Planning your holiday can be one of the absolute best and most exciting things you’ll ever do, from deciding where you’re going, to how long for, what your must sees are and what to pack. You’ll probably Google where the coolest bars are near your chosen hotel and the best times to go to galleries and certain attractions you want to see. You might even look up the best way to get around with the public transport systems and read fellow travellers reviews and blogs on the areas. But the thing you generally don’t look up is the local emergency service numbers, or pharmacists and doctors. You probably also don’t look up how to say ‘infection’ or ‘pain’ in the local language of your chosen country. No one wants to dwell on those kinds of things, right? But things can go wrong, and without letting it completely ruin your time away, here are a few ways you can combat them without alarm.
First and foremost is to have travel insurance. Sounds simple enough, but your company should have 24/7 emergency assist, and my insurer CoverMore also have nurses who do triage in their call centre. This means that wherever you are, if you end up in hospital and need help and are not sure with the procedures or exactly what is happening, your insurer is always there to help. My insurer also guarantees first-world medical treatment so if I end up in a hospital in a foreign country and they deem that what the doctor wants to do it not up to their standards, they will liaise with the hospital and organise transport to a better area. Make sure to read the fine print and under no circumstance ever purchase a travel insurance that doesn’t have completely unlimited medical and dental cover! An X-ray in the United States can start with a $2000 USD price tag, let alone any following procedures, and a one night stay in the ICU has a base fee of $5000 USD.
Carry a small phrase book that doesn’t take up too much space. Most of these will have a medical section at the back so if you end up with a burst eardrum from the flight, or a urine infection (very common for women), or even just simple things like a burn, you should be able to get your message across to a pharmacist to get you the best help and advice. Most Western European people speak brilliant English, but depending on where you are, it can be pretty difficult and incredibly embarrassing to hand signal to someone that you have gastro. Eek!
My boyfriend is especially good at this one, as much as I am hopeless at it. Make yourself a little first aid kit. It should contain bandaids, antiseptic cream, a bandage, safety pins, Panadol, and possibly even some small scissors. This is for an immediate fix and super helpful if you’re travelling in a city with limited access to a chemist. I always carry around a liquid hand sanitiser as well and some toilet paper/tissues to make sure I’m covered in any situation!
If you want to be really organised and you’re staying in a city more than a few days it’s always helpful to ask your front desk where the closest chemist and hospital is. I remember feeling absolutely dreadful in Paris once and going downhill very quickly with stomach cramps. Trying to find a hospital on a metro map in that situation is entirely unpleasant, so if you make yourself familiar with it before anything happens you’re laughing!
Try and keep your cool. I know it sounds like a cliché, but when you have to get your point across about an ailment in a sticky or difficult situation, all parties involved will be happier if you’ve come prepared!
By Madelin Baldwin