Those sunny islands that you always dreamed about may get caught in severe weather conditions
Whether you think climate change is one of the globe’s greatest challenges or not, we can’t escape the fact that the news in the last few years has regularly featured the effects of major weather disasters. And hurricanes feature heavily whether it was Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Hurricane Sandy in 2012 or Hurricanes Irma and Jose right now. And in all those situations there are British holidaymakers who have lost possessions or who are stranded or injured.
So what should you do if you are somewhere and that hurricane that was supposed to sweep by suddenly turns, or becomes a four or a five in strength?
Should you have travelled at all?
Strange question but one you need to consider. Even if you have excellent travel insurance, you will not be covered if you travel against the advice of the FCO, so check before you set out on your trip.
Always start with the FCO website
A major part of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s role is advice to British travellers abroad. Its ability to help on the ground is more limited, but their advice is invaluable. Circumstances may vary from country to country, but the essential advice is always the same:
- Listen to local channels and follow the advice of local authorities and any orders to evacuate or take cover. This seems logical but there are always some people who hope it will pass and don’t want to move from nice hotel to church hall or shelter. Do what the authorities tell you – it’s not personal!
- You must take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance before you travel. You can’t buy extra travel insurance once you are already abroad, and in times of hurricane risk you may have to show your policy on arrival. A consulate will not be able to help you with medical expenses, and there is little chance of a free transfer back to the UK. You are expected to have full cover to cover evacuation, having to end your holiday early, and medical expenses as in many hurricane territories hospitals are private.
- Watch out for crime and looting. Again, this risk depends on the country, so less likely in the US than other countries.
Know your limits
It’s a common misconception that in the case of an emergency you can simply throw yourself at the mercy of the nearest UK consulate. A consulate cannot arrange travel or medical provision for you, nor can it buy you tickets or lend you money if you possessions have been lost or washed away. Consulates are often understaffed at the best of times
Remember that, even now, hurricanes are rare occurrences. The most serious hurricane season on the US eastern seaboard was actually in 1890! Nevertheless, there are plenty of other issues that may arise when you are abroad. Make sure that you travel with suitable insurance (and check that free policy that you get with your bank is really giving you proper cover), read the policy, and take the details with you, especially the contact details.
Most holidays pass without incident. Travel safe, travel well, and travel prepared.
Emerald Life offers various levels of travel insurance with up to £5,000 per person for cancellation or curtailment, and medical expenses up to £10,000,000. It also includes the Consular Assist global assistance program, giving 24/7 help, and on-the-ground support in 190 countries. Get more travel tips, and a quote, at www.emeraldlife.co.uk. Emerald Life is a partner of the FCO in its TravelAware programs.