Embassy December 2014

Stay safe during the holiday period

Advice on parties and travel

  • Be wary of drink-spiking and report any incidents to the police
  • Read country-specific advice about travel and visas
  • Take out travel insurance for domestic and international trips

At this time of year, when the tinsel and Christmas decorations go up at the British Embassy Tokyo, so do the number of people needing assistance from the consular team here and the Consulate-General in Osaka.

The consular team are here to support British nationals in difficulty, such as when Christmas parties go wrong, or there are mad dashes to the airport, via the embassy, to have an Emergency Travel Document (ETD) issued.

While, of course, we are happy to assist, here are a few tips to avoid the need for our help, and have a wonderful Christmas and New Year.

Celebrate with care
It is the season to be merry and attend lots of Christmas parties and bonenkai. Every year, on the morning after such parties, we meet a number of party-goers in a police cell.

Police in Japan can detain you for up to 23 days while they investigate the alleged crime. This is even the case for minor offences.

In the past, Brits have been locked up over Christmas for incidents including altercations with taxi drivers, stealing cardboard cut-outs from karaoke bars, and damaging property.

There are also frequent cases of Brits being the victims of drink-spiking, mainly—but not exclusively—around the entertainment districts of Shinjuku and Roppongi.

In general, the perpetrators access the victims’ bank accounts or charge very expensive bar bills to their credit cards. If you have been drinking alcohol and start to feel unusually drunk—considering the volume you have consumed—or unwell, tell a trusted friend and leave the bar immediately.

If you continue to feel unwell, seek medical attention. You should report the incident to the police and your travel insurer. You can also contact the embassy if you require further advice.

Take travel advice
Many residing in Japan use the opportunity of the Christmas and New Year holidays to take a break. Before you book your holiday, read and subscribe to the country-specific travel advice available at www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.

You should make sure you know the entry requirements for your holiday destination, as immigration rules about passport validity and the space required for visas varies. Many countries in Asia only accept passports with a period of validity of at least six months and/or full blank pages for stamps and visas.

If your passport does not comply with these requirements, we may be able to help extend your passport or produce an ETD. Conditions and charges apply.

Passport criteria
We are currently able to stamp passports with validity for an extra year. However, the passports need to meet the following criteria:

  • The passport holder is outside the UK
  • The passport is red
  • The passport holder has not already applied to renew their passport
  • The passport expired less than six months ago or will expire in the next three months (or in the next seven months if you are in or going to a country or territory that requires you to have six months left on your passport)
  • The passport has at least three blank pages

Applicants need to call the embassy or consulate to discuss their eligibility and request an appointment.

If you cannot get a new or replacement British passport to travel, an ETD allows you to leave the country you are in and travel to your destination via a maximum of five countries. The ETD can also cover a return journey if you are resident in the country from which you are applying.

Please note that not all countries allow entry on an ETD; others have extra requirements, such as visas. You will need to check whether the document is accepted in all the countries to which you wish to travel.

For more information, including a list of necessary documents and costs, visit www.gov.uk and search for passports and Emergency Travel Documents.

Travel insurance
Make sure to get travel insurance for your holiday. Travelling uninsured—particularly if abroad—can cost an immense sum if a trip goes wrong. Make sure you are prepared for your travels and adequately covered before you go.

Visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-insurance for more advice on buying travel insurance and what the insurance policy should cover.

When taking out insurance to travel overseas with a pre-existing medical condition, answer questions about your medical history fully and honestly. If your health condition changes before you travel, contact your insurer to discuss it.

If you stay in Japan for the holiday season to enjoy winter sport, check your health insurance to confirm that you will be covered.

We hope you have a wonderful and safe Christmas.

British Embassy Tokyo: 03-5211-1100
British Consulate-General Osaka: 06-6120-5600

Would like to wish the season’s greetings to all our readers.

These companies send their thanks and best wishes for the holiday period to their clients and BCCJ members.