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British indian ocean territory
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Latest travel advice for British Indian Ocean Territory including safety and security, entry requirements, travel warnings and health

2017-03-01T17:23:35.290+00:00: Latest update: Safety and security section (Sea travel) – updated information about the positioning of a hazard to shipping in the territory

The British Indian Ocean Territory is a UK Overseas Territory. It is administered from London and there is no British diplomatic or consular representation there.

The British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) is not a tourist destination. Access is restricted and a permit is required in advance of travel. There are no commercial flights and mooring permits are only issued to yachts in exceptional circumstances. Access to Diego Garcia is only allowed for those on pre-authorised official duty. See Entry Requirements.

The following is a hazard warning for vessels lawfully travelling through BIOT waters: there are reports of a large unsecured mooring dolphin (part of a floating dock) fouled on the sea bed close to a reef in the Territory. As at 19 February 2017 the latitude / longitude is 06 08.5 S 071 43.2 E. The object is scheduled to be removed during the course of 2017.

There is a low threat from terrorism. See Terrorism.

Safety and security

Crime

Crime levels are low. All of the islands apart from Diego Garcia, are uninhabited.

Sea travel

While there have been no successful piracy attacks since May 2012 off the coast of Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden, the threat of piracy related activity and armed robbery in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean remains significant. Reports of attacks on local fishing dhows in the area around the Gulf of Aden and Horn of Africa continue. The combined threat assessment of the international Naval Counter Piracy Forces remains that all sailing yachts under their own passage should remain out of the designated High Risk Area or face the risk of being hijacked and held hostage for ransom. For more information and advice, see our Piracy and armed robbery at sea page.

Terrorism

There is a low threat from terrorism, but you should be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks, which could be against civilian targets, including places frequented by foreigners.

There is considered to be a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.

Find out more about the global threat from terrorism, how to minimise your risk and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack.

Entry requirements

Permits

Before travelling to the British Indian Ocean Territory you’ll need a valid permit, which you must get at least 6 weeks in advance from the British Indian Ocean Territory Administration, Foreign & Commonwealth Office, King Charles Street, London SW1A 2AH. Email: BIOTadmin@fco.gov.uk

Any permit issued would be valid for the Outer Islands only. Access to Diego Garcia is only allowed for those on pre-authorised official duty.

There are no medical facilities in the Territory. Search and rescue facilities are extremely limited. You’ll need proof of comprehensive travel insurance (to include medical evacuation for a minimum of $100,000 US per person on board) and yacht insurance (to include wreck recovery, clean up and disposal) before a permit can be issued.

The Territory’s website has useful information for visit permit request forms and further guidance.

Passport validity

Your passport must be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry into British Indian Ocean Territory.

Health

Contact your GP around 8 weeks before your trip to check whether you need any vaccinations or other preventive measures. For further information on vaccination requirements, health outbreaks and general disease protection and prevention visit the websites of the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) and NHS Scotland’s Fit for Travel or call NHS Direct on 0845 46 47. The British Indian Ocean Territory is not listed on these websites and you should refer to the health information for the Seychelles instead. 

There are no medical facilities in the territory. Search and rescue facilities are limited. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.

Travel advice help and support

If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London on 020 7008 1500 (24 hours).

Foreign travel checklist

Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.

Travel safety

The FCO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.

When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.

Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.

Refunds and cancellations

If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.

For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.

Registering your travel details with us

We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.

Previous versions of FCO travel advice

If you’re looking for a previous version of the FCO travel advice, visit the National Archives website. If you can’t find the page you’re looking for there, send us a request.

Further help

If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.

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