8 Worst-Case Travel Scenarios
What happens if you crash your rental car? Wind up in jail abroad? Relax—these situations are unlikely (your chances of being arrested abroad, for example, are roughly just .006%). Still, it never hurts to know how to cope or, better yet, avoid disaster entirely.
2. Certain prescription drugs, though allowed in the U.S. (in particular, those with codeine and other narcotic-like ingredients), may be on the control list in other countries. To be safe, carry your prescription with you—including both the U.S. and the generic name of the drug—in case there are questions overseas.
3. Be aware that certain bridges and buildings are considered military installations in some countries—for example, in Vietnam, the United Arab Emirates, and select parts of Israel, such as the West Bank and Gaza—and, as a result, taking photos of them may be prohibited.
YOU'RE CAUGHT IN A NATURAL DISASTER
An Indonesian vacation goes from paradise to pandemonium when an earthquake strikes.
How to Cope
No matter where you are when disaster strikes, your best course of action is to follow the instructions of the local authorities who are responsible for responding in the moments and days that follow, Bernier-Toth says. Next, you should contact the local consulate or embassy. "We need to know who is there so that we can calibrate our response accordingly," Bernier-Toth says. Also, reach out to family and friends as soon as possible. Communication with people back home is often the best way to get information about when (and how) you'll be able to depart from the disaster zone. If you're looking for local hospitals, doctors, or pharmacies, the best place to find these is on the website of the local U.S. consulate or embassy (that is, if you can access the Internet). If you can't get online, make your way to a major hotel and request information there.
4 Tricks to Avoid the Problem
1. Be aware of weather conditions where you're traveling, and stay connected to local news during your trip. If authorities ask people to evacuate an area, do so! "We've had very tragic situations where U.S. citizens have failed to heed those warnings and have paid a high price," Bernier-Toth says.
2. Also, before traveling it's important to understand what your travel and medical insurance will cover when you are outside of the country. That way, in the event of a disaster, you'll know what your coverage provides as far as medical evacuation and emergency care.
3. Download the State Department's Smart Traveler app from iTunes, with its travel alerts, warnings, embassy location finder, and more.
4. Register your travels on the State Department's website via the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. If you do so, the U.S. embassy will have your contact information so they can reach out in case of an emergency, as well as put family from the U.S. in touch with you.
YOU'RE INJURED ABROAD
A leap from a rocky outcrop into clear blue water on a Thai beach ends in injury when you don't quite clear the cliff.
How to Cope
If your injury is minor, says Ronald A. Primas of travelmd.com, you can self-treat using tools from your first-aid kit (a minor slip-and-fall injury, for example, can be handled by wrapping an elastic bandage around the wound, then elevating and icing it). But when things appear more serious, he says, do not hesitate to seek out local help.
To find a doctor, start by asking the front desk of your hotel (or a major hotel in the area) for a recommendation. Local U.S. consulate or embassy websites also have lists of English-speaking doctors. If you seek out care in a local facility in an undeveloped country, avoid any unnecessary injections if you have concerns about the facility's hygiene standards. For serious injuries that require hospitalization, especially in undeveloped countries, Bernier-Toth says that local embassy and consulate services can "make sure that a [U.S. citizen] is being treated appropriately, assist with coordination with the family in obtaining or arranging medical care, and, in dire circumstances, actually loan someone who is destitute the funds to get them into the hospital."
4 Tricks to Avoid the Problem
1. "Prevention is number one when it comes to reducing your risk of being injured while traveling," Primas says. Always wear your seatbelt in your rental car. And if you rent a moped or bicycle, wear a helmet as well as wraparound eyewear.
2. Swimming injuries are also common while traveling, Primas says, so never mix boozing and swimming, don't dive into water headfirst when you're unsure of its depth, and never swim alone.
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