The Department of Foreign Affairs fields some bizarre requests from Australian travellers but these 20 take the cake.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has warned Australians travelling abroad that they cannot assume that their embassy or consulate staff will bail them out. “Consular assistance should not be seen as a right. It is a privilege," Ms Bishop says.
Here are some of the more bizarre requests DFAT has received from Australians travelling abroad.
1. A traveller who was destitute refused to return to Australia without their pet, which could not be returned for quarantine reasons.
2. A mother who wanted the embassy in Bangkok to book accommodation and a return ticket to Australia for her son, then provide an embassy driver to take him to the airport.
3. A request from an Australian traveller for DFAT to feed her dogs while she was away.
4. I'm attending a conference overseas with a large group of Australians but I have heard it is a dangerous city. Can the High Commission arrange for a risk assessment and some armoured cars? We only need them for a week.
5. Multiple inquires to embassies overseas as to the closest pub televising the State of Origin game.
6. An Australian who had his laptop stolen overseas requested that embassy staff pick him up from the airport, loan him a laptop and provide him with office space for a few days.
7. A traveller who asked whether the sand in Egypt would affect her asthma.
8. Panicked callers regularly reporting Australian travellers missing overseas, after not hearing from them within the first few hours of arriving in country. Consular officers usually explain that getting through customs and immigration can take time.
9. Why won't the Australian embassy come and pack my bags for me? I'm an 80-year-old travelling by myself and too old to pack my own bags.
10. I left some items on an aircraft when I changed flights. Can the embassy collect it from the airline's lost property?
11. Can the embassy obtain prescription medicine from Australia and send it to me so I can continue my holiday?
12. Requests for our embassies to store luggage, hold mail, provide banking facilities or arrange tours for Australian travellers.
13. What is the best way to get a polecat out of your roof?
14. I'm going on a cruise. What will the food be like? Can you drink the water on the ship?
15. Some travellers evacuated from civil unrest in Egypt on government-funded flights questioned why they were not entitled to frequent flyer points. Similarly, some travellers evacuated from the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami made seat requests (including for first class).
16. A caller to DFAT's 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre wanted to know the average salary for an expat to expect in Thailand.
17. Does the embassy know if there are there any hotels in Phnom Penh with vacant rooms?
18. Can the embassy tell the local police that I have an excellent driving record in Australia and should not have to pay those outstanding speeding fines?
19. What is the best hotel in Phuket?
20. On my last trip to the Philippines I had some trouble with the law. What is the number of the embassy in Manila so I can call them to get me out of jail when I go back?
(Source: Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade)