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Unnecessary travel is currently a bad idea – there is no doubt about it. Despite the obvious risks, there are still people who have to travel. Even in the absence of a global pandemic, there are travel safety precautions you can take to protect yourself and your companions.
These logistics tips are useful if you are located outside of the United States at the moment or as general advice when traveling overseas.
Register for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)
The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) is a database maintained by the United States Department of State into which you can enter details of your overseas trips, including travel dates, addresses where you will be staying, contact details for yourself and for emergency contact.
By signing up for STEP, you will be signed up for email alerts from the local embassy or consulate in your destination, ensuring you receive the latest information on threats and disruptions that may affect your travels. It also ensures that the embassy or consulate has your contact details in the event of a major emergency response, such as when US citizens were evacuated from Wuhan, China in early 2020, at the start of the COVID-pandemic. 19.
If you are looking for real-time information, most consulates have active Twitter accounts where they post information about their country’s activities. In the confusing first months of the pandemic, official State Department Twitter accounts posted information on repatriation flights and resources for U.S. citizens affected by country closures.
Subscribe to alerts from local authorities and information sources
If you speak the local language (or are handy with Google Translate or other translation apps), sign up to receive emails or social media updates from local authorities, like services national or provincial health authorities. Local news sources, including English-language media, can also be great sources of relevant and timely information. You will likely get more frequent and comprehensive updates from these sources than what you get from a local embassy.
Look for connections with other strangers
Facebook and WhatsApp are full of groups for travelers and foreign residents. Groups like “Foreigners in Barcelona” or “Digital Nomads in Mexico City” can be a great source of particularly relevant information for travelers, such as recently announced travel restrictions or ways to extend your visa (or apologize) if your trip is unexpectedly disrupted. They can also help you learn about expected changes in utilities. Search for “Expat” and your location and you’ll find a plethora of sources where you can connect with the local community overseas.
Know what is covered by your health insurance
Some health insurance plans offer fairly comprehensive coverage when traveling overseas, while others limit coverage to network providers in the United States (or even your state). Find out if your health insurance covers you while you are traveling and if there are any networked providers where you go (this is quite rare, but not unheard of).
Also consider buying separately travel insurance or local health insurance, especially if you plan to stay somewhere for an extended period. This can go without saying, but just in case: determine it before you go. You’ll want to know your pre-disaster insurance situation: you won’t want to have to research your coverage after a rabid dog bites you in a remote area of South America.
Discover the telemedicine resources at your disposal
Does your doctor’s office, insurance company or employer provide access to healthcare providers by phone or video chat? This can be a useful way to get information about your symptoms, and an online professional can tell you whether to visit a local healthcare provider or make recommendations for self-treatment. (Note, however, that with the current medical condition, you will likely have longer wait times than usual for these services.)
A telehealth appointment can also help you find medications that may help, even if they may not provide you with a prescription. Many prescription-only drugs in the United States can be purchased over the counter in some countries.
Know how to find a local doctor or hospital
Whenever you travel somewhere, knowing where to find quality medical care (and ideally a doctor who speaks your language) helps. Your insurance company may have resources, for example Blue shield blue cross has an app and website that allows you to find doctors and translate key medical terms.
Many embassies and consulates also maintain lists of doctors and hospitals in the region. You can also ask your credit card concierge or a cardholder assistance service to help you identify these resources.
Check your credit card insurance for useful protections
While most credit card insurances won’t reimburse you if you cancel your trip because you’re worried about getting sick, there are some useful protections that can help you if something goes wrong.
For example, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® will cover up to $ 2,500 in eligible medical expenses while traveling if you paid for your trip with your card. Chase and American Express offer emergency evacuation coverage for their premium credit card holders.
Note that you should read the terms and conditions for important restrictions first. For example, all emergency evacuation expenses typically need to be approved and coordinated by the credit card company’s employee benefits administrator; you cannot make purchases on your own and get your money back later.
At the end of the line
If you have to travel now, be smart about it: arm yourself with as much information as possible, connect to networks for updates as situations change, and get an idea of the precautions that will protect you and you. your relatives. Wear a mask. And, of course, wash your hands.
Perhaps more importantly, remember that there is always more to learn. When it is possible to travel more widely again, consider the lessons we may have learned during the COVID-19 pandemic so that you can always make your next trip safer than the last.