Travel Accident Guide: What Can Happen and How to Handle It

The world is full of spectacular sites and cities that tell the stories of mankind and open our eyes to new wonders that we never knew existed. Traveling is an opportunity to experience things we never would have experienced at home. But let’s be real – some of those experiences aren’t welcome. Accidents can happen anywhere, even when you’re touring paradise. When an accident occurs while you’re traveling it’s even more important to react quickly so that the entire trip doesn’t get derailed. Here I’ve addressed some of the more common problems that can occur during your travels and how to handle them.

Accident: Lost or Stolen Passport

Action Steps: The good news is the closest U.S. embassy can help. The bad news is you can’t return home without a passport. The Consular Section handles lost or stolen passports and can help you get a new ID picture so a replacement can be created ASAP. Let them know all your travel details so they can try to keep things on schedule.

Preventative Measures: Make copies of all your important documents – passports, IDs, insurance cards. Also ask your hotel if they have safes where your passport can be stored.

Accident: Car or Motorcycle Accident

Action Steps: Driving accidents are the number one cause of death and injury for Americans in foreign countries. Contact the local authorities first to get them out to the scene and request medical assistance if needed. Next, call your insurance companies immediately to let them know that an accident has occurred and what happened. Take pictures of the accident and get the other person’s information. If anyone is injured or there’s a dispute over who caused the accident, it may be best to hire a car or motorcycle accident attorney to get the matter settled as quickly as possible.

Preventative Measures: Know the rules of the road before you get behind the wheel and get an International Drivers Permit. Also, research different travel options and avoid driving yourself in a foreign country whenever possible.

Accident: Lost or Stolen Credit Cards

Action Steps: Call your credit card provider as soon as you realize the credit card is missing. If you’re abroad call the country-specific number. Let them know what the situation is and ask about the most recent transactions. If you didn’t make the purchases let the representative know. Also, request that they overnight a replacement card to your hotel.

Preventative Measures: Give your credit card providers a heads up that you will be traveling so they are aware of the situation. Make a list of the all your card information and the phone number for the area where you’ll be traveling. Whenever possible bring more than one credit card with you just in case you can’t get a replacement overnighted.

Accident: Stolen Car

Action Steps: Contact the rental car company and your insurance companies immediately. Give them all the details so that the police can hopefully recover the car. Be prepared to dispute steep fees with the international claims department, however, if you didn’t get insurance be prepared to pay for the car.

Preventative Measures: Always opt for the insurance if you’re getting a rental car and don’t have coverage through your insurance company or credit card provider.

Accident: Need a Hospital in a Foreign Nation

Action Steps: Brace yourself – depending on where you are things could be very different from the U.S. Some countries like Costa Rica have universal health care while others have very limited medical services for foreigners. Call the nearest U.S. consulate or embassy for assistance finding the best medical facility.

Preventative Measures: Do research before leaving to get a better feel for how emergency room and hospital services work in your destination country and whether you need travel health insurance. It’s also a good idea to check the Center for Disease Control to see which vaccinations are recommended and what to watch out for in almost any country.

Accident: Getting Disconnected From Family Without Cell Phones

Action Steps: Get to a familiar place right away – the entrance of the area/building is always best.  If you don’t reconnect with family within 15-30 minutes don’t panic. Head back to the vehicle or transit station that your fellow travelers will eventually come back to as well. Look for other tourists or find someone working in a nearby business and ask for assistance. If there are no businesses or tourists around older people and young women are safer to ask for help than young men.

Preventative Measures: Decide on a meeting point in case anyone gets separated. This could be your hotel, a central square or a location within a building. Everyone, even kids, should also keep your hotel information on them so they can call to leave a message or simply go back to the hotel as a last resort.

In the big picture it’s always best to be over prepared than unprepared. Things can get really crazy fast when you’re in a new place and you don’t know how to strategically problem solve as you would in your own home town. Be sure to take preventative measures and know who is available to help you in any time of need.


About Christa Thompson

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Christa Thompson is the Founder and Senior Editor of The Fairytale Traveler. Christa has been traveling the world since 2003 when she attended a summer abroad study at the University of Cambridge in England. Since then, her wanderlust has been fierce. Her three passions in life are her son, traveling, and being creative. The Fairytale Traveler brand gives Christa the opportunity to do all of these things and to live intentionally every day. "It's never too late to believe in what you love and to pursue your dreams." -Christa Thompson

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