Last week we took a look at some of the potential disasters that can strike the overseas traveler: missed flights, lost luggage, mislaid hotel reservations. That sort of thing. Today, more problems and ways to overcome, or at least mitigate, them.
Problem No. 1: On your first day of sightseeing in a foreign capital, your billfold is stolen. It has all your cash, credit cards, drivers license, etc. (Sensibly you left your passport and airplane tickets at the hotel).
Your hotel will probably have the international emergency credit card numbers needed to report the loss, but don't expect Karl Malden to arrive with replacements. It's a mess that can drag on and on and ruin your vacation.
Solution: Take along photocopies of credit cards (front and back) passports, airline tickets, licenses, vouchers, etc., and the emergency phone numbers provided by your banks to help speed up the replacement process. Also be sure that spouses or travel partners take along separate credit cards so that if you have to cancel your cards, the other set will still be available for use.
We also carry some traveler's checks in dollars as back-up. That may seem a bit passe these days, but when the electronics fail or when plastic won't work for any number of reasons, you'll still be solvent. Finally, never go out on the street with a wallet or handbag filled with all your worldly wealth. Just take enough to get you through each day.
Problem No. 2: You have some kind of medical emergency overseas and end up in a foreign hospital. How do you pay for it? Or explain symptoms to a physician with limited knowledge of English?
Solution: Always take along personal medical details, contact information for your physician, and copies of prescriptions. And before leaving home, check your health insurance to be sure you're covered outside the United States. (Medicare recipients are not). Note that many policies will cover eligible medical expenses but only by reimbursement. Consider a short-term medical policy that provides direct payment to the care provider.
If you're traveling to more distant countries, you might think of joining IAMAT, the International Association of Medical Assistance to Travelers, at www.iamat.org. For a donation, the organization provides lists of Western-trained English-speaking physicians in 125 countries who agree to see members for a fixed consultation rate.
Problem No. 3: You're having a lovely vacation in London and are planning to leave the next day for Scotland. But when you arrive at the railway station you find that no trains are running, due to a strike. Your Scottish tour is now in serious jeopardy.
Solution: This is the kind of occurrence that could have been avoided by simply staying alert and monitoring the local news. In the UK, strikes are usually announced in advance, which would have allowed you to make alternate arrangements.
We understand how easy it is to ignore what's happening around you when on vacation, but in English-speaking countries, at any rate, keeping up with the daily news via radio, TV, and newspapers can save a heap of trouble in case of labor unrest, traffic accidents, weather emergencies, or even terrorist alerts. We always pack a small AM/FM radio so we can listen to news.
Even in non-English speaking countries it's possible to stay tuned because some of the more popular tourist destinations have English-language newspapers and daily radio reports in English. Failing that, ask your hotel desk if they're aware of any problems that might affect tourists.