Thursday, August 2, 2007

British Back Packers Need Help

Have you heard? British Back Packers need help. And soap. And a shave. And a ticket home.

Sun, sand and exotic sights lure careless backpackers into peril

It is better known for its ancient temples, beautiful beaches and mouth-watering cuisine, but Thailand is also the deadliest destination for British holidaymakers.

As millions prepare to flee a British summer that has been at best lukewarm, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office published figures yesterday showing the countries where Britons are most likely to seek help from their embassy.

Unsurprisingly, Spain, which attracts about 14 million Britons a year, tops almost every category for holidaymakers in peril. But when the figures are adjusted to show the proportion of travellers affected, Thailand is by far the most dangerous.

Australia and India, also favourite backpacking destinations, are ranked second and third for the ratio of British visitors seeking “serious assistance” - where more than advice is needed. Britons are also most likely to lose their passport Down Under.

Perhaps surprisingly, Britons are arrested at a higher rate in the United States than in any of the other ten countries where they most need a British embassy for help.

The Foreign Office said that the Thailand figures, for April 2005 to March last year and released in British Behaviour Abroad, showed that “although Brits are getting more adventurous, they are not doing enough preparation before they go”.

The 381,000 who travelled from Britain to the SouthEast Asian kingdom were nearly five times more likely to die than those visiting the second deadliest - India. They were also 50 per cent more likely to be taken to hospital in Thailand than in second-placed Greece. About 24 out of 10,000 Britons needed serious assistance from a consulate in Thailand, double the rate of those visiting Australia.

Travel agents said that the problems arose from cheap flights and underprepared travellers. A spokesman for the Association of British Travel Agents said: “The majority of people travelling to Thailand are back-packers. They often travel uninsured and stay in cheap accommodation. If you’re travelling like that for an extended period you are more likely to end up with a problem.”

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