Tackling travel disasters: what to do when things go wrong

Travelling is magical. Regardless of where you go or what you do, you’ll come back with new memories, new friends, and some crazy new stories to tell. But, as with most things that involve a bit of risk, there are a few bits & bobs that can go wrong. Luckily, there’s not much that can’t be fixed or prepared for, but it’s best to have all the info before you go, right? Fear not. We’ve put together the ultimate list to help you overcome all travel disasters. Save it, print it, get it tattooed…you never know when you might need it.

Money mishaps

We’ve all been there. Maybe a wad of cash you were storing in a spare climbing sock slipped out of your packing cube. Maybe you misplaced your bank card after one too many bucket cocktails. Or maybe you were locked out of your account by the fraud squad for using a roadside ATM on the Gringo Trail. Whatever the reason, not having access to your hard-earned, hard-saved dosh can be at best frustrating and, at worst, trip-ending. Here’s how to avoid having to borrow off the bloke you just met on the overnight bus:

  • Have more than one bank account and card. Store the cards in different places and try to have one main account that you move small amounts of money into to spend or withdraw.
  • Take out small amounts of cash at a time in case you lose some, and always have an emergency stash that you keep in a safe place.
  • Check the ATM availability of your next destination before you go and make sure to withdraw in time. You don’t want to be stuck in a cash-only location with no notes to your name!
  • Be wary of driving fines, toll roads and fines for fare-dodging. If you aren’t sure what to do when navigating an unfamiliar transit system, ask someone for help, and always obey the laws of the local land when it comes to driving.

Medical misfortunes

Backpackers are no strangers to health and wellness wobbles. Sometimes all those new spices just don’t quite sit right in the stomach. Or the exhaust pipe on the back of your scooter had a dodgy cover (man, those things can get hot!). Whether you’re after a quick patch-up or an overnight hospital stint, if you’re not properly prepped, your wallet and morale can take a huge hit. Top tips for making sure you emerge with your health – and happiness – intact:

  • Travel insurance! Do not travel without it! At best, it can save you a few pennies if you need some antibiotics. It’s best not to think about the worst-case scenario… just get some.
  • Make sure you find out and write down the local emergency services, hospital and/or doctor’s location and number whenever you get to a new location.
  • If you’re heading out somewhere remote, joining a group tour is a great option. The organisers will have their own medical provisions and they’ll know how to get help if something goes wrong.
  • Don’t go anywhere without plenty of water and a first aid kit. Even if you don’t need it, someone else might!
  • Include a change of clothes in your carry on/day pack. If that 7/11 toastie repeats on you during a long journey, at least you’ll emerge with your dignity intact.
  • If you suffer from a medical condition, make sure you translate it into the language of each place you’re visiting so that you can ask for help if you need it.

Pinched possessions & misplaced merch

This one’s almost guaranteed to happen. Luckily for most it’ll be a pair of socks left in the hostel bathroom, or an errant phone charger forgotten about in the common room. But sometimes… sometimes something a bit more important can get nicked or lost. Airlines can misplace your luggage, you can leave your bag on a bus, someone can steal your personalised sliders… and those are just things that happened to me! It can put a dampener on things, but preparation is key. And no, we don’t just mean carrying lots of spare socks with you:

  • Again, insurance is your best friend here. Lost luggage will be covered by most policies, but don’t forget to check the fine print.
  • The best way to avoid having valuables pinched is, of course, to travel without them. But if you’re living that digital nomad life, insure your valuable tech before you go. You might need additional cover for this, so make sure to check the fine print of your policy!
  • Keep a PDF copy of your passport on your phone. You never know when you might need it, and you don’t want to risk losing the hard copy. No one wants to spend valuable exploration time at the embassy…
  • Be careful using public WiFi without a password, and always look for ‘https’ in the URL to make sure you’re browsing securely. Update your device apps and antivirus software before you travel. Recent versions will have up-to-date security protections in place, making it harder for hackers to access your info!

Whether you’re getting ready for a trip and want to feel prepared, or you’re wanting to feel a bit better about your own travel misfortune, check out Gap Year Diaries x Hostelworld Episode 3- When things go wrong: Overcoming travel disasters. It’s available now on Spotify, Apple Music or wherever you get your podcasts!

 

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