Photo above: Floortje Dessing
‘For my programme 'Floortje travels to the ends of the earth' I interviewed a young woman who makes wildlife films together with her husband. They live and work in an open four-wheel drive. She said: “I know my work is dangerous, that I run risks. But if something happens to me now I can at least say that I’ve really lived.” The same applies to me. I don’t want to be held back by my fears. The world is much too beautiful and special for that.'
Floortje continues: 'Good preparation and common sense are half the battle when it comes to travelling. In my job making TV programmes, most of the work consists of preparation. My team and I organise visas, permits and local guides. We research our destination: can you film easily there? Is it the monsoon season? Are there elections? Are there health risks? If you’re going to a risky place you have to ask yourself: do I really want to go there? And if the answer is yes, the next question is: how should I prepare? Being well prepared is important even in Europe. I once got meningitis from a tick bite in Scandinavia.'
‘Dutch people are travelling more than ever. So as a consumer and professional traveller I’m delighted that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has set up the 24/7 BZ Contact Centre. The more travellers there are, the more people will need the ministry’s help. There are so many cases of travellers getting stranded somewhere. It’s great to know that help is just one call away. The 24/7 BZ Contact Centre will assist you, or refer you elsewhere if action needs to be taken quickly. The Contact Centre can also help you prepare your journey. For instance by answering questions about BZ travel advisories.
‘Dutch people aren’t easily put off from going somewhere. It’s striking how quick we are to travel to places that not long before had been classified as risky. But it is important to check the ministry’s travel advisories and to act on them. Make sure that you know in advance about the situation in the country you’re travelling to, and what to do if something happens. And go! Set off on a journey! The world is so beautiful.’
24/7 Contact Centre: preparation, help and advice
How do you prepare for a journey? And where can you go if you need help once you’re abroad? The staff of the 24/7 BZ Contact Centre answer about 3,000 questions a day via e-mail, Twitter and phone calls. The questions are about all kinds of things, ranging from passports and visas to legalising documents, robberies and other mishaps encountered by travellers. If necessary, they are put in contact with an embassy. The 24/7 BZ travel app is also helpful. It contains up-to-date BZ travel advisories and lots of information about countries all over the world. At the touch of a button you can connect to the 24/7 BZ Contact Centre in The Hague. You can also get through to it by ringing the Dutch embassy in the country you’re in, or by calling the Centre’s direct number: +31 247 247 247.
Travel or stay at home? Check the BZ travel advisories
When drawing up travel advisories, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs works with embassies, information services, local authorities and others. These travel advisories can be found on the Ministry’s website, and they’re consulted by over 2.5 million visitors a year. Frank Oostdam, director of the Dutch Association of Travel Agents and Tour Operators (ANVR): ‘We’ve long had close contacts with BZ, and they’re getting closer all the time. Which is a bad sign, really! The likelihood that people will get into difficulties on their travels has increased, because they’re going on more adventurous trips, to more remote destinations. Safety risks are increasing too. Our tour operators are well informed about situations across the globe. So we can help BZ when it comes to providing information. It may be that one area of the country is seen as high risk, while you can travel quite safely in another area. These days, travellers see the whole world as their oyster, so more and more people will be turning to tour operators and the Ministry for help. That makes our partnership with BZ more necessary and valuable than ever.’
Wherever you go, you’re always connected to the Netherlands
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs assists not only Dutch people in the Netherlands with an interest in other countries but also Dutch people who travel, work or live abroad. It promotes their interests and helps people who need assistance. In individual cases, for instance after an arrest or serious accident, or by visiting people in prison. But also when disasters or crises occur, or through the provision of consular assistance at large international events. In addition, the ministry helps Dutch people abroad to obtain products and services that would normally be provided by a Dutch municipality. Like applying for or renewing passports, or legalising documents. The 24/7 BZ Contact Centre is the first port of call for such queries: the customer service desk.