Top 10 Bizarre Requests for Consular Assistance

With millions of Brits choosing to live outside the UK, it’s unsurprising that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) are inundated with calls from desperate Brits stuck in a hospital or prison cell.

What may surprise you, however, is just how many ridiculous requests the FCO receives. Anything from sourcing English bacon to worries about nudists.

The FCO have released what they call their “Top Ten Bizarre Requests”, partly for amusement, partly to highlight to people exactly what services they can proivide.

During 2015 over 500,000 calls were made to the consular services line which is there to provide emergency or legal assistance to Britons who get in trouble abroad.

Of those half a million calls, 3,250 were from Brits who had found themselves hospitalised, 4,770 from Brits who found themselves in a jail cell, and 3,670 from the families of people who had died overseas. As well as dealing with those issues, the office also issued 38,000 replacement travel documents.

Firstly, here is a list of things you should call the FCO for:

  • Arranging to visit British people in hospital
  • Arranging to visit British people in prison
  • Advising on money transfers
  • Assisting those caught up in a crisis situation

This is not an exhaustive list, obviously, but gives you an idea of what they can do.

What they cannot do is get you out of jail if you’ve been arrested, although 74% of Brits* thought they could. They cannot necessarily arrange travel home for you if you have lost your tickets, although 22% of those surveyed thought they could. And they will not lend you money if yours is lost or stolen, which 15% of those surveyed assumed they could.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office Minister James Duddridge said: “Our consular staff are a helpful bunch and do an amazing job helping out Brits in trouble around the world – but it is important that people remember they are there to help with genuine emergencies and not as an alternative to directory enquiries.

“Every minute they spend handling a call requesting advice on butlers or nudists is time taken away from dealing with life and death cases, so I urge the public to think before picking up the phone.”

So, here is the FCO’s Top Ten Bizarre Requests

  • a man planning to move to Spain called because he was worried he may encounter nudists on the streets
  • a hungry expat called to ask where he could buy English bacon
  • a lady in Lebanon asked for assistance in recruiting an English butler
  • a holidaymaker called looking for Travel Advice for a visit to Coventry
  • a European filmmaker needed an English pensioner for a part in his film and thought the FCO could help
  • a woman arrived in Russia and was upset that the Embassy didn’t send someone to show her around St. Petersburg
  • a British man asking for assistance to get illegal employment in Singapore
  • a mother asked for the contact details of a young British YouTuber, as her son was a fan of his Minecraft videos
  • a confused businessman looking for information on the construction of plug sockets
  • a man in South Korea asking what he could do with his old pound notes

* Research from the UK Travel Habit Tracking Research Report, September 2015

Top 10 Things To Do On The Costa del Sol

There are hundreds of things to see and do along the 150km of the Costa del Sol from water sports, to museums, to climbing, to zoos. You are sure to find something to fit your preferences.

If you do a search on TripAdvisor you will see hundreds of results and it could take a while to look through them all. As summer is approaching and tourists are planning their trips I thought it might help if we looked at the Top 10 and hopefully it will help you with at least a few days out during your visit.

1. Puente Nuevo Bridge (Ronda) / El Tajo (Ronda)

The Puente Nuevo Bridge over El Tajo gorge
The Puente Nuevo Bridge over El Tajo gorge

The Puente Nuevo Bridge is in the picturesque city of Ronda, around 40 minutes inland from the coast. It is the newest and largest of the three bridges that span the 120m gorge that splits the city and in which the Guadalevín River flows.

Construction of the bridge began in 1751 and took a staggering 42 years to complete. Over 50 builders lost their lives during construction.

Above the central arch there is a chamber that was originally used as a prison. During the Spanish Civil War, it is alleged that the chamber was used for the torture of captured enemy forces. Some were allegedly killed by being thrown from the chamber onto the rocks at the bottom of the gorge, named El Tajo.

Today, the chamber contains an exhibition of the bridge’s history and construction. It is a very popular tourist spot and a must-see for those visiting the coast. The bridge and the nearby viewing platforms provide astonishing views while the town centre provides a mesmerizing array of Spanish tapas. The square is encircled by coffee shops, tapas bars and restaurants.

Put Ronda on your list of things to do!

Trip Advisor Ranking – Puente Nuevo Bridge – 4.5 (2,091 reviews), El Tajo – 5 (975 reviews)

2. Parque De La Paloma (Benalmadena)

Parque De La Paloma, Benalmadena
Parque De La Paloma, Benalmadena

The Parque de La Paloma (Park of the Dove) is the largest green space in Benalmadena and is considered to be a central meeting point for the locals.

