Whether you are heading overseas for work or leisure, it is best to think of safety first. Here are various issues you should consider.
From navigating a new place to appreciating its sights, sounds, people and culture, there is much to grasp and learn. The breathtaking sceneries of the natural world and the majestic skyscrapers of metropolises keep us yearning for more. It is undeniable that travelling fosters understanding, tolerance and the expansion of one’s horizon.
However, while fulfilling your wanderlust, your utmost priority should be keeping yourself safe and healthy. This is even more so in an increasingly volatile world of unrest, the emergence of new medical scares and a growing band of wily tricksters.
We speaks to Ms Juliana Gim for an overview of how one can better prepare for an overseas trip. She is the Managing Director of International SOS Singapore. International SOS is the world’s leading medical and travel security risk services company, which has pioneered a range of preventive and risk mitigation solutions and delivered unrivalled emergency assistance during critical illness, accident and civil unrest.
Here is a rundown of the areas she recommends that you look into to better manage your health and safety before and during a trip.
Assemble a travel-friendly first-aid kit
This item should always be at the top of your packing list — it can get you out of many sticky situations and save you from inconvenience, and potentially expensive visits to the doctor.
While it may be tempting to pack everything, it is prudent to seek medical expertise tailored to your needs. This could be a visit to your family doctor or a call to a medical and travel security risk company that your company has partnered with.
Having sufficient amounts of appropriate medications will mean saving yourself the hassle of finding a pharmacy and assuaging any fear of getting counterfeit medication or — worse — the wrong type of medication due to issues such as language barriers.
Get covered with insurance
Another important thing you need to settle before your trip begins is travel insurance as it provides assurance in an unforeseen event.
However, travellers need to do their due diligence when purchasing such policies — most do not cover pre-existing conditions. Never assume that you will be covered automatically. Travellers should also take note of whether the policy adequately covers medical expenses and evacuation costs.
Having a pre-trip medical check-up is another way to ensure that you are fit-for-travel. Early detection can allow you to seek treatment promptly and, if necessary, reschedule the trip until you have recovered.
Preparedness is key
The foundation for the digital revolution in modern travel was laid in the late 1990s with the advent of the Internet. Fastforward two decades later and new technology tools — such as International SOS and Control Risks’ Travel Risk Map 2017 — have surfaced, giving potential travellers even more in-depth analyses as to the health and personal safety of their desired destinations before taking the plunge.
The Travel Risk Map uses colour coding to signify the risk level of a country: green indicates insignificant risk, orange means medium risk and dark red marks areas of extreme risk. This ensures mitigating actions are based on reality and not perception. “The Travel Risk Map has resulted in almost one third of decision-makers changing corporate travel plans in 2015, thus demonstrating its effectiveness,” says Gim.
Cope with loss of belongings
Misplacing your wallet puts you at risk of not just financial loss, but also identity theft.
Contact your bank to cancel ATM, debit and credit cards immediately. The earlier you report the incident, the less likely you are liable for charges that take place after the cards were lost. A police report will provide official documentation for insurance claims.
“If you lose your passport overseas, make a police report and ask for a copy of it. With the relevant supporting documents, proceed to the nearest Singapore embassy or consulate to request a Document of Identity, which will facilitate your trip home,” Gim assures.
Other useful tips
A good rule of thumb is to make copies of key documents and carry a travel wallet with just the essential items.
Another handy tip is to bring along a door wedge, a good precaution against intruders. Wedging it under your door can provide added protection against break-ins. It gives you buffer time to alert someone, flee or prepare yourself for the impending danger, thereby putting the intruder at a disadvantage. “Use these precious seconds wisely,” Gim advises.
During an earthquake, take cover under a sturdy table when indoors. When outdoors, head for open spaces and be wary of overhead wires, power lines, and falling trees and debris.
In a flood, move away from low-lying areas and head for higher ground to wait for the waters to subside.
Intelligence is key during crises, such as a civil unrest. If you are near a demonstration, move away immediately to a safe area. Stay abreast of the activity through local sources such as your host or hotel concierge.
Travellers who have corporate support can call their partnered medical and travel security risk company for a more comprehensive overview of the situation. “In the 2016 Jakarta attacks, International SOS supported its clients by deploying a team to corroborate information with security providers, police and local contacts,” Gim reveals. She adds that her firm used local knowledge from the mainstream media and International SOS intelligence network to help clients stay up-to-date. “This allowed us to provide recommended courses of action. For instance, instead of avoiding the area completely, International SOS suggested alternative routes at certain times through which clients could travel and yet not compromise on safety.”
PREVENTION IS BETTER THAN INTERVENTION
The biggest mistake a traveller can make is inadequate preparation. Some pre-planning can go a long way towards dealing with unexpected situations.
Medical and travel security companies are a good starting point for those with corporate support. For those without such support, the tips mentioned in this article should prove useful.