The U.S. Department of State’s role in an overseas crisis ranges from offering information to departure assistance as their resources permit. This doesn’t really give travelers concrete assurance or assistance on what to do in an emergency. While the government can probably help if a political crisis in your host country is underway, it’s unlikely they can help out if you get sick or can’t communicate with loved ones while overseas.
Take your health, safety and well-being into your own hands and know what to do if you encounter an emergency abroad.
You Need Medical Help
Falling ill while traveling is generally a minor problem if you have a place to rest, some over the counter medicine and access to a clinic. But what happens if you need serious medical help after a fall, car accident or dangerous fever?
Look at your health insurance policy before you leave. It’s unlikely it covers medical insurance abroad, but it may have provisions to take out a policy to cover you while traveling. Services could include overseas hospital stays or a medical evacuation. As an alternative to your primary health insurance, some countries offer quality, privatized medical care for a fraction of the cost of what you’re accustomed to in the United States. Research nearby hospitals and medical centers, and don’t wait to seek help. Make sure you know how to dial the country’s equivalent to 911 and learn how to say, “I need medical help” in their language.
You Can’t Communicate
Have you ever tried to call a phone number from an overseas landline? Just figuring out how to call out for pizza can be a monumental task, let alone for an emergency. Learn how to call nearby clinics, hospitals and police before you leave. If you’re already overseas, knock on a neighbor’s door or go out to look for a police officer or someone who can help you figure out the best way to reach help.
You can usually use your smartphone overseas, but you will pay a costly, international roaming fee. Service providers like T-Mobile offer international plans that let you stay in touch through text and voice calls at a normal cost. Use Skype’s app for cheap voice calling or What’s App to trade video, audio and text messages with friends and family. Invest in a smartphone like the LG G5 that comes with built-in wireless charging technology so you don’t have to worry about a broken cable affecting your communication.
Your Passport is Stolen
A stolen passport can leave you stranded for a few days, but it isn’t a reason for total panic. Plan in advance and make copies of your passport to leave with trusted family or friends. It’s also wise to keep a copy in a secure online cloud storage system like Dropbox for easy access.
The U.S. Department of State recommends contacting your nearest U.S. embassy or consulate for assistance. From there, you can apply for an expedited passport to get your identification restored and your travel plans underway. You will need some type of identification whether it’s your driver’s license or an expired passport and evidence of your citizenship, such as a copy of your stolen passport. Your travel itinerary, including airline tickets, will also help. You’ll eventually make it home with a new passport and a great story to tell.