What to do if someone dies abroad
It can be an emotional and challenging time when someone passes away, but it may be even more distressing if they die abroad. This guide will advise you on what to do when someone dies abroad.
Someone you’re travelling with dies abroad
If you’re travelling or holidaying abroad with someone and they pass away, the first steps you need to take are:
- Contact the nearest British embassy, High Commission or consulate – they’ll be able to give you advice on what to do
- If you’re staying in a resort, let a representative know
- If you’re on an organised tour, let the organisers know
Some larger holiday resorts and tour operators have welfare representatives who can help you during this emotional time.
A loved one dies abroad whilst you're in the UK
If a loved one dies abroad while you’re at home in the UK, the British consulate is legally obligated to contact the next-of-kin. You may find out from the embassy itself, or the UK police force may be instructed to tell you.
If you are notified about the death by someone else, for example a tour operator or package holiday representative, it’s important to contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). They will keep you up to date with what’s happening and can help you decide arrangements.
There are steps you must take when this happens but remember you can always ask family or close friends to help you.
Registering a death abroad
You must register a death with the local authorities in the country where the person died. If you’re unsure about how to do this, your nearest British embassy will be able to help you.
You must also register the death with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK.
If your loved one died while on a ship or plane, you must register the death in the country that the ship or plane is registered to and not where the ship or plane was in at the time of death. The British embassy can help you get hold of this information.
There is more information about how to register a death abroad on GOV.UK.
Bringing the body home
You can either arrange to have the funeral overseas or for the body to be returned to the UK. Returning the body to the person’s home country is known as repatriation. If you want to repatriate your loved one’s body to arrange a UK funeral, you will need to contact an international funeral director or a repatriation specialist.
To bring the body home you must:
- get a certified English translation of the death certificate
- get permission to remove the body, issued by a Coroner (or equivalent) in the country where the person died
- tell a Coroner in England if the death was violent or unnatural. A Coroner will usually hold an inquest (in England or Wales) if the cause of death is unknown or if it was sudden, violent or unnatural.
When your loved one’s body is returned home, you must take the translation of the death certificate to the register office, in the location where you would like the funeral to be conducted. As the death has already been registered abroad, the registrar will give you a ‘certificate of no liability to register’. You will need to give this to the funeral director so the funeral can go ahead.
The British consulate, embassy or high commission in the country where the person died will be able to provide you with more specific advice relevant to the country of death.
Bringing ashes home
When leaving a country with human ashes you will normally need to show:
- the death certificate
- the certificate of cremation
Each country has its own rules about departing with human ashes and there may be additional requirements. Contact the country’s British consulate, embassy or high commission for advice.
You should also contact your chosen airline to find out whether you can carry the ashes as hand luggage or as checked-in luggage. They may ask you to put the ashes in a non-metallic container so that they can be x-rayed.