This is one of the travel tips travelers pay the least attention to, and yet it can become one of the most important things you do while you travel. Even if you plan to cover more than one country, it only takes a few minutes of your time to visit your country's local embassy or consulate and register your presence in each country you visit. It may not seem important if your trip is going smoothly but what if something goes wrong?
In Bolivia we hear of travelers who have gotten:
a) lost (for example in a large jungle or state park),
b) mugged or robbed (not uncommon),
c) temporarily kidnapped (express kidnappings are known of in La Paz),
d) injured during a trip (can happen to anyone whether on tour or on your own),
e) sick (something you ate, dengue, malaria, etc.),
f) stranded (such as the 100 travelers stuck in Potosi for 2 weeks due to road blocks)
g) in trouble with the law (transporting cocaine, getting involved in bar fights, etc.),
h) travelers who've died (Death Road bike trips, Uyuni, buses going off cliffs, etc.)
In the event you break a local Bolivian law, there is little your embassy can do for you legally, but they can help contact your family. In any of the cases above, contacting your friends and family would be one of the things they could do for you.
In some cases embassies can help arrange emergency transportation back to your country (such as in the event of an illness or death or the occasional evacuation flight in the case of civil unrest). Some country's embassies do attempt to negotiate safe transport for you if you're stuck behind a road block, such as happened in Potosi in 2010. If you've been robbed they can attempt to help you obtain a new passport, and so on.
At the very least, registering at your embassy leaves a trail as to where you've been or are at present, should it become necessary to contact you on behalf of your family (for example, if there's been a family emergency back home and your family needs to find you) or contact your family for you (for example, if you've fallen ill or are in the hospital or need funds or have been arrested).
You should definitely register with your local embassy if you're living in Bolivia for any stretch of time (tourism, permanent residency, short-term volunteering, exchange study, etc.)
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If you accessed this article from our June 2011 Bella News Ezine click here to return