How to plan and deal with a crisis situation while traveling abroad
My summer trip to Istanbul and recent events inspired this post regarding how to handle a crisis situation while traveling abroad. I am not a drama seeker, but I also don’t let trepidation interfere with the amount of pure joy I feel from traveling to exotic destinations. As mentioned, I traveled to Istanbul to attend an important wedding of someone very close to me as I was a member of the wedding party. After the wedding festivities, I planned a week long vacation in the Greek Islands. Although, there was political unrest and terrorist activity in Turkey, I didn’t feel nervous about going there. However, I did make the informed decision not to go to very touristy areas during this visit. Luckily, I had already seen most of Istanbul on a previous trip. It is also important to note that I was not alone and I stayed with local friends and family from Istanbul.
I arrived in Istanbul on Friday, July 15th and as they say, “sh*t got real (fast)!” Our dinner was unexpectedly interrupted by a military coup d’etat attempt to assassinate the president and seize control of the government and country. For several hours, we heard gunshots outside the window, fighter jets flying extremely close to the buildings causing a loud bomb-like sound, military tanks and guards enforcing the curfew and Martial law including no vehicles allowed and the bridges and highways, and continuous loud prayers blaring from all of the mosques throughout Istanbul. It was an out-of-body experience and I found myself helpless just waiting to see what happened next. The crisis situation made me feel alive and pushed my limits in a new way.
Undoubtedly, travel can be a challenging experience, but it is mostly enjoyable and worth any challenges along the way. I had the misfortune of arriving into Istanbul and several hours later experiencing a military coup d’etat. I am safe and here to give you some tips on being prepared and safe during a crisis abroad. Exercising good judgment, I remained safe and I put together a list of some tips to prepare and stay safe during a crisis abroad.
- PLAN AHEAD Keep up on current events in the region, check State Department travel advisory website, research the areas you will be visiting by checking credible travel forums and news articles, and get informed about potential problems such as weather, political unrest, religious holidays, etc.
- DOCUMENTS WORKSHEET Create a worksheet and download it on your phone, email account, and send it to your in case of emergency person back home (my dad!). Some of the items to include are passport, visa, reservation details, tickets, travel insurance, health insurance, credit cards, phone number index card (travel insurance emergency hotlines, state department, family/friends, credit card, airline, etc, hotel.).
- TRAVEL INSURANCE Research travel insurance providers such as Betins, Allianz, Travelex, Travel Guard, etc. Decide which one meets your needs and the type of coverage you are comfortable with.
- REGISTER Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) is a free service for Americans to register with the nearest United States Embassy and State Department. Once registered, record local U.S. authority contact information and address
- EMERGENCY FUNDS Usually there are always ATM machines around, but you may end up in situation where you can’t find a working machine or you are robbed or lose your wallet. I recommend at least $200 USD in a secure place. Also, I suggest to have an emergency stash of $100 USD of local currency. Make sure you inform your credit card companies of your travel plans and keep a “backup” wallet separate from your “main” wallet.
WHEN EVERYTHING GO BANANAS!
1. Call local emergency services if needed (Police, Fire Rescue, Medical Personnel
2. Notify State Department or U.S. Embassy office to stay informed, connected and safe.
3. Contact insurance companies to start the process of claims if necessary
4. Listen to local people, news, etc. If something seems strange, trust your instincts.
5. Stay calm and in control of your emotions and behaviors, be alert and aware of your surroundings.
6. Get in touch with loved ones. When you have an opportunity to check in and let them know you are OK and that you are safe and taking all the necessary steps for a safe journey back home.
SAFE TRAVELS, Y’ALL!