Every trip, no matter how pleasurable, has the potential of unexpected trouble, and trouble far from home can be double trouble, especially if you haven't got a back-up plan. If you're hoping to take advantage of the upcoming mid-winter break to take an out-of-country trip, be sure to make yourself aware of the valuable services offered by Canada's Consular Services.
The word "consular" refers to the services a country offers citizens who travel and live outside its borders. Canada's Consulate has offices in over 150 countries. They provide different levels of services, and are available to Canadians 24/7.
The Consulate recommends that before leaving Canada, travellers visit www.travel.gc.ca, where they'll find numerous valuable resources to assist them, including an easy-to-remember set of three R's everyone should follow.
R#1: READ-UP on relevant topics about your destination. If you click on Travel Reports and Warnings in the middle of the home page, you'll find a link to your country of choice. There you'll find specific information on safety and security, local laws and customs, entry requirements, health conditions and other important travel issues.
R#2: REGISTER with the Registration of Canadians Abroad. Crises don't care what country you're in. When they surprise you, it's vital to have a connection to "home." Whether you're planning a short vacation or a long-term stay abroad, signing up will keep you connected to Canada in case of an emergency, including natural disasters and civil unrest. It will also keep you informed about an emergency at home. This service is free and confidential. To sign up you must be a citizen of Canada, have a valid passport, contact information in the country you hope to visit, and an emergency contact in Canada.
R#3: REACH US. By clicking on the Reach Us tab, you'll find a convenient page of contact numbers for the Emergency Operations Centre in Ottawa - in case of an unfortunate experience abroad. Frequent travelers recommend printing off these numbers and packing them in hard copy, just in case you're not able to access the Internet.
The website www.travel.gc.ca also includes an abundance of safe-travel resources, including articles that discuss dual citizenship, travelling with children and other important topics.
Consular Services assists thousands of Canadians abroad each year in many complex and varied situations. They'd like to remind Canadians that a Canadian passport does not grant immunity, and that it is vital to take a "preventive approach to minimize the risks and increase the chances of having a safe and enjoyable trip abroad."
Wherever your road leads, I wish you a happy stay, and safe landing back in Canada.
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