This month we explored how to anticipate and extricate yourself from severe problems when traveling abroad. It’s easy to be paranoid about travel in foreign lands, but the best way to ease the anxiety is comprehensive preparation.
Before you leave you need to read the travel pages of US Department of State very carefully. This is the most valuable resource for US citizens intending to travel overseas, and the information you need to prep for your trip. The best preparation tool in these free resources is the “Smart Traveler Enrollment Program” or STEP where you can register your trip and make sure you are on the system, so that if problems do occur, the State Dept has all your details on file.
The best protection against accidental damage or mishap is the basic travel insurance you can get anywhere, but what if you need something a bit more exotic? How about the more expensive Medevac (Medical Evacuation) Insurance to airlift or other rapid transport you to the nearest hospital? This is the best kind of cover, along with a possibly a sat phone, if you are going to be out in the wilderness and might need rescuing.
Although you might not trust the local law enforcement in your remote location, you still have to report any crimes that are perpetrated on you. The local law enforcement may laugh it off and do nothing, but they have to file a report and that report can be shown to the insurance company or Embassy in support of any action you may take later on.
And finally the answer to “what can your embassy do for you?” is sadly “not as much as you’d like”. They are there to support you, but not pay for anything or make problems go away. They have local knowledge, can help smooth over minor problems, but they have no power to overrule the local laws, so make sure you don’t break any. (Your State Dept research should have warned you of laws tourists might break.) But they are everywhere, and should be the first call when you hit major problems of a legal or health nature.
- Documents tip: make copies of your passports and your travel documents and leave copies with the hotel and with friends at home in case your originals are stolen. That way the US Embassy can make a new passport for you very quickly.
- Money tips: keep multiple sources of money on you and in your luggage, cash for small purchases and in multiple currencies, credit and debit cards for more major purchases. Keep all sources of money separate, in different pockets, spread between members of your party, and in your luggage and hotel safe. Obviously one of the things you have to be aware of is that the crime befalling most travellers is to separate them from their money and valuables. Be discreet when handling money in public.