Situated in the small town of Arroyo de la Miel, the park consists of over 200,000 square metres of green space. It contains an artificial lake containing plenty of fish, turtles, ducks and the occasional swan. You won’t be alone even if there are no other people in the park thanks to the surprising amount of animals living there. Expect to see peacocks, hens, chickens and rabbits. You can also see mountain goats and ostriches, yes, ostriches. Other facilities include two children’s play areas, walking paths with clear signposting, natural wildlife and a restaurant area.

Parking and good disabled access are provided. More Information.

Trip Advisor Ranking – 4.5 (2,593 reviews)

3. Marbella Old Quarter (Marbella)

Plaza de los Naranjos (Orange Square)
Plaza de los Naranjos (Orange Square)

If you know Marbella at all you will think of it as a modern, bustling, tourist hotspot and probably the most popular and well known town on the Costa del Sol.

Take a step back from the main road though, and you will find yourself transported back to before the rest of the world discovered it and started to fill its beaches.

It is difficult to imagine a town that is so popular with modern culture managing to preserve so much of its past and also to retain its appeal with today’s demanding travellers.

As you walk through the narrow streets you will discover plaza after plaza, each surrounded with tapas bars and restaurants, and most filled with people. Orange trees line the paths and during summer the smell of orange blossom adds to the beauty of this small area of the coast.

Plaza de los Naranjos (Orange Square) is arguably one of the most popular, partly thanks to Judith Chalmers, ex-host of UK holiday show “Wish You Were Here”. Ms Chalmers was a frequent visitor to Marbella and often said Orange Square was her favourite part.

Many of the narrow streets are lined with small boutique shops and bars. They are very small and personal and most are open every day. Beware of the siesta though. A lot of the smaller, independent shops will be closed from 2pm to 4pm for a nap. This is more prevalent during the summer when daytime temperatures regularly exceed 40 degrees.

Trip Advisor Ranking – 4.5 (2,492 reviews)

4. Museo del Vidrio y Cristal de Malaga (Malaga)

Museo del Vidrio y Cristal de Malaga
Museo del Vidrio y Cristal de Malaga

Malaga’s Museo del Vidrio y Cristal sits within beautiful restored 18th century house not far from the city centre.

It provides visitors with the chance to browse “the history of humanity by means of glass” by viewing its private collection of over 3,000 pieces of glass and glassware. The exhibits are accompanied by photos, furniture and other decorative items that sit within each historical period represented.

The exhibits are accompanied by photos, furniture and other decorative items that sit within each historical period represented.

The museum aims to be not only a museum of objects and history but also a point of reference for artisan techniques from the past, many of which have been consigned to the history books, or museums just like this.

The museum is open Tuesday to Sunday, from 11am to 7pm. All tours are accompanied by a guide but there is no extra charge for this. If your group consists of more than ten people you may need to book in advance.

Visit their website for more information.

Trip Advisor Ranking – 5 (1,069 reviews)

5. Automobile and Fashion Museum (Malaga)

One of the largest collections of vintage cars in the world
One of the largest collections of vintage cars in the world

The Museo Automovilistico de Málaga is one of the more recent additions to Malaga’s list of things to do having opened in 2010. It is housed in one of the city’s most architecturally wonderful buildings, the old tobacco factory.

The museum houses the private automotive collection of Portuguese car fanatic Joao Magalhaes and its estimated value is around 25 million euros. It is claimed to be one of the most important, and significant collections of vintage cars in the world.

The display consists of more than 80 cars, both vintage and modern, alongside other travel-related memorabilia from the 1920’s through to the 1950’s.

Covering 6,000m² and with high ceilings and long thin windows, the museum is a great place to view these automotive artefacts. The display is split into ten sections, each covering a different era. These include Belle Epoque, the Art Deco 30’s, Dolce Vita 50’s and English Tradition, in addition to more modern themes including alternative energies, and tuning.

Like cars? Make sure you visit this museum. You won’t be disappointed.

Trip Advisor Ranking – 4.5 (1,216 reviews)

6. El Torcal Natural Park (Antequera)

Unusual rock formations at El Torcal Natural Park
Unusual rock formations at El Torcal Natural Park

El Torcal de Antequerra is a reserve of 17 square kilometres in the Sierra del Torcal mountain range, south of the city of Antequerra.

The park was designated as a Natural Site of National Interest back in 1929, but wasn’t declared a nature reserve until 1978.

