While we are busy getting ready for travel and packing for our families, our most pressing thoughts usually linger on buying suitcases and completing last minute shopping chores.
However, there is one important issue that all of us need to consider before leaving our country. What happens if we get sick or injured while traveling?
Many of us may get travel insurance to take care of our investment in tickets by getting insurance that will safeguard our money if we have a reason to cancel the trip. A much more important matter is to know that we are safe and protected even if we are traveling in a remote area of an unknown country.
There are many types of emergencies that can happen when we travel. We can slip and fall down or somehow have an injury, we could have an auto accidents, we could get injured in a fire, avalanche or even a Tsunami like the one many tourists in Thailand and Sri Lanka experienced in the December of 2004.
There are many things you can do to before you leave the country to keep yourself safe while traveling:
Determine what your own health insurance will cover when you are out of the country. Some insurance companies allow you to call them if it’s not an emergency to request the nearest hospital that they can send you to. If it’s an emergency, they may reimburse the expenses up to a certain amount depending on your policy. It’s always better to go to the website of your health insurer and read the policy. If you are confused, call them on the telephone number provided on their websites
Find out what type of incidents your travel insurance covers. Usually they pay up to 75% of the payments and deposits up to 48 hours before departure. They may also give senior discounts, children insured free along with adults and other benefits depending on the amount of “upgrades” you choose. Travel insurance also may include Medical Evacuation services which include transportation to the hospital of your choice in case you need major surgery or other treatment.
Before you leave, get all the phone numbers that you need to call and a world cell phone that you can use while traveling. Keep the numbers safe and near you at all times.
Check out the website for Centers for Disease Control site and search for any health warnings for each of the countries you are traveling to. Get all the vaccinations and medicines that you recommend.
Check out your government website to see if there are any warnings for the citizens of your country to stay away from traveling to your destinations. KEEP THE PHONE NUMBER OF YOUR EMBASSY at the destination country with you at all times. Find out how to dial that number (area code, etc) as soon as you reach the destination.
If you are traveling alone, taking a self defense course before you leave your country may be a good idea.
Pack a first aid box with some anti-biotic ointment, band-aids, scissors, etc. Also, carry a flash light (torch) with you.
When you have finally reached the destination, keep all your valuables together so that you can get out of the resort or hotel quickly in case of a fire or other emergency. I usually keep my valuables on the night stand all together in a pile along with the room key so that I can just grab them in case of an emergency.
Your first important job when you reach the resort or hotel is to find out from the hotel clerk or customer service person where the nearest hospital is. Its phone number also may be useful if you need to call them in an emergency. Ask if they have emergency services such as ambulance and evacuation. Also find out the police station numbers and try to walk to these places to see how far they are.
Another piece of information that will help is the location of the nearest pharmacy, drug store and grocery store in case you need diarrhea, nausea or burn medication.
Let us go through what we can do in case we face certain dangerous situations:
Remember most countries do not have fire drills or even fire codes and warnings. So you may be on your own if a fire emergency occurs. If you or anyone in your family is hurt, get out of the building immediately and call the local hospital and ask them to send an ambulance. So not try to retrieve any of your baggage etc.
If you or anyone in your family is seriously sick, call an ambulance and go to the hospital to see the conditions there. As soon as you can, contact your insurance companies and communicate the situation with them. If the condition worsens, ask them to evacuate the ill person as soon as they can back to your country.
In the case that anyone in your party gets injured while skiing, or surfboarding or just walking down the road, call your insurance company and ask them for advice. If it’s a simple injury, they may refer you to a hospital. If it’s a serious injury, you may be asked to call an ambulance and to get the patient in as soon as you can. Even if the insurance company does not agree, if you think that the situation warrants immediate action, do so. Just make sure that you have pictures of the accident to show the insurance company of the damages. Also, be prepared for a lengthy insurance nightmare. We had to do that one time and when we returned, the insurance company refused to pay for the emergency. After a few lengthy letters back and forth, they finally gave in.
In the case of a major natural disaster such as volcano eruption or Tsunami, try to remove yourself and your family as far away from the situation as possible before calling your embassy and your insurance companies. If anyone is missing or injured, and it’s impossible to get out of the situation, call your embassy immediately. Also inform the people in your country so that they can get your government to act for your safety. More than the disaster itself, what can hurt you is the chaos in the aftermath.
As a tourist, we always have cameras in our hands. No matter how painful it is, remember to take a picture of the extent of the disaster. This may help to reduce the pain of paying enormous bills when you get back home as they are proof that you can use to convince your insurance company of how devastating the experience was.
Hopefully, with all these precautions in place, you may not have to worry about any of these disasters and have a wonderful, relaxing vacation.