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Surviving abroad when your travel plans go wrong

When making travel plans, the idea of things going wrong tends to be at the back of our minds. We’re too busy thinking about the cocktails we’ll be sipping on the beach, and the temples we’re going to explore.

It may not have happened to you yet, but it’s all too easy for things to go wrong abroad. The anxiety of having your luggage going missing or losing your passport can too much for some travellers, especially if they have decided to go away alone.

Some of these situations can be prevented with a bit of preparation, but not all. Here are some tips on how to survive when things don’t go to plan.

Preparation is key 

Whether you’ve been to your chosen holiday destination ten times or never before, it’s vital to do some research about the country you’re visiting. The latest scams you need to watch out for may be completely different, or there could currently be a reason why it is unwise to travel to that country. Check the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) website for any travel warnings – don’t just rely on news reports. Media outlets may claim that tourists should not travel to Egypt at the moment, but what they likely mean is there is just one area of the country that needs to be avoided.

If you’re travelling somewhere particularly exotic, you need to check that you get the right vaccinations. It’s best to speak to your doctor, as if you’re on any medication you can ask them for advice about travelling with your condition – there may be things you need to avoid or be more aware of. Double check that your medication will be allowed into the country and that you have plenty of it before you leave.

Buy travel insurance

You should never go abroad without buying travel insurance – even if you’ve been lucky in your adventuring so far. Don’t buy insurance just because it’s cheap either; you may find it doesn’t cover something important until it’s too late. Medical costs in other countries, particularly the US, can be astronomical – even for the most minor injuries and problems.

Insurance can also cover you for lost luggage, flight cancellations, theft and more. It’s not just for medical emergencies!

Dealing with theft

Thief stealing mobile phone from back pocket of a man walking on the street. Pickpocketing smart phone from back pocket of man.

Being mugged is never a nice experience, and it often leaves the victim feeling shaken and vulnerable. Some people take a dummy wallet with them abroad, which is full of old/expired cards, so if they are mugged they can hand this over rather than their real purse. However it is all too easy to turn your back on your camera bag or rucksack whilst you’re on a train or sat in a café. The next thing you know, your passport or wallet is missing.

The important thing is to stay calm – double check your possessions have actually been taken, as you may have moved them to your coat pocket and forgotten about doing so. If you’re sure something has been taken, report the incident to your nearest police station within 24 hours. Take your passport – or a photocopy of it – with you so you can prove who you are.

Coping with travel delays and cancellations

We can all aim to get to the airport several hours before our flight, but no matter how prepared you are, travel delays and cancellations can lay ruin to all of your plans. If your flight/train/boat is cancelled or delayed for any reason, try not to get too stressed. Remember, it’s not something that’s within your control, so there’s not much point getting overly worked up about it. Why not pass the time doing something that you can control instead, such as brushing up on the local language or reading a relaxing book? It may help reduce some of the anxiety.

What to do if you get sick

Young woman with heatstroke on a beach

Young woman with heatstroke on a beach

There is always a chance you could come down with a virus or get food poisoning whilst abroad, as the food and hygiene standards in some countries can differ hugely from what you’re used to in the UK. If you’ve been suffering from vomiting, diarrhoea or both for more than eight hours you should go to A+E, as you will likely be seriously dehydrated.

Of course, if you have a pre-existing condition, it may flair up or become particularly bad whilst you’re away too. Your rule of thumb should be this: if you feel so unwell that you would normally go to the doctor at home, then you need to do the same when you’re abroad. All your medical costs should be covered by your travel insurance.

Keeping your money safe

Some of us take a huge amount of spending money away with us on holiday – after all, there are so many souvenirs to buy! No matter how safe the destination you’re going to is, you need to have a back-up plan in case you lose all your money.

We suggest that you take at least one credit card with you – make sure it will work in the country you’re going to and that you tell the bank where you’re going beforehand. Read up on the charges too; you don’t want to withdraw money abroad only to return to a huge bill when you get home.

Although it can be stressful when things go wrong, it can also be a blessing. Sometimes the unplanned turns out better than expected. Remember that holidays are an adventure, and you should be able to take almost any problem in your stride. If you do need assistance, contact your insurance provider and they should be able to sort out a solution.

 

Safety Tips for Travelling

Staying safe on holiday is just as important as staying safe whilst at home, and following these tips can help you have the experience of a lifetime but without any unexpected dramas.

Have a health check-up

  • Before you leave, make sure you’re as healthy as you can be so you can have peace of mind that you’re at your best and won’t experience any previously unknown medical issues whilst you’re away.
  • Check whether you need any vaccinations before you travel.
  • Be realistic in where you travel – being older doesn’t mean you’re limited in what you do, but make sure your destination is suitable for you and your needs.

