Illness Abroad: What Travelers Need to Know

Travel can be stressful, and foreign travel especially so for many. Beyond stress, for some travel may introduce exposure to bacteria and other pathogens that, in addition to the risk of physical injury, create the potential for travelers to become ill while outside of their home countries. Given the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the global rise in Monkeypox cases, many travelers continue to be cautious about crossing borders. While precautions can greatly reduce a person’s chance of falling ill, nothing is 100% effective.

When travelers do become ill or injured while abroad, often the traditional or familiar rules of medical care no longer seem to apply. It is important to know what steps to take and what resources are available to help secure the care needed without the threat of exorbitant medical costs or worse, substandard care. The following information is important for anyone considering foreign travel and can help prepare those travelers for managing an unexpected illness or injury while abroad. 

  • Health Insurance: Medical costs around the world vary and it can be difficult to understand how to find and access healthcare abroad. Countries like Italy, Austria and Spain have universal healthcare, however, in certain circumstances that care may be reserved for residents of the host country. Since most health insurance policies do not cover policyholders who seek care internationally, travelers should consider travel medical insurance.

  • Travel Medical Insurance: A temporary policy, travel medical insurance covers insureds for the duration of their trip. Travelers can get a standalone policy that specifically covers medical costs or bundle their travel medical insurance coverage as part of a broader trip insurance policy, which can cover a range of financial claim types related to travel including flight delays and cancellations, lost, damaged or stolen luggage, trip cancelations and more.

  • Documents: All travelers should have an emergency contact listed on their person to ensure healthcare providers can easily identify and contact necessary friends or family in the event of an emergency. Further, travelers with relevant medical information such as prescribed medications, preexisting conditions or allergies to medications or certain foods should have that information clearly documented and on their person. This information could be included on a card kept in a wallet or purse or otherwise memorialized on an emergency bracelet. Healthcare providers need to see this information quickly and clearly in the event the traveler is unable to provide such details themselves or through others at the time of care. Travelers should also always have a copy of their travel medical insurance information and proof of any necessary vaccinations with them.

  • Resources: The local U.S. Embassy or Consulate can offer resources to assist medically ill travelers with identifying healthcare providers and communicating any emergencies to necessary friends and family. Additionally, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers resources to secure healthcare abroad via their website.

Falling ill or becoming injured while traveling abroad can exacerbate an already stressful situation. With proper research, planning and preparation ahead of time, travelers can rest easy and enjoy their travel knowing they are covered and cared for if something goes awry. Learn more about travel solutions today.

Illness Abroad: What Travelers Need to Know