The park is well known for its unusual rock formations and shapes. The limestone is about 150 million years old and time has shaped it, along with water and wind, to form strange “piles” of flat rocks, balanced impossibly on top of oneanother. Many have evolved into seemingly familiar shapes with some being nicknamed. You can look out for the Sphinx, the Jug, the Camel, and the Screw.

The area also includes caves and other underground formations. Some of these are of historical importance like the Cueva del Toro (Cave of the Bull) inside of which, Neolithic artifacts have been discovered.

Find out more on the official website.

Trip Advisor Ranking – 4.5 (970 reviews)

7. Celia Morales Traditional Flamenco Guitar (Ronda)

Celia Morales entertains with her flamenco guitar
Celia Morales entertains with her guitar

There isn’t much in the world that says Spanish Culture more than Flamenco Guitar and Flamenco Dancing. If you are visiting the coast, or any other part of Spain you should definitely try and see a show. I saw one in Granada a few years ago and it was very impressive. The effort and emotion that goes into Flamenco guitar is like nothing I have ever seen.

Celia Morales has been playing guitar since she was 8 years old before later studying classic guitar at Malaga’s Music School. In 1998 she decided to focus her efforts on Flamenco Guitar.

You can see Celia perform in a very small, intimate showing every day (except Sunday) from 19:30. The price is 15 Euros per person. You will be very close to the performer which will immerse you in the emotion and elegance of the flamenco style.

More information on Celia’s website.

Trip Advisor Ranking – 5 (242 reviews)

8. Alcazaba (Malaga)

The Alcazaba Fortification, Málaga
The Alcazaba Fortification, Málaga

The Alcazaba of Malaga palatial fortress originally built to deter pirates around 756-780AD.

Built on a hill in the centre of the city, it overlooks the port, and consists of two walled enclosures, or an inner citadel and an outer citadel.

Initially, it was also connected to the city ramparts forming a third defensive line but today only two inner walls remain. The first, built around the topography of the hill, completely encloses the second inner area and is dotted with defensive towers.

As you move through the fortress you will see a number of immaculately manicured gardens and elaborate fountains, in addition to simply stunning architecture. You will also be able to see beautiful arches, towers, gates, and original marble columns. There are also dungeons, a mosque and baths which are usually accessible.

The Alcazaba is open from 9am to 8pm although entrance is permitted only until 7:30pm. Entrance is only a couple of Euros so if you’re in Malaga you should definitely take a look.

More information here.

Trip Advisor Ranking – 4.5 (3,884 reviews)

9. Benalmadena Puerto Marina (Benalmadena)

Benalmadena Puerto Marina
Benalmadena Puerto Marina

Benalmadena Marina has twice been awarded the Best Marina in the World and when you see it you can understand why.

It is without doubt the most amazing port and residential complex in Europe with a mix of architecture from Indian, Arabic and Spanish cultures. Many of the structures sit on artificial islands which add to the allure of the area.

There is a huge array of shopping facilities and eateries catering for all appetites, all available to eat in the sun at the water’s edge. Can life get any better?

You will also find a casino, bars and clubs, in and around the marina with golf courses close by. The marina provides everything you need from leisure to entertainment to food and drink to shopping – enough to keep the most demanding visitor occupied.

The area has held a European Blue Flag for its beaches and water quality since 1987! More information can be found here.

Trip Advisor Ranking – 4.5 (3,443 reviews)

10. Cueva de Nerja (Nerja)

A cave large enough to host concerts
A cave large enough to host concerts!

Cited as one of Spain’s most popular and historically significant sites are the Nerja Caves – a series of large caverns covering almost 5km and housing the world’s largest stalagmite – a 32m  formation which measures a jaw-dropping 13 metres by 7 metres at its base.

The caves are split into three galleries – Show Gallery, Upper Gallery and New Gallery – each consisting of a number of Halls. Some of these halls contain prehistoric cave paintings but due to their delicate and important nature these areas have limited access.

The caves were discovered relatively recently, in 1959, by five local boys out hunting for bats. Not long after, in 1960, the caves were officially inaugurated and opened to the public.

The caves are open every day of the year except Jan 1st and May 15th. For 2016 some new guided tours have been introduced including The Secrets of the Caves, The Discovery Tour and a Night Tour.

Find out more here.

Trip Advisor Ranking – 4.5 (2,495 reviews)

So there you have it! This is only a tiny selection of things to do on the Costa del Sol. TripAdvisor lists over 500 activities and places to visit so get your bags packed and head on down here for the summer. You will not be bored!