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International SOS Offers Tips for a Busy 2013 Holiday Season

2013-12-19 14:41 757

Planning ahead can make a real difference - and help travellers avoid major problems on roads, rails, and in the sky

BEIJING, Dec. 19, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- As millions prepare to spend the holiday season with family and friends, International SOS is offering tips to keep travellers healthy, safe and secure.

Journeys during the holiday season can be congested and chaotic, but by following some common-sense guidelines, people can still have an enjoyable experience-and avoid common travel headaches.

"We are expecting travel during the holiday season and into 2014 may be busier and more challenging than last year, particularly for those going to more remote and exotic destinations," said Dr. Gordon Peters, Medical Director for North Asia.

"For that reason, we want to help travellers minimise the risks that come with travel disruptions-whether those disruptions are a simple nuisance or cause for a medical emergency."

According to the Duty of Care and Travel Risk Management Global Benchmarking Study, delays were the number one travel risk identified by 628 global organisations.

Jean-Fernand Perenne, Travel Security Director for International SOS and Control Risks in China added:

"Preparation is key and following some simple guidelines before heading out, can make the difference between a satisfying trip and one filled with inconveniences."

Tips to keep in mind

Always be prepared

The value of advance planning can't be overstated. In general, people spend more time researching restaurants or events than investigating medical and security threats. For international travel, 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 is a good way to stay on top of local issues that may arise. For domestic travel, be sure to check for highway conditions online. If you're flying, look online to ensure the flight is still on time before you leave.

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. Ensure 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, either in the cloud or by e-mailing them to yourself for easy retrieval.

Stay healthy

An unexpected stay in hospital can ruin a long-planned trip and navigating an unfamiliar healthcare system can be daunting for even the most seasoned travellers. 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 last year in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. Be on the lookout for unsafe water and be sure to bring more prescription drugs than you'd normally need.  Always place it in carry-on luggage and in its original container. Eat as healthy 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 (like the new MERS coronavirus in the Middle East). Wash your hands frequently and practice safe personal hygiene.

Watch for potential trouble spots

Again, this starts before you leave home. Demonstrations that have flared in many countries recently may look like history in the making, but these should be avoided-even when it's a tourist-friendly country like Thailand, Brazil, or Egypt. Similarly, foreigners can be easy targets for thieves, so research common scams in the locations you will visit. Investigate the routes you will take from the airport or train station to the hotel. Remember, security is ultimately your responsibility.

Don't underestimate road dangers

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 badly maintained. Therefore, unless you are well acquainted 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 cover your medical expenses in a foreign country? Typically, consumers are told to pay the bills, save their receipts and in all likelihood they'll get reimbursed. However, in many countries payment is expected before treatment and often only local currency is accepted. Savvy travellers enroll with a medical and security assistance provider that can tell them where to find quality medical care. This might be routine advice or in an emergency, a guarantee of payment for medical expenses or a medical evacuation.

By following these guidelines, travellers should be able to stay safe and healthy this busy holiday season.  For more information on risks associated with traveling, visit the International SOS website or the International SOS blog, Dialogues on Duty of Care.

Source: International SOS
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