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Tim Cole

Former British Ambassador to Cuba

Part of UK in Cuba

19th September 2013 Havana, Cuba

‘Dear Ambassador…’

Thankfully not all of the 150,000 Brits who come to Cuba each year on holiday write to me asking for advice on where to go fishing. Earlier this summer, I received the following letter:

‘Dear Ambassador

I am eagerly anticipating a visit to your adopted country from the 22nd June in company with four friends. We have just completed our final exams at university and are looking for a change of scene.

With no contacts in the region I am writing to request advice in respect to our stay of 28 days. I would be very grateful if you could pass on any places of especial interest. I have heard there is fantastic fishing on the island also, which I’d be keen to pursue.

On another note should one be worried about carrying around a passport when travelling? I note from your website petty theft is on the rise – can one stash it safely at the embassy for the duration?

Finally if you know of any way we might catch the forthcoming Lions Rugby tests that would be very welcome information!

While I am sure you have other more momentous matters to be attending any counsel you could provide would be greatly appreciated.

Yours sincerely


Initially I thought the letter was a spoof, possibly written by a friend who’s a travel writer – that ironic ‘momentous matters’ was very suspicious. But I later learned the author did actually come to Cuba for a holiday so I can only conclude he really was hoping I could answer his questions. However embassies aren’t actually travel agencies nor are they places to store your belongings (although it is a very good idea to keep your passport safe whilst travelling). We can’t advise on good places to watch sport, nor do we translate phrases for tattoos and we can’t check the credentials of foreigners that British people meet online either.

What we can do is help people who face real problems abroad. These can include victims of crime, bereaved families who have lost a loved one abroad or Britons who have been arrested or detained. The excellent consular team in Cuba can help you out with the following:

  • Issue you with replacement travel documents
  • Provide information about transferring money
  • Provide help if you have suffered rape or serious sexual or physical assault, are a victim of crime, are ill or in hospital
  • Give you a list of local lawyers, interpreters, doctors or funeral directors
  • Contact you if you are detained abroad
  • Contact friends and family back home for you if you wish
  • Provide help in cases of forced marriage
  • Assist people affected by parental child abduction

And here’s what they can’t do:

  • Help you enter a country if you do not have a valid passport or necessary visas
  • Give you legal advice or translate documents
  • Investigate crimes or get you out of prison
  • Get you better treatment in hospital or prison than is given to local people
  • Pay any bills or give you money
  • Make travel arrangements for you

If you are coming to Cuba, you can check out our latest travel advice here. And don’t forget there’s a risk of hurricanes or cyclones at the moment; this website can give you up-to-date information on any severe weather heading our way. Enjoy your holiday!

1 comment on “‘Dear Ambassador…’

  1. Dear Tim,
    congratulations to this outstanding report of yours. I do especially like your chapter : “…dear Ambassador..”.Although this letter has surely more questions to you as answers i ve learned a lot. In your 2nd. topic/chapter you´ve made a list of 15 topics. All of them worth to discuss .Looks to like that you wanna also bring a little bit more of democratic transperancy. That ´s great!
    So my best wishes to you,

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About Tim Cole

Hi! I’m Tim Cole, the British Ambassador to Cuba. I arrived in Havana in August 2012 and presented my credentials as British Ambassador the following month. I’ve been a diplomat…

Hi! I’m Tim Cole, the British Ambassador to Cuba. I arrived in Havana in August 2012 and presented my credentials as British Ambassador the following month. I’ve been a diplomat since 2001; before Cuba, I spent 5 years in London where I worked on Pan-African policy and global economic issues and 6 years in southern Africa as Deputy Head of Mission in Mozambique and Zimbabwe. Most of my career has been in Africa as before joining the FCO I ran humanitarian aid programmes in Central Africa for the British NGOs Christian Aid and Save the Children. I’m married to Clare and we have 2 children – Jonathan and Zea.

The idea of this blog is to tell you what the British government is doing in Cuba and why. If you enjoy the blog and want to read more, please follow me on Twitter.