issues and entry and visa requirements for more than 200 destinations. In addition, research the location of Government of Canada offices in the countries you plan to visit and take the contact information with you. Give family or friends a travel itinerary and contact details, as well as the emergency number for Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada ((613) 996-8885 outside of Canada; 1 800 267-6788 or (613) 944-6788 in Canada).

If you find yourself in a sticky situation however, Canadian government offices abroad offer assistance, 24/7, and if you are in a place such as Burma where Canada does not have a local office, look for an Australian or British mission which will provide emergency services.

Consular officials can provide the following assistance, free:

  • Evacuation from a war zone, civil unrest or natural disaster
  • Providing a list of local doctors and hospitals in a medical emergency up to a medical evacuation (for a fee)
  • Comfort and assistance for victims of robbery or other crime
  • Help find missing persons and abducted children

Officials will also assist with legal issues: providing a list of local lawyers and local laws and regulations. They will also ensure that you are being treated fairly under the country’s laws and provide assistance if your child has been abducted. They will, for a fee, notarize documents, replace lost, stolen or expired passports, provide a limited translation service and contact next of kin.

However, they will not intervene in private legal matters or give legal advice; post bail or pay fines; get you out of prison; take possession of an abducted child or investigate a crime or death. The consular officials will not ask local authorities to give a Canadian preferential treatment. You’re on your own.

A good idea is to register with a Canadian government office. This service is available to those who will be living in a foreign country for three months or more. It is also available to Canadians visiting areas with a potential for problems.

Brittany Dietz
Brittany has travelled to France, Germany, The Netherlands, Mexico, Canada and all over the U.S. She's passionate about travel and has big plans for future trips! Brittany is a Content and Social Media Executive at Cheapflights.