What if you get sick overseas?

Getting sick while travelling is not uncommon, but would you know what to do or where to get help if you got more than a cold or a 24-hour bug?

Before leaving Australia, be sure to check the health warnings for the area in which you will be travelling. Ensure all your vaccinations are up-to-date, and take all relevant medication with you, along with a letter from your doctor detailing any medications you have packed.

It is also a good idea to wear a bracelet with your details, the details of your emergency contact and any medications you take or medical conditions from which you suffer. In the unlikely event that you are unable to speak to the doctor treating you, this information will help to keep you safe.

There are a number of places you can get help. If you are in a country where you don’t speak the language, having someone to translate can be helpful. If you are staying in a hotel or hostel, ask at the reception for someone who speaks both English and the local language. Your hotel or hostel receptionist is likely to have details of a trustworthy medical professional in the local area, depending on the problem, and he or she can help you to make an appointment.

If you have taken out travel insurance, then your provider is one of your first ports of call. Most travel insurance providers will have a 24-hour assistance number you can call from anywhere in the world. If you get sick overseas or are involved in a medical emergency, call this number as soon as possible. The call will be much quicker if you have the details of your policy to hand. Your travel insurance provider will be able to tell you what steps to take to ensure you can be fully reimbursed, and they may be able to help you with finding a medical practitioner in the local area.

In case of a more serious emergency or illness, you can also get help from the Australian government. They can be contacted by phoning the Australian consulate in the country you are visiting. In case of emergency the government can:

  • Provide a list of local doctors and hospitals and assist in arranging a medical evacuation (at your expense)
  • Provide current information and assist with evacuation in the event of war, civil unrest or natural disaster
  • Provide advice in the case of an accident, serious illness or death
  • Assist victims of serious crimes
  • Assist if you are arrested overseas
  • Provide lists of local lawyers
  • Assist in cases of missing persons
  • Assist with arranging a replacement passport
  • Assist you to contact relatives or friends for help with money or tickets
  • Provide small emergency loans in genuine emergency situations

Do you have any tips on getting sick overseas? Have you been in that situation yourself? How did you deal with it?