Going overseas? Make sure you’re prepared for accidents or unexpected illness with our guide to medical advice while abroad . We’ll help you enjoy the best the world has to offer.
First things first
Before setting off, make sure you’ve got adequate medical cover as part of your travel insurance. And make sure you declare any pre-existing medical conditions or prescribed medication when you arrange it. The last thing you want is to fall ill overseas, only to find out you’re not covered. You may need to pay an extra premium to include certain conditions, or find a better policy.
While you’re there
It pays to know a bit about the healthcare set-up in the country you’re visiting. Ask yourself, ‘what would I do? How do I call an ambulance? How do I let the authorities know I’m insured?’ And use your phrase book to learn basic terms like ‘I need a doctor,’ ‘where is the hospital?’ or ‘I am allergic to X’. Shouting and pointing won’t get you the best results!
Who to call
In an emergency, even if you’ve already called for an ambulance, call your insurer’s 24hr emergency assistance helpline. They’ll have details of doctors, clinics and hospitals near you. They’ll also offer advice on what to do, and in extreme cases they can liaise directly with the hospital or healthcare system in the country you’re visiting.
Look after yourself…
If you’re not sure about the quality of tap water, either boil it before drinking it or drink sealed, bottled water. Avoid ice cubes in bars, cafes and restaurants, and steer clear of raw or undercooked food. This can help you avoid an upset stomach – and an upset holiday.
… and your travelling companions
When travelling as a group, make sure you’re aware of each other’s medical conditions, allergies, and so on. This can make a big difference when performing first aid, or giving the right information to foreign doctors or emergency services. Especially if your travel partner is unconscious or can’t speak.
Can you buy medicines where you’re going?
What’s available over the counter in a foreign chemist can differ from country to country. Even if it’s just headache tablets, there may not be familiar brand names, and information about medicines’ active ingredients and strengths might be hard to decipher. Unless basic non-prescription medication is illegal in your destination country, it’s usually worth stocking up before you go.
If you use needles to self-administer medication, such as insulin, make sure you carry a doctor’s note explaining your condition and the need to carry syringes. If you have to buy needles, or you’re prescribed them following treatment overseas, make sure they are sealed and sterile.
The standard of medical facilities and medical care in many countries is significantly lower than in Australia. While we have reciprocal healthcare agreements with many destinations, such as the UK, Finland, New Zealand and Italy, they are no substitute for medical travel insurance.