Holidays and travel are supposed to be full of fun, excitement and joy. Even travelling for work, while it can be mundane, stressful and exhausting, can also be really interesting. Usually, the last thing we expect when we are travelling, is that someone is going to die
"On the 27th February 2011, whilst on holiday in Barbados, my husband got off his sun lounger, adjusted his glasses and headed into the sea for a swim. Moments later, I heard him call for help, and watched helplessly from the beach as he was pulled out to sea by a rip tide. He drowned. Bizarrely, after he died, almost the first thing I said was, "But I’m wearing a bikini!" as if bad things can’t happen when you’re wearing a good bikini. But they can, and it did. At the age of 46, I crash-landed on Planet Grief, a place where nothing, not even my own reflection in the mirror, felt familiar."
What to do
The first thing to do when someone dies abroad is to contact the British embassy, high commission or consulate. If the death is in suspicious circumstances, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office can provide specific advice and support. If the death is of someone on a package holiday, the tour operator will be able to help. If you have not travelled with the person who died, the consulate will inform you through the police force or British Embassy.
The death will need to be registered in the country where the person has died, and with the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office in the UK. The local police or hospital may also be able to help, and an English-speaking lawyer can provide additional support if necessary. There are a number of UK-based organisations that can also provide support, assistance and information. The personal belongings of the person who died will also need to be sent home.
Depending on local laws, a post-mortem may need to be carried out; there may also be a post-mortem in the UK if the person's body is brought home. The authorities in the country will need to know if the person had an infectious disease such as a hepatitis or HIV infection. The death may also need to be reported to the coroner in the UK.
You as next-of-kin will need to decide to do with the person's body. This could be a local burial or cremation, and will usually need a local funeral director. A funeral abroad will, however, depend on local laws and customs, and on the circumstances of the death.
Bringing the person home – repatriation – will need support from an international funeral director. This may require the passport of the person who has died, and will need a death certificate (with a certified English translation), an embalming certificate, and authorisation to take the person's body out of the country. Repatriation is likely to cost up to £4000.
The death will need to be registered in the UK. A burial or cremation in the UK will need a burial certificate from the registrar, or a Home Office cremation order.
If the person who has died has travel insurance, the insurer may cover a number of things such as medical, repatriation, legal, interpretation and translation fees. The insurer may also have a list of approved funeral directors.
I was widowed at 50 when Tim, who I expected would be my happy-ever-after following a marriage break-up, died suddenly from heart failure linked to his type 2 diabetes. Though we'd known each other since our early 20s, we'd been married less than ten years.