18th December 2012 London, UK

Consular Christmas blogs: A Canadian Christmas

Canada is a wonderful place for the holiday season, with many exciting diversions and snow going hand in hand.

Many tourists travel to the west coast, home of the 2010 Winter Olympics,  to enjoy world class skiing. Others savour the festival of lights at Niagara Falls, or go skating on the world’s largest outdoor ice rink on the Ottawa Canal.

Canada in the snow
Canada in the snow

However, all these delights do mean serious work for our consular officers in Vancouver, Toronto and Ottawa. All three cities boast major tourist attractions and play host to an increased number of tourists at this time of year, so the Christmas season brings its share of lost passports, hospitalisations and other consular cases.

Each year a small minority of Brits end up in a range of unfortunate and stressful situations such as the loss or theft of their passports or wallets, or falling victim to unfortunate accidents. This can leave them without access to funds to pay for food, accommodation or return airfares.

Sometimes, British tourists are hospitalized due to illness, injuries or mishaps. Alcohol can affect you more quickly at higher altitudes, so be careful and know your limits. Brits that do require consular assistance due to medical emergencies are mostly those who innocently assume that they will be entitled to free medical care in Canada, or that the NHS will pay for their treatment. They often didn’t take out medical insurance before going on holiday, or sometimes invalidated it by not declaring pre-existing medical conditions.

While visitors to Canada can receive medical treatment from Canadian health facilities, they are charged full service fees, which are very expensive. Depending on the nature of the illness, fees can amount to thousands of dollars, which must be paid by the patient or their insurer.

Of course the majority of visitors have a trouble free trip and don’t require assistance from our consular officers. They enjoy their skiing holidays and time in the snow-covered landscape of Canada, but temperatures of minus 30 can come as a real shock even to people used to a British winter!

So follow the example of the locals and wrap up warm with proper winter wear, and make sure if you are going skiing you take all the proper precautions and have the right gear.

Have a great Christmas and enjoy the snow!