By Mark Okrant, NH Travel Guru
We’ve said it before and it’s worth saying again. Please visit the Office of American Citizen Services’ Consular Information Program website before traveling outside the U.S. Everyone, regardless of age or economic circumstances should do this before traveling internationally.
Owing to an unfortunate circumstance that befell my wife during our recent trip to Cancún, México, I have further advice, particularly for those of you who are senior citizens and/or have chronic medical issues.
As is true of so many others, we never like to think about an accident or illness occurring while traveling outside of the U.S. Unfortunately, my wife was the recent victim of such a freak accident. At 2:30 AM last Sunday, a pipe situated in the hallway outside of our hotel room burst, flooding the floor both outside and inside the guestroom where we were sleeping. We were fast asleep, therefore, unaware that this had happened.
As the maintenance staff struggled to mop up the water in the hall, they repeatedly scratched at our door with their mops, thus awakening my wife. When she went to see what the source of the unusual noise was, she slipped in a puddle and fell hard onto the tile floor of our room. While the fall proved very painful—and still is—she was fortunate not to have been hurt more seriously.
The next day, as we reflected about what could have been, we started to make a list of steps that should be taken before undertaking future international travel. These are:
- study the quality of the health care system in your intended destination . . are basic services readily available within the immediate area?
- what is the quality of the hospitals where you are traveling? One place where we have visited in the past requires patients to ‘queue up’ (i.e., report at 7AM and wait, for hours, to be seen by a physician). This same hospital obliges patients to provide their own pillows and bed linens.
- what payment is required? In Mexico, for example, a cash payment—in full—must be provided. Many countries do not recognize U.S. health insurance plans. One fortunate note is that they also don’t charge outrageous (i.e., U.S.-like) fees.
- are credit cards regarded as suitable forms of payment? Make certain that there is enough credit remaining on your card to cover medical charges.
- in the event of a severe health event, it may be necessary to fly home immediately . . . have you purchased trip insurance while booking your airplane tickets on line?
One other consideration that U.S. citizens typically ignore is the ability to communicate in the locals’ language. I am fortunate that my wife is fluent in Spanish. But, what if she had been rendered unconscious by her fall? The logical step would be to learn enough of the country’s language to be understood. Failing to accomplish that before traveling, it is recommended that you have a translation app on your iPhone or iPad, set in a place where it is readily accessible.
One additional warning: once you have been seen by a physician, the chances are quite good that you will be prescribed medicines that are unfamiliar to you. Before taking those prescriptions, be prepared to research them.
For a variety of reasons, Google is the traveler’s best friend these days.
After forty years as an educator, researcher, and consultant, Mark Okrant joins IndepthNH.org to offer concise, informative insight into New Hampshire’s travel and tourism industry as a business, while showcasing the people and places you want to know. This guy’s really been around. And, he’s funny, too.
For more about Mark’s compelling tourism-based murder mystery series, visit www.markokrant.com.
For information on current things to do in New Hampshire, go to: http://www.visitnh.gov/what-to-do/event-calendar.aspx