Plan ahead

  • Planning ahead can save time and unnecessary stress, especially during the busy holiday seasons. Leave enough time for any traffic jams you may encounter on the way to the airport/port, toilet stops and any parking issues. Make sure you make it to the departure point with enough time to spare, running around and panicking just ensures your holiday will be off to a flustered start and could lead to an accident.
  • If you need to arrange transport to or from the airport/port, make sure this is sorted well before you fly/sail.
  • Understand local laws, cultures and etiquettes before you travel, as some cultures are offended by things we would consider normal everyday behaviours.

Accident prevention

  • Accidents can have lasting effects, especially for the more senior traveller.
  • Make sure you’re careful around walkways, promenades, railings, steps or any situation where there’s a chance of uncertain footing in case you fall.
  • Don’t rush for any reason, and if you’re uncertain about getting from one point to another, ask for help.
  • Make sure your travel insurance has adequate emergency medical expenses cover to pay for any medical attention you may need whilst abroad.

Crime

  • Do your homework before you leave and find out whether crime is common in the area you’re travelling to. Senior tourists and travellers are vulnerable targets for thieves and muggers, especially in big touristy cities.
  • Make sure you don’t carry large sums of cash on you, and if you have to, divide it between you and another person, or keep it in more than one place on your being. Don’t advertise any jewellery, electronic equipment or cash, as this makes you an easy target for thieves, and try and keep everything in a bag that has a lock or zip close, and strapped across your chest.
  • Never venture down streets alone, especially if they’re small, empty or it’s at night.

Tips for Holiday Excursions

Snorkelling in the Cayman Islands, kayaking past hundred-foot tall glaciers in the Arctic, spotting wildlife on the coast in the Hebrides, cage-diving with sharks in Cape Town – there are hundreds of great excursions that cruise ships offer their passengers, and there’s usually something to provide everyone with a memorable experience on their non-sailing days.

Once you’ve booked your cruise, you’ll be able to browse through and pick excursions offered to you, and customise your trip to your tastes at additional costs. Most shore excursions are hugely popular and they book up fast as they operate on a strict first-come first-served policy. To avoid disappointment, InsuranceWith advise you either book early or book through one of the several excursion operators available in each port, which you can book through independently online.

If you are unable to make your planned shore excursion due to illness, cabin confinement or trip cancellation, InsuranceWith cover any excursions that were booked and pre-paid for before you embarked on your cruise, allowing you to deal with any unforeseen event with peace of mind that you won’t be left out of pocket.

Below are some tips on excursions:

  • Make sure you’re aware of local laws and customs before you arrive. Some countries can be offended by certain states of dress or behaviour.
  • Stay with the group you intend on spending the day with. If you deviate from the main group, make sure you’ve arranged a place or time to re-group.
  • Make sure you have a copy of all your important documentation – EHIC medical card, passport, Visa- just in case something happens.
  • Don’t carry large amounts of cash with you, and if you must, split it with a travelling companion, friend or family member. Divided cash is safer. Don’t advertise your cash either – put it in a bag that crosses across your chest so you’re not an easy target for thieves.
  • Make a list of important emergency phone numbers should you get lost, ill, injured or are late. For example, the ship, the guide, other people you’re travelling with and your insurance company.
  • Make sure you have good travel insurance cover, should something unexpected happen you can rest assured knowing you’re not losing any money.
  • Make sure you’re drinking enough bottled water to stay healthy and hydrated.
  • Try to avoid walking alone or in small groups at night or down smaller streets, as this makes you an easier target for thieves and pickpockets.

Staying Safe in the Sun

The sun is warm and wonderful when it’s shining down on us, and with some forethought and care we should be able to enjoy it to the full without being burnt or permanently damaged by it. However, the sun’s UV rays can be incredibly harmful and cause skin cancer.

Here are some tips about suncare:

  • Avoid the strongest rays of the day and long periods in the sun, so from 11am to 3 pm find shade, rest inside or find some shelter. Alternatively, if you don’t have a choice, put on a higher factor sunscreen.
  • Keep covered up – even a t-shirt can lose up to half its UV protection when wet, so always cover up with some dry clothes after venturing into the water.
  • Cloudy days are deceptive – UV rays can travel through clouds too, and especially with wind, you might not notice the heat or the rays, so keep an eye out.
  • Make sure you use a sunscreen that offers both UVA and UVB protection and one that is waterproof.
  • Comfortable sunglasses that wrap round are ideal for protecting eyes, and make sure you’re more likely to keep them on. Sunhats with fabric that covers your ears and neck are also great at keeping the sun off the bits more likely to burn and harder to reach with the sunscreen.
  • Cover up at the slightest hint of it getting hot – better to be safe than be burnt and it ruin your day.
  • Experts recommend you use SPF 30, 40 or even 50 on children. Choose a coloured spray so it makes the application process more fun for them, and you can ensure you have total coverage.

    Reapply sunscreen every 2-3 hours, apply generously and don’t forget your lips, face, hands, ears, neck and feet!

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