How to Deal with Travel Emergencies
Shit happens. But it’s just the worst when it happens in time to ruin your well-earned vacation and you’re far from familiar surroundings. This is one of the greatest fears travelers have before starting the trip. But knowing the enemy usually reduces the anxiety, so let’s explore some of the most common travel emergencies you might (but hopefully won’t) encounter in your travels and see what can be done to remedy and prevent them.
Your Passport is Lost or Stolen
Don’t panic! If you’re sure your documents are stolen and not just lost, your first step would be to file a police report. With this report, you must go to your embassy and inform them of the situation. If your passport is just lost, you might have to pay a fine for issuing the new one. The embassy will issue you a temporal substitute for your passport, which can be used to return to your home country. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to travel further with this substitute, as its validity will be very short.
Always keep your passport in a safe space: a zipped inner pocket or a safe at a hotel. Have scans of all your documents in safe cloud storage online and carry a paper copy in a safe place. It’s so much easier to prove who you are with the copy! Consider getting a second foreign passport if it’s possible in your country and keep the two passports separately. Don’t forget travel insurance that will cover an emergency return home in case your documents are stolen.
Your Wallet or Gadgets are Stolen
Don’t panic! Find a phone and call your bank to close any credit cards you had on you. Ask them if they can send you a new card to the country where you’re in or in which banks you can withdraw money from your account. Hopefully, you have some emergency cash or can borrow from friends. If not, you can ask somebody to transfer money to you through western union, MoneyGram or some similar service. Good travel insurances will also provide you with emergency cash.
When your immediate cash problems are solved, go file a police report. While they might not find the robber (although who knows?), this report will be important for your claim at the insurance company. If your phone is stolen, try to track it through Google or other tracking apps.
Follow the usual safety rules: don’t walk alone at night in questionable places, don’t flash expensive things in the street, don’t look like an easy target. Ensure your valuables with travel insurance. Keep an emergency stash of cash in a hotel or in a secret pocket. Create a “decoy wallet” with some little money and expired cards, so that you can give it to a robber instead of your “real” wallet. Take two cards with you and only carry one. Enable tracking function on your phone – while experienced robbers know to switch it off immediately, not all of them are experienced.
You Miss a Connection
Don’t panic! As soon as you realize that you’re late for a plane or a train, call the travel company that sold you a ticket and try to work out what to do together with them. Sometimes, if you inform them in time, they will offer an option to buy a cheaper ticket for the next connection. If you’re late because of a third party, try to obtain a confirmation that your lateness is not your fault – it will increase your chances for a refund. For example, railway stations can issue you a confirmation that the train was late. You can learn more about your rights on this webpage.
Don’t plan short transfers! Leave at least 2 hours between connecting flights in an airport, and always try to arrive well in advance. Travel insurance may cover your losses due to missed connections if they are not your fault. Try to book flexible tickets, as it’s easier to re-book them once you realize that you’re late.
Your Baggage is Lost
Don’t panic! Find your baggage claim tickets and go file a report at lost baggage counter in the airport. They will collect your contact data and inform you once your baggage is found. Meanwhile, check if you can apply for some emergency cash from your flight company to buy the things of first necessity. Also, contact your travel insurance as they should cover cases like that too.
Consider flying without checked-in baggage if possible – it will save you time, nerves and money. Buy a bright, distinctive suitcase so that there’s no chance that somebody takes it by mistake. Always remove old baggage labels from your suitcase. Carry everything you need to survive the first two days of your trip in your carry-on.
Your Flight / Hotel / Car Rental is Overbooked
Don’t panic! This can actually be a lucky situation, as you can get upgraded to a higher tier service. Don’t let them talk you into “paying a little more” for a better option – they will give it to you for free in case your choice is no longer available. In case you’re not happy with a substitute – complain and ask for a refund! In case of the flight, it is usually asked at the gate who is in no hurry and can fly on the next flight. If you’re not on a tight schedule, take that option, as they will pay for your food and hotel while you’re waiting for the flight and also give you a lump sum of cash.
You can’t do anything, unfortunately. Everything gets overbooked nowadays, it’s just how tourist businesses are run. Try to arrive early at check-ins or do them online to reduce the possibility of being the one with no place left.
You Get Ill
Don’t panic! If it’s a minor illness, look through your first-aid kit and see if you have a familiar remedy for that. In case you don’t have anything, try to talk to pharmacists at drug stores, they can recommend to you what people in this country are buying for your problems. If they don’t understand you, google up Latin names for your illness or a Latin name for a medicine that you know helps.
In case it’s something that requires a doctor, first, contact your insurance company. They should provide you with a list of nearby specialists that will accept your insurance or whose receipts your insurance company will definitely accept for refund.
Take a good first-aid kit, especially if you’re going to areas where you suspect medicine will be hard to come by. Consider doing first-aid courses. Shop around for a good travel health insurance, preferably with 24/7 helpline.