What would you do if you were traveling abroad and you were caught in a flash flood or hurricane? Or you suffered an unexpected stroke or were injured in a motor vehicle accident? Or you unwittingly broke a local law and ended up in prison or facing a stiff fine? What if no one in your party spoke the native language?
One of the first things you should do is call your travel insurance or assistance company – if you purchased a policy before you left home.
Worldwide travel assistance is included in most travel insurance plans sold in the United States. Travelers may also opt to purchase travel assistance services directly from a travel assistance company. Assistance service companies offer 24-hour, multilingual emergency help to respond to any number of emergencies anywhere in the world. Assistance service providers can help travelers navigate complex local requirements, serve as translators, arrange for medical care or evacuation in the case of an emergency, and help facilitate medical or legal assistance abroad. A toll-free or collect call connects the policyholder with a round-the-clock multilingual hotline
that offers help in case of emergency.
Many people are unaware of legal assistance available through most comprehensive travel insurance policies. For instance, blood alcohol levels legal while driving differ from country to country; U.S. drivers may not understand traffic signs and get into an accident in countries where customs and laws differ; or a traveler may unwittingly purchase and export an ancient vase classified as a protected antiquity under local law. Assistance services often have affiliations with legal specialists who can negotiate with local authorities and provide referrals to appropriate legal counsel. And in cases of arrest, legal assistance will try to get the traveler released from jail.
Travelers going to destinations with political instability may also want to check out special travel insurance policies that provide security services and repatriation for U.S. citizens in case of war or civil disturbances. When violence threatens the safety of travelers, these security services often include transportation and accommodation, updates to family and employers, and specialized transport arrangements, which can range from coordination during government-led evacuations to armored ground transport and chartered planes.
US Travel Insurance Association (UStiA)
UStiA is a national association of insurance carriers, third-party administrators, insurance agencies and related businesses involved in the development, administration and marketing of travel insurance and travel assistance products.