What to Do if Injured or During Holiday Illness When Traveling International

Whether traveling long term or on a short break we never plan to deal with a holiday illness, but as the saying goes it is better to be safe than sorry (although the health insurance marketplaces in the U.S. would have me second guessing that). They’re so confusing. The truth is that accidents do happen, and you do get sick too. Yes, I have gotten sick when traveling the world, three times as I remember, and on the fourth I even had my wisdom tooth extracted in Malaysian Borneo (the link will take you to a video of my dental surgery-for real!).

This guide is designed to help you should you be taken ill or have an accident while traveling abroad.  It is divided into two sections:  What you should do before you travel, and what to do should you have an accident or be taken ill while overseas.

holiday illness

Health issues during travel are usually unexpected. I endured 7 hours of pain before finding a dentist upon reaching my destination in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia

Prior to Travel

Collect Information on Your Destination Countries

Checking the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in the UK, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in the USA or your country’s health website should be the first thing you do before traveling.  It contains a wealth of information on your destination country including climate, including hurricane season information, political situation, crime, culture and law, and information on terrorism.

Get Vaccinated

To find out if you need to be vaccinated and against what disease you should check the National Travel and Health Network Center website (NATHNAC) in the UK or the CDC site mentioned above in the USA.  These sites will tell you what diseases you need to be vaccinated for, and just as importantly what diseases you can’t be vaccinated for, as well as any typical holiday illness you might find in the area.

The NHS website is worth a check to especially if you are traveling outside of Europe.  Some countries might have a reciprocal health care agreement with yours, and your country’s website lists all the countries which have signed up to the scheme.

The scheme entails that you receive health care should you need it for free or at a reduced cost.  The standards maybe lower than what you have in your counrty.

Obtain Travel Insurance Suitable for Your Trip

Travel insurance is a must have for your trip (especially if traveling long term), and you should choose a policy which is right for your travel group and what you are planning to do.  It is strongly advisable that you opt for the best cover you can afford, and you tell the travel insurance company precisely what you are planning to do on your trip.  If you miss anything out you may not be covered for certain activities which could prove disastrous should the worst happen. Travel insurance may not only cover health costs that might appear, but stolen property or damaged goods.

If your trip is located in Europe then you should also obtain the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).  This card gives you the same health care provision as a national of the country you are staying in.

Though it will cover the cost of some treatments, it will not cover all your costs and travel insurance is still required for your trip.

Ensure You Have Your Embassy Information

Always ensure you have the contact details of your  Embassies in your destination countries.  You will need to contact the respective embassy should you be hospitalized on your trip.

What if I’m Taken Ill While on Holiday?

Knowing what to do if and when the moment arrives is the best you can hope for, so these steps will ensure you are following the appropriate ones and that any claim with your travel insurance provider cannot be grounded on behalf of not following procedures.

Contact Your Tour Operator or Hotel Staff

If you arranged your travel plans via a tour operator, you should contact your representative immediately.  They will be able to arrange a visit to a doctor or at the very least give you contact details of a nearby doctor.

If your illness was the fault of the hotel you were staying in, then under the Package Travel Regulations, the tour operator company is responsible for your welfare.  Providing you can prove the hotel was negligent and this made you ill, you should be able to claim compensation for any losses you experience.

If you arranged your own accommodation then you are not covered under the Package Travel Regulations.  Contact the hotel staff who should be able at the very least to provide the details of a doctor you can visit.

Regardless of how you arranged your holiday you will in most instances have to pay medical bills upfront.

Non Debilitating Holiday Illness

If your illness has not hospitalized you, and the doctor you have seen has not recommended returning to the UK, you will probably have incurred losses in some way, and not just on medical bills.

If you have had to cancel excursions or have picked up unplanned travel costs due to your illness, you may be able to claim compensation for these if you traveled with a tour operator.  To that end it is worth keeping all receipts related to your illness.

If you have arranged the accommodation yourself, the only way you will be able to claim compensation is if you can prove a party’s negligence was responsible for your illness.  Keep all the receipts related to your illness regardless if you can prove negligence or not, as you will need the receipts to claim on your travel insurance.

Claiming Against your Travel Insurance

Normally, you claim against your travel insurance retrospectively by completing a claim form and providing related documentation such as receipts.  Most travel insurance companies provide a guide on how to claim.  Follow this guide to the letter.

What should I do if I have an Accident While on Holiday?

