Saturday, August 27, 2011

Coping With an Emergency Abroad

While emergencies when traveling overseas are rare occurrences, it is still important to know what to do if such an event should happen. When you are planning a trip abroad, it is easy to be caught in the moment, whether you are organizing itineraries, packing or telling your friends and family about your plans. However, you will benefit from knowing what to do before an emergency occurs; you must research where you can turn to for help, especially if you are traveling alone and you cannot help yourself.

Where to Find Help
The U.S. Department of the State provides Consular Services (or ACS) that issue travel advisories containing warnings and alerts. The agency works with embassies and consulates across the world to provide services on an emergency basis to Americans who run into trouble while traveling overseas.

How Can Consular Services Help Me?

Statistics show that over 2,500 Americans are arrested while traveling abroad each year. At least one third of these arrests pertain to drug offenses. Americans have the same rights as everyone else. Regardless of what crime is commited or the country you are in, the United States government cannot bail you out of jail. However, Consular Services can offer to get in touch with your family and friends, educate you about the legal system of the country you are in, provide you with local attorneys from whom you may receive assistance, visit you to make sure jail conditions are acceptable and look for any possible misconducts or treatments on your behalf.

While most of the 6,000 American deaths that occur overseas every year are people who have moved to another country from the United States, tourists can also fall victim to fatal illnesses and accidents while traveling.

As they do for roughly 2,000 Americans every year, the ACS can assist with both the returning of the remains of the deceased to state soil and with any necessary documents or paperwork that may follow. The ACS will confirm both the identity and the death, as well as notify the family members of the unfortunate event. The process of moving the deceased’s remains from another country back to the U.S. can be costly and is solely the responsibility of the family. However, the ACS can provide various options and costs for either the return or disposal of the remains.

Victim of a Crime
If you are a victim of a crime overseas, the Consular Services can help assist you. They will contact family and friends if you need them to, they can replace a passport that was stolen or even help to transfer funds from a bank account to your location in another country. If there is a medical emergency, they can help you obtain medical care but the cost is your responsibility. They will help you to find attorneys who speak English, should you need information about the criminal justice system or details about your particular case.

The best protection you can take against terrorism while traveling overseas is to avoid any country or area of unrest that has a history of terrorism. Extra protection can be found in gap year programs, which offer supervised travel opportunities.  If you do decide to visit one of these countries, you may be better off traveling alone with an uncertain itinerary, as solo travelers are often more random through the eyes of a terrorist. Avoid hanging out in areas where terrorists may congregate such as airports, bus stops or subway stations. Do not share your travel plans with anyone and avoid lingering in tourist areas for extended periods. Make sure you keep your luggage on you at all times and, above all, be aware of your surroundings. Your life may depend on it. provides gap year opportunities for young adults looking to expand their horizons abroad in a safer environment.

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