Do you carry a Travel Medical Insurance while travelling?

I was in shock and did not know what to do. A lot of things went through my mind, many of which I cannot even remember. The only two things I clearly remember are: “I can’t believe this is happening” and  “Oh no, my insurance expired”.

 

Travel is always associated with fun and happy moments. But when planning it, people should never forget how important it is to be prepared in case something goes wrong and end up taking the ‘fun’ out of the picture. If you haven’t been including travel medical insurance in your trip planning, you should start doing so before you learn the lesson the hard way: with an accident. Just like I learned mine.

Do you carry travel medical insurance while travelling? The importance of travel medical insurance during your business and leisure trips.

I am a very positive traveller. Believe me! I avoid thinking the worst, although I prepare and try to be aware of the situation and my surroundings at all times while travelling. Still sometimes you can’t keep away from a cold, headache or stomach flu. And that is why I carry medication I am used to taking in those situations. But how to deal with the unforeseen?

I have not had many issues during my business and personal trips until now, which is surprisingly good given the places I sometimes travel to. When it comes to medical issues, I can count a few occasions when I had a cold, flu, headache, stomach ache or felt under the weather, things I would consider as normal, particularly when dealing with jet lag, weather and food habit changes. But my last trip presented me with a quite unusual, unexpected, and shocking situation. It made me realize how important it is to have a travel and medical insurance. It proved to me that although you can avoid accidents, they happen.

I was in Curitiba (Brazil) for a 3 day workshop. On the first day we had an opening ceremony and welcome cocktail. The following day was filled with meetings from 9am to 5pm. After a full day of meetings, I was supposed to get ready for a networking dinner. I thought twice about not going to the event, as I had plenty of emails for a night shift, but it was a great opportunity to spend more time with nice people and friends, so I decided to go.

We were expected to meet at the lobby of the hotel at 8:15pm for the transfer to the restaurant. At around 7:30pm I jumped in the shower. The washroom was relatively compact and the walk-in shower had a sliding glass door. I finished my shower and reached out to open the door and get the towel to dry myself. I touched the door knob with my right hand and in a matter of a fraction of a second I heard an extremely loud noise, like an explosion. Associated with the noise, I felt an immediate pain on the surface of my right hand’s index finger. My body and my mind froze and for a moment it felt like I wasn’t there. As I looked down, and started becoming more aware of the situation, I noticed uncountable little pieces of glass in the floor. I was still not sure of what had just happened. I looked up and saw the bottom part of the glass door cracking. It then smashed on the floor and spread all over the bathroom.

I was in shock and did not know what to do. A lot of things went through my mind, many of which I cannot even remember. The only two things I clearly remember are: “I can’t believe this is happening” and  “Oh no, my insurance expired”. I started becoming more aware of the situation and noticed that apart from glass, there was blood everywhere. I saw cuts in my both hands, in my left leg around my knee and under my feet. I realized I needed help and the first step would be getting out of the shower. But clearly it would be a tough task with the shattered glass all over the place. Without moving too much, I was able to reach out to a clean towel and throw it on the floor, so I could step on it and leave the washroom. On my way out, I checked the mirror and felt a bit relieved I had no cuts on my face. I washed my hands to clean the blood and remove any glass. I tried to do the same with other cuts I could see on my body. I even managed to wash my feet in the sink.

After cleaning up the cuts, or at least most of them, I rushed to the phone to call the reception and ask for help. I also called my friend who was staying at the same hotel. The hotel staff didn’t bring a first aid kit or anything like that. I think they didn’t understand how serious the accident was. In an attempt to stop the bleeding, I asked for a bottle of rubbing alcohol that I used to soak a towel and apply on the cuts. To be honest I was expecting it to hurt, but it didn’t. Maybe it was the adrenaline in my veins. My entire body was trembling.

A few minutes passed and still I wasn’t being able to stop the bleeding. I started to worry as a few cuts were not looking good, especially those on my hands and knee. The hotel decided to call an ambulance to make sure no special medical care was necessary, but I was anxious to take another shower, as I could still feel pieces of glass all over my body. As I stressed that out, they offered me to relocate to another room. After getting out of the shower (that time, I didn’t even close the shower door), I patiently waited for the ambulance. It arrived 2 hours later. Apparently it was a busy evening for them. But there was no need to take me to the hospital. The nurse checked the cuts for pieces of glass, cleaned and disinfected the wounds, and applied bandages where necessary.

Apart from the shock, I have to confess that I recognize I was very lucky. It could have been much worse. I was lucky I did not get anything on my face and eyes. I was lucky I had a friend who stayed beside me the whole time. The business partners who organized the fair also stayed with us until the ambulance came.

This accident was definitely an eye opener. It made me think about many things in my life. But most important, that I should always have medical coverage during my trips. When I book trips with my credit card I automatically get travel medical insurance coverage for 15 days from the departure date. Which is fine, as most of my trips usually last for less than 2 weeks. But in this particular case I was going to be away for 20 days, and thought that buying a policy extension was not necessary. Well, guess what? The accident happened one day after the policy expired. What if it was something more serious? Honestly, I don’t want to think about it now. And I am not travelling without coverage for the full duration of my trip again. Not any time soon.

So, next time you plan a business trip, time-off or vacation, remember: look for a travel medical insurance. We never know what can happen. We are sometimes in vulnerable situations during our trip and it is not worth taking the risk. Check if your credit card offers you any coverage – most do, but you have to pay for the flights with that credit card in order to have access to this benefit. You can check with your bank, travel agency or organization what is available in the market. And make sure you are covered from the date of departure until the date you arrive back to your home country.

Travel smart is not only about getting the best deals. It is also about travelling safe.

Tips:

The Government of Canada’s website is a resource tool with information and guidance about Healthy Travel and Travel Medical Insurance. Check out the links below.

Well on Your Way – A Canadian’s Guide to Healthy Travel Abroad

The travel health kit

Say ‘Yes’ to travel insurance

Information on travel insurance

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