Should you be involved in an accident while on holiday, try and take the following action:

  • Report the accident to the relevant people.  Hotel managers, tour operators, possibly the police depending on what happened.  All should be notified.
  • Ensure the details of the accident go into the accident book.  Hotels should have one of these
  • Take the contact details of anyone who witnessed the accident.
  • Take photographs of the accident scene.  This will provide evidence of what happened.  Concentrate on any damage that may have occurred.
  • Ensure any visits to clinics, doctors, hospitals, and any missed excursions due to the accident are recorded.
  • If your accident happened in your hotel and you booked via a tour operator company, then the Package Travel Regulations apply.  If you can prove negligence on the part of the hotel, then you can claim compensation in the same way as if you were taken ill.

Any medical bills will probably have to be paid for by you in the first instance.  The EHIC or reciprocal health care agreements if applicable may help to reduce this cost, but no matter what happens make sure you keep ALL your receipts.

What should I do if I’m hospitalized?

If you are hospitalized you should do the following:

  • Contact your embassy – They will contact you within 24 hours after contact and inform your friends and family of your circumstances.  They will contact your travel insurance company as well, and if necessary they will visit you within 48 hours.
  • Check your travel insurance policy to see if it covers you for a flight back home

The chances are that hospital bills will have to be paid by you in the first instance though this can be reduced if a reciprocal health care agreement operates or you have an EHIC and are in Europe.


Depending on your circumstances you may be entitled to compensation for your ruined trip.  There are solicitors that specialize in travel claims and can help you make a successful claim.  Some work on a no win no fee basis.

Hopefully, you will not need any of these services and have memorable trip.


Package Travel Regulations http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/1992/3288/contents/made

Foreign and Commonwealth Office http://www.fco.gov.uk

National Travel and Health Network and Centre (NATHNAC) http://www.nathnac.org/index.htm

NHS Choices http://www.nhs.uk/NHSEngland/Healthcareabroad/countryguide/NonEEAcountries/Pages/Non-EEAcountries.aspx

Center for Disease Control and Prevention http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/

Travel Services of the US Department of State http://travel.state.gov/

Australian Government Department of Immigration and Citizenship http://www.immi.gov.au/

Health Canada for Travelers http://travel.gc.ca/


Have you ever head a holiday illness or been injured when traveling abroad? What happened and how did you deal with it? Share your experience in the comments section below as well as any thoughts you have on this post, as well as the post using the social media buttons if you think other people might find it useful!

Leave a Reply 14 comments

shopi tournt - July 5, 2019 Reply

Thanks, I admit I’m totally bad with this kind of stuff — my health care plan in Southeast Asia consists of, “If anything bad happens, fly me to USA.

Emily in Chile - March 28, 2013 Reply

I have to admit I never do this stuff, but I probably should. I’m sure the first time I get really sick on the road, I’ll be wishing I’d followed all these tips!

Sebastian @ Off-The-Path.com - March 25, 2013 Reply

Great tips… I got hit by a car while in Sydney! I had really good insurance that took care of EVERYTHING!

    maitravelsite - March 25, 2013 Reply

    Man, were you hurt badly?

Erica - March 25, 2013 Reply

We’re bad examples. We’re yet to do travel insurance. *sigh*

Alex - March 24, 2013 Reply

I admit I’m totally bad with this kind of stuff — my health care plan in Southeast Asia consists of, “If anything bad happens, fly me to Bangkok.” Should probably have a look into something more robust 🙂

    maitravelsite - March 25, 2013 Reply

    When traveling for under 3 months I don’t usually use insurance either, but if it is more I do…

Abby - March 24, 2013 Reply

I am so bad with this type of stuff — I will remember to check back next time I travel. And ok, even though Costa Rica had wonderful healthcare, so I am not one to judge… I’ve spent a month in and around KK. You got a wisdom tooth taken out there??! I don’t want to see the video lol, but wow.

    maitravelsite - March 25, 2013 Reply

    Yeah, I had really bad pain a few days prior to it being extracted. Was told not to climb KK , but made it 3/4 up anyhow lol 🙂

Ayngelina - March 24, 2013 Reply

I wouldn’t have thought to call the embassy, good tip.

Victoria - March 20, 2013 Reply

Great article! This is a huge help for my upcoming PanAm adventure! Thanks 🙂

    maitravelsite - March 21, 2013 Reply

    You are most welcome Victoria, glad you found it helpful!

Brian Swanick - March 19, 2013 Reply

Hey Fede, good info here and a great list of resources–hope you don’t mind us RT’ing. I have to admit, I only made it to see your tooth outside of your mouth in that video. I apologize for not finishing it haha!

    maitravelsite - March 19, 2013 Reply

    Glad you like it, and of course please RT as much as possible!

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