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INSUBUY® Insurance Blog

Posted: 07/22/20221,511 Views

Although no one can say for certain when (or if) COVID-19 will actually be over, it is looking increasingly like the summer of 2022 is the first return to travel normalcy in over two years. 

In April, 2022, a United States judge struck down mask mandates on planes and buses. Countries around the world are relaxing or eliminating their COVID entry restrictions. The public is chomping at the bit to travel again as unencumbered as possible, and tourism boards and businesses all over the globe are ready to welcome them. 

However, the chance of getting COVID-19 or some other illness is still possible, even if you’re fully vaccinated and boosted. How do you balance wanderlust with the possibility of getting sick while traveling abroad?

After spending several years largely isolating yourself from others, perhaps you need a refresher on protecting yourself from illness while on an international trip.

Masks are Still OK

While the legal requirement to wear a mask is ending in many countries, there’s absolutely no reason why you can’t still wear one if you want to. People have been wearing masks for years if they feel there is poor air quality, or just want an extra measure of safety from germs. 

If you’re immunocompromised, or you’re simply worried about catching a bug on the plane or in a crowded space, go ahead and put a mask on. It’s an extra bit of protection that isn’t hurting anyone, regardless of mandates going away.

Fighting Germs on Flights

Surprisingly, it usually isn’t the cabin air on airplanes that makes people sick. The main culprits for germs on planes are high-touch surface areas. 

The fact is, airlines don’t have time to sanitize all parts of their planes between flights. This means that surface areas like your tray table, seatbelt, armrest, and even the lavatory door can be crawling with germs. They get transferred to your hands when you touch these areas, make it into your mouth or nose, and then you get sick. 

Luckily, the way to combat this is simple. Just use disinfecting wipes to do a quick cleaning of the areas near your seat that you’ll touch. Also, bring along a small bottle of hand sanitizer for when you need to touch surfaces that you can’t clean, like the lavatory door or overhead baggage compartment latch. If you’re vigilant about keeping your hands and surrounding surfaces as germ-free as possible, it can go a long way. 

Hotel Room Cleanliness 

The same tips about sanitizing surfaces should be utilized in your hotel room. Don’t assume housekeeping has cleaned the nightstand or bathroom counter beyond a cursory wipe. They probably haven’t. Invest in a spray disinfectant, and use it on every surface before you settle in.

Also, go ahead and toss that hotel room comforter aside, and then wash your hands thoroughly. Hotel comforters are rarely laundered unless absolutely necessary. Other germ-laden surfaces to keep in mind include the coffeemaker, hairdryer, doorknobs, and especially the television remote. It’s also never a bad idea to bring your own pillowcase. If your head is going to lay on something, it’s good to know how well it was last washed. 

Tourist Attraction Tips

Hand sanitizer is something you should never leave your hotel room without when heading off to sightsee. Tourist attractions are full of handrails, doors and other surfaces that are touched by thousands of people each day. Since you can’t exactly disinfect a stair railing at the Louvre, be sure to at least keep your own hands as free from germs as possible.  

Food Safety Abroad

Bacterial infections and traveler’s diarrhea are two of the most common ailments that people face when vacationing internationally. Luckily, there are numerous things you can do to reduce your chances of being a victim:

  • Stick to bottled water – Water safety standards vary all over the world. If you aren’t 100% sure that the water is safe to drink, stick to bottled water. Make sure the water is sold in a sealed plastic bottle, and only buy it from legitimate vendors. 
  • Fully cooked foods only – Raw foods like fruits and salads can contain a host of germs if improperly washed. In addition, the water used to wash them may not be safe to drink. Fully cooked foods are less likely to contain germs that cause gastronomic distress, as the cooking process kills them. 
  • Do as others do – There’s probably a reason why one restaurant or street food vendor has a huge line, while the other is completely vacant. Busy establishments are more likely to use fresh ingredients that haven’t been sitting out. Plus, if a restaurant was making loads of customers sick, it likely wouldn’t be so busy. Follow the crowd. 

Insurance is Essential

While it may seem predictable for an insurance blog to suggest you buy insurance, it’s impossible to deny the importance of coverage while you’re abroad.

If you do get sick and have to visit a doctor or hospital in another country, do you know how you’d pay for it? Your domestic health insurance probably isn’t going to cover you outside of your home country. Even in countries that have socialized healthcare, you aren’t a resident who pays taxes, so it’s unreasonable to expect free treatment. Also, the care offered by public facilities in some countries may be limited. A private doctor or hospital could be your only viable option. 

Regardless, there’s going to be a bill; and it could be large, depending on the nature of your treatment. 

If you’re struck by a car and seriously injured in the mountains, do you have the $20,000+ it could take for a medevac flight to the hospital? If you test positive for COVID-19, are the treatment or quarantine costs in your vacation budget?

Visitors medical insurance (for travel to the USA) or travel medical insurance (for travel outside the USA) are designed specifically to provide coverage for new, unexpected medical conditions that occur while traveling outside your home country after the effective date of the policy. A small investment in insurance can save you a massive amount of money if you require treatment abroad. 

While the risk of illness or injury abroad can never completely be eliminated, by following these guidelines and having proper insurance coverage, you can enjoy your international trip with less worry. 

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The U.S. Department of State requires all J visa holders to purchase compliant insurance.

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Schengen countries require most non-US citizens to purchase Schengen visa insurance.

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Traveling frequently throughout the year?

You don't need to purchase travel insurance for every trip.

Purchase annual multi trip travel insurance for your travels.

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Most schools require international students to purchase health insurance.

Purchase international student health insurance that meets most school requirements.

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