What’s the first thing you’d do if something went wrong while you were on holiday in another country?
For many people, the automatic response would be simple – get in touch with the nearest consulate office of your home country.
Consuls are diplomats who work in a foreign country on behalf of the government of their home nation. The main function of a consulate office is to provide assistance to fellow nationals who are either living in or visiting that country.
The most obvious examples are things like helping with visa applications or replacing lost passports. Yet consular staff are routinely asked to intervene on a range of issues, from foreign nationals getting in trouble with the law to ill health.
Consuls and their staff provide an essential and at times invaluable service. Never was this more evident than the massive repatriation operation that kicked in during the early weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic as travellers desperately raced to get home to escape being stranded and locked down abroad.
Consulates of every nation were on the frontline, and often worked together to find solutions in very trying circumstances.
Consider your luggage
When it comes to traveling, there is always going to be a degree of uncertainty; that’s a fact. However, whenever you’re traveling, especially for leisure, you’re going to have to consider your luggage. Not just what to pack or the size, but you need to also consider what to do with it. Fortunately, most major cities (especially tourist areas have a solution.
You can always look into Termini luggage storage. Ideally, this is something that you should look into in advance to ensure you know where it’s at, the cost, and the forms of payment accepted.
Yet the pandemic also exposed the dangers of travellers expecting their consulate office to dig them out of every hole.
Tens of thousands of nationals of certain countries, including Australia, New Zealand, Thailand and China, found themselves effectively locked out of their own country by their government’s strict COVID entry policies.
As government representatives, there’s nothing a consul can do if a government shuts its borders.
Similarly, consuls are bound by the laws of the country they operate in. A classic example is travellers contacting their consulate for help because they’d tested positive for COVID and been put into quarantine.
Quite simply, there’s nothing a consul could do – when you arrive in a foreign country, you are subject to its rules.
You are also subject to the vagaries of travel – of which there are plenty to contend with at the moment. Worldwide, the tourism industry is still struggling to find its feet after being decimated by two years-plus of severely restricted activity.
Millions of people were forced to leave the industry to look for work elsewhere. Numbers have not yet recovered.
That means travellers are running into problems with a higher frequency than they were used to prior to the pandemic.
Throw in the fact that travellers are still running into a mishmash of COVID regulations across different destinations, plus age-old risks like falling ill or being injured in an accident, and it’s hardly surprising that consular services are reporting more requests for help than ever before.
The question anyone heading abroad on holiday should be asking themselves is, how much can they rely on the intervention of their own government to resolve issues they might run into abroad?
To what extent do you need to take control by anticipating potential issues and taking steps to protect yourself accordingly?
What is clear is that assuming you’ll be looked after and protected somehow no matter what problems you run into when you travel is at best naive and at worst dangerous. Take the example of falling ill or suffering some kind of accident.
There are still far too many people who head abroad on holiday not realising that they will have to pay for medical assistance in a foreign country – and if that assistance extends to hospitalisation, it can be very, very expensive.
No doubt many assume that, even if they are presented with an eye-watering medical bill, one call to the consular office and it will all be smoothed over.
Those who realise this isn’t the case are often the ones who learn the hard way, who end up having to sell their family home to pay off a debt for treatment costs that could have been avoided.
How can this be avoided? By taking out holiday insurance.
Medical expenses are one of the major things covered by travel insurance. In recognition of the fact that foreign visitors are liable to pay their own medical bills in pretty much every country on the planet, insurance provides an essential service.
Payout limits typically extend into the millions, in recognition of just how costly the most serious illnesses and injuries can be when intensive and long-term treatment is required.
Given that the average tourist could never be expected to pay such bills, it’s not surprising that a growing list of countries have started to make insurance mandatory for all foreign visitors.
Medical cover is a big part of travel insurance, and provides a means of protecting yourself for something that no consular service can help you with. But it is far from all travel insurance covers you for.
Cancellations, missed departures, lost luggage, even personal liability if you are responsible for an accident that causes injury or damage – travel insurance offers financial protection for them all.