An overseas vacation is certainly an occasion to look forward to. An unfortunate turn of events however, can seriously derail your trip and leave you panic-stricken or even stranded in the country.

Be it a beach resort getaway or a gutsy backpacking trip, yes, the worst can happen. Even the fastidiously-planned holiday will probably run into a bump or two.

While some of the following seven situations may look like the fears of a paranoid traveller, you know what they say; it’s better to be safe than sorry. Best to err on the side of caution while you’re in a foreign country, especially one that you’re new to.


Even the best-laid plans may not work out;
keep these travel tips in mind. Image: Corbis

When you’re applying for travel insurance, do read the terms and conditions before committing. Most travel insurances cover loss of personal items, travel delays, trip cancellation, medical expenses incurred overseas, permanent disability and death.

Some include emergency medical evacuation and a 24-hour emergency hotline. Most plans do not cover travellers with pregnancy-related conditions, or those going overseas for medical treatment or professional sports.

Most importantly, don’t panic when plans go awry! Read the following list for a guide to getting through these stressful situations.

1. YOUR CAR BREAKS DOWN ON A MALAYSIAN ROAD TRIP
WHAT TO DO:

  • Pull over if you can and switch on your hazard lights.
  • Call for help: If you’re driving through Malaysia in your own car, call the 24-hour hotline of the Automobile Association of Malaysia (+60 3 216 10808) for roadside advice, or call a breakdown service contact. If you’re driving a rental car, call the rental company to inform them of the incident and ask for advice – they can make arrangements to tow the car back.

THE PRECAUTIONS:

  • Send your car for a complete checkup and tune-up before your road trip.
  • Ask for a test drive if you’re renting a car. It’s best to rent from reputable companies, or at least a company you trust, so that you know what quality of vehicle and service you’ll be receiving.
  • Sign up for an Automobile Association of Singapore (AA Singapore) membership before driving into Malaysia; members are entitled to certain free roadside services provided by the Automobile Association of Malaysia. 

TIP: To pinpoint the incident location on a highway without GPS, find your exact location by checking the road markers. These are signs located on either side of the road or on the road divider to indicate the distance you are away from the end of the highway. This will help the breakdown serviceman to locate you.

2. YOU’RE IN A CAR ACCIDENT
WHAT TO DO:

  • Remain calm. If someone is injured, call the police and the ambulance.
  • Try to remember what happened because you will need to make a police report, says Dr David Teo, medical director of International SOS, Singapore and Malaysia. Call your insurer’s helpline immediately, says Aviva.
  • Check with your insurer if your hospital fees can be reimbursed. If you need to be hospitalised, they might be able to reimburse you for the charges incurred. Your insurer will require the hospital bill as well as the medical report and discharge summary. You should also keep a copy of your boarding pass.
  • Photo and contact documentation: If the car is damaged, take pictures and exchange particulars with the other party, advises AAS, and follow the instructions for when your car breaks down.

THE PRECAUTIONS:

  • Have emergency numbers (ambulance, police and rental car company) on hand.
  • Keep a card in your wallet with all the important details: The card should detail your medical history (in case you’re seriously injured), whom to contact in case of an emergency, and any medication you’re on.

3. YOUR LUGGAGE IS MISSING UPON ARRIVAL AT YOUR DESTINATION
WHAT TO DO:

  • Contact airline staff at the airport, suggests Simone Pregellio, corporate communications manager at Jetstar, Southeast Asia. Airlines have tracking systems that can help locate your lost luggage.

THE PRECAUTIONS:

  • Make sure the tags match your baggage claim ticket when you check in your bags. Keep the ticket until you have your luggage.
  • Always pack a set of clothes in your cabin bag, in case it takes more than a day for your luggage to be sent back to you.

4. YOU’VE BEEN ROBBED OF YOUR VALUABLES
WHAT TO DO:

  • File a police report immediately. Your travel insurer needs the police report to process your claim when you return to Singapore.
  • Call the banks and your telco: Make phone calls to the banks cancel your credit cards, and your telco to cancel your mobile phone line immediately.
  • Contact the Singapore embassy or consulate in your destination city to get a replacement passport.
  • Hold on to all travel documents: If you still have them, hold on to your boarding pass and itinerary, and any documents supporting the expenses incurred for replacing your lost passport and visa – you will need them to claim your insurance. The precautions
  • Don’t carry all your money and valuables with you when you go out – take what you need and leave the rest in the hotel safe. That way, if your wallet gets stolen, at least you’ll have some money stashed in your room, to cover your expenses for the remainder of your stay.
  • Compile a list of emergency numbers (credit card hotlines, telcos and your travel insurance company) and leave a copy of it at the hotel.
  • Make two photocopies of your passport, plane tickets and visa. Keep a set of the photocopies in the hotel and leave the other with a relative or friend in Singapore, so that he can fax them to you if you need them.

5. YOU MISSED YOUR FLIGHT
WHAT TO DO:

  • This depends on your ticket. If it permits changes (like a JetFlex ticket or a StarClass ticket on Jetstar’s long-haul flights), you might be able to reschedule your journey, says Simone. “However, if you bought the lowest fare, missing the flight will mean forfeiting your ticket.” The precautions
  • Be at the check-in queue early; at least an hour before departure.
  • Keep track of the time if you’re happily duty-free shopping after you’ve checked in.
  • Buy a ticket that permits changes if you can’t afford to forfeit your ticket.

6. YOUR FLIGHT IS CANCELLED
WHAT TO DO:
“If an airline cancels a flight, it is usually their responsibility to make alternative plans for you to reach your destination,” says Simone. “Contact the airline staff to find out what these alternative plans are.”

7. YOUR TRAVEL COMPANION PASSES AWAY DURING THE TRIP
WHAT TO DO:

  • Make a police report: “Report the death to the police and the local hospital, so they can certify the death. If the death is sudden, forensics will be brought in to investigate,” says Dr David Teo.
  • Use a credible undertaker: Don’t trust undertakers who promise to help you send the body home the next day in exchange for money, advises Dr Teo. Transporting a body takes a bit more time than that, and a lot of documentation is required. Don’t surrender documents to just anyone.
  • Seek help from your travel insurance company: Your travel insurance company should be able to help. The International SOS can handle such cases, even for non-members, for a fee.

Check the Automobile Association of Singapore’s website for more information on the emergency roadside services offered.

To find out more about the International SOS 24-hours international concierge services, visit their website at www.internationalsos.com.

This article was originally published in SimplyHer June 2011.