Embassy’s help may be limited

By Joyce Renee Lewis
This item appears on page 49 of the February 2014 issue.

At the end of the letter “Ethiopia Tour Did Not Go As Planned(Dec. ’13, pg. 23) is an editor’s note with a tip for travelers about carrying the phone number of, among other offices, the American Embassy. Yes, travelers should have this, but I would warn, ‘Do not depend on their help for anything other than getting a new passport.’

I’m not sure how we Americans came to believe that all we have to do is to reach the consulate or embassy and all our problems will be solved. The reality was revealed in two accounts from passengers who survived the sinking of the Costa Concordia off the coast of Tuscany, Italy, in January 2012.

From a report by Barbie Latza Nadeau in The Daily Beast, Jan. 10, 2013, regarding a passenger Benji Smith of Boston, MA — “… When Smith phoned the American Embassy in Rome to ask for assistance, he says the couple was treated like second-rate citizens. While many other passengers from other countries were visited by ambassadors and their representatives at the hotel, Smith says, the American and Chinese embassies ignored them. He says the American Embassy would not provide logistical assistance and told them they had to find their own way from the airport hotel into the center of Rome, despite that they had no cash.”

From a story by Marnie Hunter on CNN, Jan. 18, 2012, quoting Joan Fleser of Duanesburg, NY, about the US Embassy in Rome — “‘Other than getting our temporary passports, they gave us no assistance whatsoever. No food, no clothes, no money, no transportation. They told us to borrow some money, get a cab, come on down.’ A hotel shuttle took Fleser and other Americans to the embassy, she said.”

And this is in ITALY, not some remote country!

Do not take it for granted that a US embassy or consulate will assist you in solving all your logistical problems.


Camano Island, WA