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International SOS advises travellers on staying healthy and safe

International SOS advises travellers on staying healthy and safe

With millions of travellers taking to roads, rails and skies this holiday season, International SOS, the world’s leading medical and security services company, is offering tips to keep them healthy, safe and secure. Travel during the holiday season can be crowded and hectic, but by sticking to some guidelines, travellers can have a much smoother and more enjoyable experience.

“The next couple of months are shaping up to be a very busy travel season,” said Myles Druckman, MD, Senior Vice President of Medical Services for International SOS. “At the very least, flight delays and cancellations are a nuisance, but some other travel disruptions can trigger much more serious medical or security consequences.”

In fact, travel delays were the number one risk identified by 628 global organisations that travellers have faced over the past three years, according to the Duty of Care and Travel Risk Management Global Benchmarking Study.
“Preparation is essential, and doing a little homework before travel can go a long way to preventing larger issues,” said Damian Taylor, Regional Security Director, Northern Europe.

Keep these tips in mind:
Be prepared
It cannot be overstated how important advance planning is before setting out from home. People typically spend more time researching restaurants or activities than investigating medical and security threats. Know your schedule, have access to good maps, learn a few phrases in the local language and research any issues in advance. Also, be sure to follow the news for the area in where you are travelling—it’s a good way to stay on top of local issues that may crop up.

Communication is key
Can you make international calls from your mobile phone?  Will your charger work where you’re going?  Do you know how to contact your global travel assistance provider? These are critical points to address before leaving home. Check to be sure you can make international calls, get a charger that will work and pre-program essential contact information so you’re not scrambling to find the right number or email address during a tricky situation.  Finally, make sure your friends and family know where you’re going and how to reach you once you arrive. It’s also a good idea to leave copies of travel documents – like your passport and itinerary – with friends or family, and securely store copies electronically and e-mail them to you for easy retrieval.


Take care of yourself
An unexpected stay in the hospital can ruin a long-planned trip and navigating an unfamiliar healthcare system can be scary.  Before you leave, make sure you know how your personal health could be affected by your destination.  For example, travellers to high-risk countries are six times more likely to be hospitalised than in less risky destinations, according to research in the September issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. Therefore, it’s good to ask questions like, “Is the water safe to drink?”  If it’s not, drink bottled water.  Be sure to bring more prescription drugs than you’d normally need and always place it in your carry-on and in its original container.  Eat as healthily as you can and remember that flying can dehydrate you—so always drink plenty of water.  Finally, consider that infections are easily spread in much of the world and new strains constantly surface (as evidenced by last month’s discovery of a new SARS-like virus).  Wash your hands frequently and practice safe personal hygiene.

Be aware of potential trouble spots
This starts before you even leave home. Demonstrations that have flared in many countries recently may look like history in the making, but these should be avoided. Foreigners can be easy targets, so research common scams in the locations where you will visit. Investigate the routes you will take from airport or train station to the hotel. Remember, security is ultimately your responsibility.

Safety on the Road
The threat of terrorism and natural disasters is far exceeded by traffic accidents—in which 25,000 international travellers are killed each year. In fact, vehicle crashes are the number one hazard for travellers and the main reason International SOS receives calls for evacuation. In many parts of the world, driving is chaotic, streets are crowded and roads under maintained. Unless you are extremely familiar with local road conditions, do not drive on your own. Look for a trusted driver, always wear your seatbelt and speak up if you feel unsafe. According to the CDC, injuries cause 10 times more tourist deaths each year than diseases.

Are you covered? Does your medical insurance provider in the U.K. cover your medical expenses in a foreign country? Typically, consumers are told to pay the bills, save their receipts and they’ll probably get reimbursed. However, in many countries outside the U.K., payment is expected up-front before treatment and often only local currency is accepted. Savvy travellers enrol with a medical and security assistance provider that can tell them where to find quality medical care, whether for routine advice or in an emergency, guarantee payment for medical expenses and, if necessary, a medical evacuation.