Steps to take if someone dies abroad

The death of a loved one can be devastating. But the situation can be even more distressing if they die during a holiday or business trip abroad. Here’s our practical guide on what to do if someone dies overseas.

The death of a loved one can be devastating. But the situation can be even more distressing if they die during a holiday or business trip abroad. Here’s our practical guide on what to do if someone dies overseas.

Josh Daniels
From the Travel team
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Posted 2 OCTOBER 2019


A travel traffic light system has been introduced for international travel. From 19 July 2021, trips to green and amber listed countries are legally permitted if you live in England and Scotland. However, you’ll still need to fulfil any pre-departure requirements, such as testing. If you live in Wales and Northern Ireland, you still need to follow the rules for your relevant local authority.

If a country is on the green or amber list, you still need to check the latest travel advice and entry requirements for each country you visit or transit through. This is to ensure you’re aware of any specific requirements relating to entry and to check travellers from the UK are permitted. Countries can have their traffic light status changed at short notice and you should take this into consideration when looking to travel. Please check the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) advice for the latest information.

The FCDO currently advises against all but essential travel to red listed countries. Should you choose to travel against the FCDO rules, you will not be covered by any travel insurance policy you purchase. Some providers do offer cover for international travel if you’re travelling for essential purposes, however most do not. In all cases, should you have any queries please check the policy wording or contact your chosen provider before purchasing to ensure the cover meets your needs.

Travel within England, Scotland and Wales is permitted under the current guidelines. However, public health rules and lockdown restrictions continue to vary, including entry restrictions for Northern Ireland. Check the latest guidance from the official tourism boards for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

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1. Contact the British authorities

If you’re abroad

If you’re with a loved one and they die abroad, you should contact the nearest British Embassy, High Commission or Consulate in that country. They’ll be able to offer practical advice and help with what to do next.

If you’re in the UK

If a loved one dies abroad while you’re in the UK and you’re the next-of-kin, you’ll be contacted by the UK police.

If you hear about the death from someone else, for example, a travelling companion, tour operator or the media, you should phone the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) on 020 7008 1500. The FCO offers help and advice on what to do. They also provide country-specific bereavement packs with practical information on legal processes and services available following a death abroad.

2. Register the death

All deaths must be registered in the country where the person died. The British Consul or local police can help you with this.

If the person died on a ship or aircraft, you must register the death in the country the ship or aircraft is registered in.

You can also register the death with the UK authorities via the GOV.UK website. This is known as a Consular Death Registration. It’s not legally required, but it does mean the death will be officially registered in the UK, either with the General Register Offices for England, Wales and Northern Ireland, or with the National Records Office for Scotland.

To register the death with the UK authorities, you’ll need to provide:

  • the local death certificate 

  • a certified translation if the language is not in English 

  • evidence of the deceased’s British nationality (usually their British passport) 

  • details about yourself and the deceased, including full name, passport number and date and place of issue 

3. Repatriation

If your loved one died during a temporary stay abroad, such as a holiday or business trip, it’s most likely that you’ll want to hold their funeral back in the UK. To do this, their body will need to be repatriated.

To enable repatriation, you’ll need:

  • the death certificate from the country where the death occurred
  • permission to repatriate the deceased
  • an embalming certificate

If the death certificate has been issued in a language other than English, you’ll need to get a certified translation in order for it to be registered by the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages in the UK. Without the official translation, your loved one won’t be able to be buried or cremated in the UK.

It’s advisable to use the services of a funeral director who specialises in repatriation. They’ll have expertise to guide your through the repatriation and funeral process.

4. Find out if the deceased has travel insurance

Repatriation costs can be very expensive; often thousands of pounds. The FCO will not pay for repatriation or funeral expenses.

Does travel insurance cover death?

If your loved one has travel insurance, check whether they’re covered for death. Most travel insurance policies include repatriation cover as standard. Contact the insurance provider as soon as you can. They can often arrange repatriation on your behalf or cover funeral expenses if your loved one is to be buried or cremated abroad.

Some travel insurance policies also include personal accident benefit as standard. This can provide family members with financial compensation on top of repatriation costs, if the policy holder dies as the result of an accident abroad.

The FCO strongly advises travellers to take out comprehensive travel insurance before they go abroad. Injury or death are the last things you want to think about when planning a trip. But travel insurance could help alleviate the financial burden of an already devastating situation, should the worst happen.

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