Be medically prepared for ease of travel.
Falling sick on a holiday is quite natural for most people who aren't used to conditions outside of the countries they live in. You may suffer for about three to four days, recover, and then continue to have problems even upon your return home. That can really kill the vacation mood! How do we recommend keeping your head out of the toilet on your trip? Give your health a good thought before you take off - illnesses are common, and not preparing for them can end up costing you dearly (in terms of both cash AND experiences!)
Getting hurt or falling ill in your homeland is bad enough; in foreign territory, the experience feels magnified (and more annoying!), especially if you don't know the language or are not familiar with your surroundings. Not to forget, it can be a very expensive affair as well.
It is essential to know what must be done in times of medical crisis on your trip abroad. You can get immediate access to emergency healthcare, understand the medical system you are dealing with, and also save a bit of money (for a return trip, perhaps!?).
Research the Conditions of Your Destination
It is important to understand the ins and outs of your intended destination before you go. Travelers should know the local conditions, as some extremes can adversely affect the health of travelers. Consider heavy pollution levels, high altitudes, the types of medical facilities available, and any required immunizations prior to embarking on your trip.
Further, familiarize yourself with any laws associated with carrying certain medications abroad. While it may be legal to carry back home, you may find that you are unintentionally traveling with illegal narcotics! Travelers are advised to carry documentation from their physician describing any pre-existing medical conditions and the associated prescriptions. It is best to keep all medications in their original containers and clearly labeled.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website is an excellent resource for general guidance on health precautions in your travel destination, including tips for food and water safety and insect-bite precautions.
Health and Travel Insurance
Surprisingly, 20% of holidaymakers from the UK alone do not get travel and health insurance in order to save some money. However, obtaining medical treatment abroad can be VERY expensive. The cost of an air ambulance for evacuation is well over PS10,000 (almost $16,000 USD) at least, and ranges up to PS60,000 (almost $95,000 USD).
If your current policy does not cover travel-related medical emergencies or hospital treatment, consider purchasing a short-term policy that does. It is important that the insurance policy you choose covers health and medical expenses for both injuries and sudden sickness abroad. Additionally, assistance for emergency services must be available around the clock (you never know what time zone you'll be in!) If know you'll be participating in potentially dangerous activities, such as jet skiing, skiing, bungee jumping, scuba diving, etc., try to find a plan that will cover these adventurous activities as well. Go Overseas recommends World Nomads when organizing a short-term travel insurance policy.
Know more about your destination and minimize surprises.
Contact your Embassy
If you do become seriously ill or injured abroad, your home country's local consular officer can assist in locating quality medical services and informing your family back home. The embassy may also be of assistance in covering medical expenses up front, or transferring funds from accounts in your home country. The embassy also serves as a great resource in case you are dealing with individuals that you do not share a common language with. All in all, the consular will make sure you are being taken good care of, and will be of great assistance when you run into health troubles.
US citizens are encouraged to register in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, which alerts the local embassy of your presence, in addition to keeping your contact information handy.
Prepare Others for Emergencies
Leave emergency contact information and a copy of your passport information page with your family and trusted friends back home. Additionally, provide these contacts with the information about the nearest embassy or consulate in your destination. On your end, be sure to carry emergency contact information for your family with you when you travel.
Most importantly, ensure all of your medical documents and receipts are collected; in this way, your insurance can be claimed once you have returned home!
#1. A list of individual insurance policy options for US citizens traveling abroad
#2. Preparing for medical emergencies overseas is just one piece in the puzzle - read more tips for studying abroad prep.