Walter van der Wal

How to prepare for a medical emergency when traveling

Questions to ask when shopping around for health / travel insurance

The Land of Smiles is an ideal base for exploring tropical paradises nearby. Planning your dream holiday can be a pleasurable experience, as it should be. But beyond booking your beach resort and fantasizing about sunbathing on a lounge chair while sipping margaritas, making sure you're prepared for what could go wrong is also important. 

So, without further ado, today I'll be sharing some advice on preparing for a medical emergency while traveling. 

Does your health insurance plan cover overseas travel?

The unfortunate truth is: you can get sick/injured anywhere. Medical emergency costs can be bank-breakingly costly, especially if you end up needing extensive care, or need to go through a lengthy transfer to get to the nearest available hospital for treatment. 

Questions to ask when shopping for health/travel insurance

If you already have, or plan to shop around for a Thailand health insurance or travel insurance plan, it pays to ask the following questions to see whether your plan's benefits are enough to safeguard against medical emergencies:

Does my plan cover medical care in the country I'm traveling to?

Does my plan exclude adventure sports activities?

Do I need to pay for my medical treatment up front first and get reimbursed later, or can I use direct billing? (Unlike international medical insurance, virtually all travel insurance plans will need you to pay up-front first)

Is pre-authorization needed before my overseas medical treatment can be covered?

Does the plan cover medical repatriation (expenses incurred from flying back home once your condition has stabilized)?

Does the plan feature emergency assistance services (e.g. 24/7 emergency hotline)? 

Preparing for overseas medical emergencies

Though insurance cover is essential for protecting you when traveling, there are also a few other things I'd recommend doing before flying to your next holiday destination:

Check that you're up-to-date on vaccinations

Before you fly overseas, check whether you need any vaccinations for your holiday destination. Vaccinations can protect you from endemics or health problems that may be commonplace in your destination country. 

Take all essential medications with you

If you have a health condition, be sure to take all necessary medications with you. So, if you have, say, asthma, don't forget to pack your inhaler - even if you rarely ever have asthma attacks. 

Laws on purchasing medications vary quite significantly between countries; the last thing you'd want to happen is finding it close to impossible to get the medication(s) you desperately need should your health condition suddenly worsen in a foreign country. 

Additional precautionary medications, such as malaria tablets, may also be a good idea if you're traveling to areas where this infection is prevalent.

Learn emergency phrases in your holiday destination's local language

Not all medical staff in foreign countries will speak your language, so it can help to learn a few essential medical emergency phrases in the destination's local language. Some important phrases to learn include "I need medical help!", and "Where's the nearest hospital?". 

Know where the nearest hospitals and clinics are located

When faced with a medical emergency, choosing a hospital may not be an option for you. But in the event that you are able to choose your medical facility, it helps to have researched the nearest reputable facilities before flying to your holiday destination. 

One other thing you might want to pay attention to when doing your research on facilities is to check whether the hospitals/clinics are covered under your health insurance plan's "in-network". Of course, your health should be the top priority during emergency situations. 

If you have any more questions about international healthcare, travel insurance, or health insurance, do feel free to contact my team, or visit my company's website at to brush up your insurance knowledge. 


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