More than 19,000 British travellers needed help from consular staff in the past year.

Overall total assistance figures showed a slight drop of 3% but some countries saw big increases in more serious types of case, according to Foreign & Commonwealth Office figures released this morning.

Rape and sexual assault cases increased by 10% compared to 2011/12 with the largest number of cases reported in Spain, Turkey and Greece – destinations popular with young British holidaymakers for their busy nightlife.

Alcohol continues to be a major factor in cases involving young people visiting the Balearics, Turkey and the Greek islands.

Overall arrests of Britons abroad for drug offences dropped to their lowest level for four years, with a decrease of 34% since 2009/10, and general arrests and detentions showed a 21% drop in the same period.

However, in the 2012/13 period 3,599 British people were hospitalised and there were more than 6,000 deaths of British people abroad, the FCO revealed.

Staff in some countries, including Spain and the US, continued to deal with thousands of cases, while a number of countries including India, United Arab Emirates and the Philippines saw an increase in serious cases such as arrests and hospitalisations.

This demonstrated the importance for travellers to respect local laws and customs and take out comprehensive travel insurance, the annual British Behaviour Abroad Report added.

Spain, the country most popular with British tourists and expatriates, has seen a significant decrease in arrests, detentions and hospitalisation cases – mainly due to local initiatives involving FCO staff, police and hospital authorities.

Thailand has seen a “significant increase” in hospitalisations (31%) and deaths (31%), despite fewer cases worldwide.

Road traffic accidents, many involving young people on mopeds, and an ageing expat population are both factors attributed to the increase in cases.

Although drug arrests have gone down, drugs remain a problem for many countries, including Jamaica, France and Portugal.

FCO minister Mark Simmonds said: “I am deeply concerned to see an increase in the number of reported rape and sexual assault cases involving British people.

“The priority for our consular staff is the safety and wellbeing of British travellers and we will continue to work, including with other governments and tour operators, to help to prevent further cases and provide all possible support for victims.

“This support includes explaining local procedures, accompanying people to the police station, helping them deal with local authorities and medical staff and contacting friends and family at home if that is wanted.”

Abta responded to the report by urging travellers to ensure they have valid travel insurance.

A spokesman said: “While the vast majority of visits abroad go without incident, accidents can happen and, with the peak holiday season upon us, it’s vital that British tourists pack their policies.

“Our research shows as many as one in four are travelling abroad uninsured, putting themselves at risk of sky high medical bills.

“The FCO does a fantastic job assisting British citizens abroad but it’s not its job to pay your medical bills or get you home should something go wrong, which is why it’s essential to have travel insurance.”