The spread of COVID-19 has highlighted the potential dangers of going abroad. Here are some steps you can take to help protect your health, and your personal and financial security when travelling.
As recent events have demonstrated, getting sick while travelling can have serious consequences, and dealing with a medical issue away from home can cause considerable uncertainty and stress. Here are a few steps that can help keep you healthy on your journey.
- Knowing your destination: Do a detailed online search into any potential health risks linked to your destination. Given the seriousness of the health risks around COVID-19, you may want to consider postponing travel to certain destinations. Currently, there’s no vaccine for the virus. In addition to checking for any potential travel advisories in place to combat the global health crisis, don’t forget about less-publicized health risks, such as local foodborne illnesses. Consult your family physician well before your trip to see if there are any medications, vaccinations or other critical preparations you might need to be aware of. Some vaccinations require multiple doses, while others must be completed at least six weeks before you travel to ensure they are fully effective.1
- Medical preparations: If you take prescription medication, ensure you are well supplied in advance. Weather, water and different schedules can affect your medications, so talk with your physician and/or pharmacist to learn how you can account for environmental changes. Also, make a list of all the prescription or over-the-counter medications you take. This can be helpful if you need to replace any of them while you’re away. Be sure to save this list on your mobile device and print a copy in case you need to access it in an emergency.
- Ensuring your health and safety: Take a moment to identify the gaps and limitations in your health insurance coverage before travelling. A good travel insurance policy will provide access to local health services, fund the cost of emergency transportation and/or cover other expenses you may incur in a medical emergency. Also, as we’ve seen with the recent global health crisis, prepare for the possibility that your return home might be delayed because of health and related logistical problems. Examine any travel insurance policy carefully to make sure you are sufficiently covered in such a case.
Securing your finances
Unfortunately, travelling can expose you to potential property crime offences and other risks. However, there are steps you can take before and during your vacation to help maintain your personal and financial security.
- Travel notifications: Some financial institutions want to know if you plan to use your bank or credit card outside of the country. Checking your bank and credit card policies in advance will ensure you can continue to access your various accounts.
- Cash and carry: When you are travelling, you may encounter a store or restaurant that doesn’t accept electronic payments. Rather than hunting down an ATM in an unfamiliar location, always carry some cash in the local currency. To protect your money, keep some cash in a pocket, separate from your wallet, and leave some in reserve in a relatively safe place (e.g., your locked luggage or a hotel room safe).
- Securing your credit cards: Similar to how you handle your cash, split up your credit cards, if possible. Designate one principal card for purchases, and keep another securely hidden on you in a separate slim travel wallet that will not be regularly used.
- Trimming your wallet/handbag: A bulky wallet or purse can attract thieves. Remove things like receipts, business cards and other personal items you won’t need when travelling to lighten the load and give your valuables a lower profile.
- Cybersecurity: Avoid accessing important online financial services through public Wi-Fi when travelling. These connections can be easy to hack.
- Security-enhancing clothing: If you wish to take additional steps, there are clothing items tailored for travel security. These range from tops and pants with additional pockets to radio-frequency-identification-proof (“RFID-proof”) belts and wallets for your ATM and credit cards.
Preparations to ensure your general safety
You can never fully prepare for the unexpected, but there are some pre-travel preparations you can make that will enable you to respond quickly to unforeseen circumstances.
- Keeping copies: Make scans and/or photocopies of all your important travel documents, such as your passport, insurance papers and credit cards. Keep at least one set of copies in your secured luggage and store them on your mobile device and, if appropriate, any safe cloud service you use.
- Emergency locations: Make sure you know the location of the hospital nearest to where you are staying. If travelling outside Canada, make sure you have the address of the nearest Canadian consulate, embassy or high commission.
- Phoning a friend: Ensure a trusted friend or relative has a copy of your itinerary and your critical travel information.
- “Cheat sheets”: On a slip of paper no larger than a credit card, write down as much pertinent information as you can and always carry it in your pocket. Such information can include where you are staying and your travel insurance information.
- Checking out your accommodations: If using short-term rentals (e.g., home-sharing services) instead of traditional hotels, make sure you’ve adequately researched your destination before booking. This can include any customer reviews of your possible rental.
These simple steps will help enhance your personal and financial security, and will help ensure your trip is a memorable one – for all the right reasons.
1. Source: ImmunizeBC.