Beware of Health and Safety Risks and Review Your Insurance Before You Go
Too often, travelers trudge to the same vacation spots, snap similar pictures and upload similar social media posts.
The familiar is comfortable, but there’s a whole world waiting to be seen. It just needs to be seen safely and smartly.
Thrill-seekers may consider adventure travel, a type of tourism in remote or exotic locations often involving challenging physical activities like mountain biking, rafting or rock climbing.
Adventure travel can be the experience of a lifetime, but there are risks inherent with these trips, more so than lounging beside the pool in Las Vegas.
Here are tips for those who are ready to break out of the R-and-R rut and explore fascinating destinations.
1. Prepare for Health Risks
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends you visit your doctor four to six weeks before your trip to get any recommended vaccines or special medical care.
Adventure travel is often physically demanding. Make sure you train for what’s planned. Work with a reputable outfitter who has a current operating license and is a member of relevant professional associations. Don’t be afraid to ask for references.
Make sure that you eat healthy foods, stay hydrated and avoid alcohol before or during outdoor activities. Remember to use sunscreen, as well as insect repellent with DEET in countries with malaria. Consider bringing a first-aid kit and be aware that prescriptions in the U.S. may not be legal in the country you’re visiting.
The last thing that anyone wants to do on a vacation is get sick. Unfortunately, travelers in foreign countries are often exposed to unfamiliar germs. Some simple precautions can usually keep you on your feet.
For meals, the CDC recommends fully cooked or commercially packaged food. Beware of raw foods including fruits, vegetables and local wild game. Bottled or canned drinks are usually fine. So is coffee or tea that’s steaming hot.
Depending on the country, be cautious with tap water and fountain drinks. Avoid ice, which is often made with tap water.
The CDC’s website offers information on health concerns by country, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, and even Antarctica. The World Health Organization tracks disease outbreaks globally.
2. Be Smart About Crime and Emergencies
For those headed abroad, a general understanding of the politics, laws and customs of a country is warranted. The U.S. Department of State provides information by country on its mobile-friendly website.
Depending upon how far afield you go, consider registering in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive State Department alerts and to be reached by the consulate in an emergency.
Make two copies of all travel documents. Leave one copy with a friend or relative at home and carry the other separately from your original documents. Keep your passport separate from your currency, and to foil pickpockets, do not carry your passport in your back pocket.
If you’re planning to drive in a foreign country, understand that road conditions, laws and driving norms may vary from those in the U.S. Many countries do not recognize U.S. driver’s licenses, but will accept an international driving permit. Crime can happen anywhere, but it’s especially unsettling if you’re in a foreign country and unfamiliar with the language or customs.
The State Department can replace lost or stolen passports, contact family, friends and employers, and help you find proper medical care, understand financial options and even point you to a list of English-speaking lawyers. The agency cannot investigate crimes, provide legal advice, serve as a translator or cover medical, legal or other expenses.
3. Get Proper Insurance
Adventure travel carries some degree of risk. Before you head abroad, check to make sure that your health insurance covers your care in your destination. If not, the CDC recommends buying supplemental health insurance.
Medicare generally does not pay for health care outside of the U.S., although in rare cases the program may pay for inpatient hospital or emergency care.
Adventure travelers should consider purchasing medical evacuation insurance. Without it, you could face a bill running into the tens of thousands of dollars if you need to fly in an air ambulance.
U.S. car insurance policies generally do not cover you abroad, although the policies may cover you in Canada and Mexico. Consider getting supplemental insurance if you plan to drive.
Before you head out, check with your credit card company or homeowner’s insurance to see if you’re covered if your trip is canceled or interrupted, or the flight is delayed or baggage is lost or stolen. If not, you may consider buying travel insurance.
–Written by Jim Davis