Running into an emergency when you’re traveling within the country isn’t as a huge deal as it is when you’re overseas. You may not speak the language, their system of government, health care, and emergency response may operate differently, and when you’re dealing with a new culture, dealing with a serious emergency abroad can be frightening.
Emergencies can include anything from a wildfire to severe weather to civil unrest, depending upon your destination. It’s frightening to consider the possibilities and even more concerning to find yourself in the situation and unprepared.
If you want to avoid being caught in an emergency abroad, you need to be prepared and informed beforehand. There are several rather simple things you can do.
1. Research the area before booking a flight or hotel.Watch the news, and read local bloggers. Get plugged into the State Department’s STEP (Smart Traveler Enrollment Program) alerts as soon as possible.
It’s a free service that allows U.S. citizens and nationals traveling and living abroad to enroll their trip with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. It offers several benefits, including receiving important information from the embassy about safety conditions in your destination country, enabling the U.S. embassy to contact you in an emergency, whether natural disaster, civil unrest, or family emergency and allowing family and friends get in touch with you in an emergency.
2. Get trip insurance.
You have insurance for your health, car, home and possibly your possessions, so why not insure your trip? Insurance can help you out during and after an event and can save you thousands, even hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Shop around like you would with any insurance coverage, because prices vary. Be sure to get the specifics of your policy in writing so you know what’s covered — for example, some will cover illness, some won’t. Be sure to choose a provider that’s high-tech and available 24/7.
3. Create a list of emergency numbers.
Plug key phone numbers into your phone, such as the embassy, before you depart. You might want to try and memorize them in the event your phone has a mishap, or print out a very small list and tuck that into your wallet or purse and another in your suitcase.
If you really want to be prepared, laminate a card with those numbers and carry it in your pocket in case you lose your phone, wallet, and luggage at the same time. Finally, save that list to Google Drive or Evernote. If all else fails, you can always find an Internet cafe or borrow someone’s device, log into your account remotely, and access the numbers.
4. Learn important phrases in the native language
Learn key phrases in the native language of your destination. The last thing you’ll want to be doing is using google translate in a high-stress situation. Once the situation is over, notify your embassy of the situation and your status. There might be information they can pass along.
5. Book with a travel agent
Did you know that you can call and switch your travel arrangements in a crisis? Asking for what you need may be the difference between avoiding danger or getting out of it. Check with your hotel and airline about changing your booking, because alternate lodging might be available.
But this is a stronger argument for working with a travel agent. They’re your concierge (of sorts) when you travel. If you run into a problem or an emergency abroad, you can call them and they’ll start working on alternate arrangements for you, including a new flight or hotel. Rather than you spending hours on hold, let them do it for you. Remember, a travel agent doesn’t cost more because they make their money off commissions from the travel providers. If anything, it might cost you less.
What sort of preparations if you’re caught in an emergency abroad? Have you ever had an emergency happen while you’ve been overseas, or even while you’ve been traveling domestically? Share your thoughts and stories with us on our Facebook page, or on our Twitter stream. You can also find us on our Instagram page at @TravelproIntl.
Photo credit: MaxPixel.net (Creative Commons 0)