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How to Handle Emergencies When Traveling Abroad

woman holding stomach pain
Written by Shannon Durso

This blog post was updated on July 10, 2019.

Traveling far from home can be nerve-wracking. From emergency situations to health scares, it’s always best to stay aware and know how to handle a situation, especially in a foreign country you’ve never been to before. The next time you grab cheap international flights, keep these tips and things to know with you for if and when an unexpected emergency comes your way. And if you aren’t aware, dialing 911 in Greece, Bali, Jamaica (and many more countries) won’t direct ANY emergency services to you.

Keep reading to see what we mean…

International Emergency Services

touching smartphone

You’re not in Kansas anymore! Not all, but most foreign countries have different numbers than the 911 digits in the US to call for medical, fire, and police emergency services. Before you head out for your trip to a different country, add that country’s emergency contact number to your cell phone or write it down and keep it with you. If you happen to need emergency personnel, keep in mind that the number to call for medical, fire, and police isn’t always the same for all three services as it is in the US. Do some research on the place you’re visiting to be prepared on how to handle a worst-case scenario. If you’ve been wondering, here are the emergency numbers to dial in Bali – ambulance: 112, fire and police: 118; Greece – ambulance, fire, police: 112; Jamaica ambulance and fire: 110 police: 119.

Know About Local Care Facilities


When it comes to a medical emergency, you’re going to want to know how to get to the nearest hospital or doctor, especially if there’s no time to call for an ambulance. Whether you’re staying at a hotel, rented home, or anywhere else, contact the concierge or the host of your stay before you depart for your trip to inquire about a doctor on site and/or where the nearest medical center is. You’ll be mentally prepared to know what to do, and if there is a language barrier and you’re in a frantic state, you’re going to want to know how and where to find immediate assistance. Once you find out the details, write it all down — just in case!

Thinking about grabbing cheap international flights? Find yours today! 

When You Should Seek Medical Care

woman blowing her nose by a pool on vacation

In the case of a medical emergency, wouldn’t you want to know where you’re going to have to go and whom to speak with? Picture this: You or someone you’re with has developed sun poisoning or caught the stomach flu; you don’t want to have to go to a hospital or medical facility in a country that you’re not familiar with or even somewhere that’s not home and waste vacation time if you can handle the situation on your own or at least wait it out until you return home.

Some people prefer to be safe rather than sorry when it comes to their health and will go to a hospital or medical facility for care. Again, depending on where you’re headed, use your judgment on when to seek help. For minor cases like stomach flu and sun poisoning, you can probably go without medical care until you arrive back home. However, if the emergency is a life or death situation, see a medical physician but make cautious decisions, especially if there is something as serious as an invasive procedure recommended. If so, it will probably be a safer and more cautious decision to hold off until you arrive back home.

Pack Medications You Think You May Need

packing medicine in suitcase

Different water, new foods, nonstop partying, and the lack of sleep are all common experiences travelers have when in a new place away from home. Any change in your daily routine can throw your body off. Something as simple as packing Ibuprofen as well as allergy, stomach, and any other relevant over-the-counter medication will go a long way in preventing your trip from being ruined. Prevent the hassle and chaos of having to go out and buy some or even worse, going to a doctor for medicine in a place far from home.

You may also like: 7 Ways to Prepare for Common Travel Emergencies

Don’t Go without Your Medical Info

handing over medical card

Wherever you go, always carry your health insurance cards and information with you. If you’re traveling with a group or by yourself, know about both you and your friend’s allergies, medications and health issues to be aware of. Once you’ve booked your cheap international flights, contact your health care provider to tell them you’ll be traveling abroad and ask what international medical coverage they offer, if any, for the place(s) in which you’re visiting.

Know of any other tips for a travel emergency abroad? Tell us in the comments below! 

About the author

Shannon Durso

If she’s not searching for the world's coolest destinations she has yet to explore, you can find her writing content at Fareportal or maybe even drooling over a foodies latest post. Shannon’s a Brooklyn native who enjoys good company, new adventures, and a great laugh!

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