How to deal with emergencies when travelling

How to deal with emergencies when travelling

Several years ago I was on a cruise in the Caribbean Seas. While having fun at sea one day we heard about a tragedy that occurred there. A young boy had been ice skating on the onboard skating rink when he tripped and fell. Another skater happened to be passing him at the same time and went over his fingers, severing them. In a case like this, medical repatriation is required. The boy had to be airlifted and transported to the nearest hospital.

emergencies when travelling


This is just one example of an emergency while travelling. Accidents can take many forms. Food poisoning, assault and heart attacks are common too. Or your travel documents and credit cards may be stolen. It is important to know how to deal with these emergencies , if they do arise.

Before travelling

  1. Ensure that you have adequate travel and medical insurance. Travel insurance usually covers hospitalisation and related medical costs as well as possible emergency evacuations. Many credit card companies provide this for free if you purchase your air tickets with their credit card. My medical aid company also provides free medical insurance when travelling. I usually apply for both.
  2. Scan all your important documents like passports, visas, drivers’ licences, air tickets and itineraries (if you do not already have electronic copies). Then email copies to yourself and / or upload them to Dropbox. That way, if your documents get lost or stolen, you still have the electronic copies which will make it easier to replace them.apply for a passport online
  3. Send a copy of your itinerary to someone that is close to you that is not travelling with you – in case you go missing.
  4. Ensure that you have taken the required vaccinations for your destination. They are usually prescribed for a reason. Remember that prevention is better than cure.
  5. Keep emergency numbers easily accessible. These include the numbers for your country’s embassy in the country you will be travelling to and emergency numbers for your bank and/or credit card company.

While travelling

  1. If your passport is stolen or lost while you are travelling abroad, report the theft / loss immediately to the local police station / law enforcement agency. Take a copy of the police report to the nearest Embassy or Consulate-General for your country and apply for an emergency travel document. This will usually allow you to travel directly back to your country only.
  2. If your debit or credit cards are stolen then most major banks have 24-hour helplines which you can call to cancel your active cards as well as order new ones. It helps to have copies of these numbers on you.  To access emergency cash, find the closest bank, and ask them to contact your bank with a request for emergency funds. Alternatively, have a friend or family member send funds to you via Western Union financial services.
  3. If you have a medical emergency, you will most likely be provided with medical care. If your travel insurance is in place, you can claim the costs of the medical care at a later stage.

We've had our fair share of emergencies while travelling, like the time our car got stuck on a mountain and our insurance company had to collect it while we had to rent another vehicle. Read about our other travel problems.

Life is unpredictable so the best thing you can do before your next holiday is to be prepared for emergencies when travelling . Wishing you safe travels.


2 comments on “How to deal with emergencies when travelling”

  1. That poor boy! I went on a cruise where a woman slipped on a hike and her face got pretty messed up. The doctors on the ship took care of her though. You just never know when something like that can happen.

    1. Ouch, that sounds painful. Something like that can ruin your whole trip...and sometimes impact the rest of your life too.

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