What to do in an emergency abroad

Delays and disruption to travel, losing your passport or having an accident can and do happen.

But, if you know what to do, who to contact and who can help, an emergency abroad may be easier to deal with.

Here's Saga's six step guide to help you;

Lost or stolen passports

You should report it to local police and your travel insurer as soon as possible. You'll need to get a police report, or show that you've at least made attempts to do so and your insurer will help with this. They'll also tell you where the nearest British Embassy, High Commission or Consulate is and help you complete the relevant forms to cancel your passport and get emergency travel documents.  Once those are completed, your passport will be cancelled immediately to prevent anyone else trying to use it fraudulently.

This means that if you then found your passport, you couldn't use it for travel or proof of identity and what's more, could be deported or even arrested for trying to.

Check your travel insurance policy to make sure you're covered  for reasonable extra expenses you might run up because of the loss or theft of your passport.

Medical Emergencies

You should contact your insurer as soon as possible as they'll be able to advise and help with the right hospital or treatment you need. In the case of heart problems for instance, they'll make sure you're taken to a specialist cardiac unit rather than a general private hospital.

Your insurer's medical assistance provider will also deal with doctors and other healthcare professionals,  may organise hospital transfers and arrange for your return home. They'll sort out bills and payment but always get a receipt for any treatment you have to pay for.

If you’re taken ill while on a package holiday, the local tour representative or agent has a 'duty of care' towards you. This means they should liaise with medical staff  and help with accommodation or flight changes. 

But, I've got an EHIC...

While a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) covers any medical treatment that becomes necessary during your trip, because of either illness or an accident, you'll only be covered as though you were a national of that country. That might not include things you’d expect to get free from the NHS in the UK, definitely won't cover any private medical healthcare or costs such as mountain rescue in ski resorts or being flown back to the UK.

An EHIC is not an alternative to travel insurance and as a rule of thumb, Which? advises medical expenses cover of at least £2m for Europe and £5m worldwide so do check your policy offers adequate cover.

The EHIC does cover any treatment you need for chronic disease or pre-existing illness but you need to make arrangements in advance for kidney dialysis and oxygen therapy.

Cutting your trip short

Most travel insurance policies offer cover for abandoned or curtailed trips but the range of what's considered an emergency varies. For instance, some will only pay out if a direct relative's involved while others, including Saga's covers emergencies such as your home being burgled or damaged by fire, storm or flood.

You need to contact your insurer immediately, even if you're on a package holiday because insurers often have deals with airlines that mean the best seat's provided at the best price. Depending on the carrier and type of flight, you may be able to change your return date for free or a nominal charge, others may waive charges on compassionate grounds. Of course you may have to hire a car, book internal flights, trains or ferry travel to return to the UK, but keep all receipts and make sure your insurer's informed from the start.  

Death abroad

Coping with the unexpected death of a friend or relative is always difficult but when it happens abroad, you need all the help and support available. If you're on a package holiday, let the tour operator do as much as possible on your behalf, including contacting the insurance company, and never sign anything until you're absolutely sure what it means, especially if it's in a foreign language.

If you're travelling independently contact the nearest British Embassy, Consulate or High Commission and your travel insurer. The latter will appoint a funeral director in the country where the death's occurred and arrange repatriation if appropriate.

The cost of repatriation can run into thousands of pounds and must be met by the deceased's next of kin or travel insurance company. British embassies and consulates will not help, nor does the EHIC cover the cost.

Delays and disruption

The weather, public and private transport, civil unrest or other unforeseen events can throw travel plans into total chaos. Missed connections, lost baggage, diversions and even curtailment of holidays can happen for reasons way beyond anyone's control. Always check your travel insurance policy to make sure you've got the right level of cover - it won't change the weather but it may make dealing with emergencies abroad a lot easier. 


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