Traveling or working abroad can be exciting, but it can also be traumatic if one is faced with an emergency or death.
The Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) Consular Service has the “Travel Smart” campaign to guide South Africans on what to look out for when visiting or applying for work outside national borders. “Travel Smart” is aimed at encouraging South Africans to research their destinations and the laws of the countries they seek to visit or apply for work.
The campaign seeks to improve the general understanding of the Consular Services provided by the department in the country and abroad. It also gives South African travellers tips on what to do in the event of an emergency when in a foreign country.
South African travellers can be offered urgent advice in the event of a natural disaster, civil unrest or family emergencies, by a South African embassy or consulate officials.
During the launch of the campaign, DIRCO Deputy Minister Reginah Mhaule said most South Africans face the reality of being destitute in foreign countries and under these circumstances often seek assistance without prior knowledge of what services the department is mandated to provide.
“This situation must be changed and I believe that the Consular Service campaign will enable us to do so,” she said.
How to stay safe abroad
Some of the tips include:
- Acting responsibly and being aware of the risks (check news reports of any problems in the area you will be/are visiting).
- Registering at a South African Embassy or Consulate General abroad after arrival at your destination or before your departure from South Africa (visit www.dirco.gov.za under Foreign Relations – South African Representatives Abroad – to save contact details of the South African Embassy, High Commission or Consulate in the country you will be visiting)
- Taking out full travel insurance and overseas health plan.
- Checking with your doctor or travel clinic what vaccinations and other health precautions you may need to take for your trip. Refer to the website of Medic Alert South Africa www.medicalert.co.za
- Fill in the next-of-kin details in your passport.
- Do not be tempted to use drugs. For information about what you are allowed to take out of the country or to South Africa, contact the South African Revenue Service (SARS) – www.sars.gov.za
- Respecting the culture and customs of the countries you are visiting.
The department also offers non-financial assistance appropriate to the individual circumstances of each case, such as issuing of emergency travel documents against the payment of prescribed fees, non-financial help if you suffered assault of or you are victim of crime or providing you with interpreters, doctors and funeral parlours without assuming their costs.
However, the department cannot get one out of prison or prevent local authorities from deporting you. It cannot help you enter a country if you do not have valid travel documents nor give legal advice, pay bills or make business arrangements on your behalf.
Buhle Bhengu to be repatriated
Meanwhile, one of the unfortunate incidents that befell a South African abroad was the death of Buhle Bhengu (29), who died early last month while working for an international cruise company at Nassau Bahamas.
Attempts by her family to bring her body home were unsuccessful, and she was likely to be cremated on Tuesday.
However, KwaZulu-Natal Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs MEC Sihle Zikalala told the media that Bhengu’s mortal remains will be repatriated to South Africa, and thanked the DIRCO Minister Lindiwe Sisulu for facilitating the process.
“We were informed by DIRCO that our High Commission in Kingston is liaising with authorities in Bahamas to ensure that the mortal remains are returned as opposed to cremation. We will continue to update the family once there is new information,” MEC Zikalala said.
MEC Zikalala visited the Bhengu family on Monday to express deepest condolences and offer government support to the grief-stricken family.
He said that the provincial government will continue to offer its support to the Bhengu family during this traumatic period.