No one really expects to end up in hospital either due to a disastrous accident or an impromptu bout of body mechanical failure, but it happens probably more than you would be aware of.  You only have to think of Asia and the dangerous roads that carefree holidaymakers believe they are impervious to.  As for body glitches there is no time clock saying that you are traveling, therefore you won't get sick.  Think dengue, rabid dogs, bacterial bugs in your guts and heart attacks; sometimes your body throws a complete mickey just for fun to remind you that you are not invincible.

The policy wording of your travel insurance is the bible when you make a claim. Unfortunately whoever wrote those words was obviously not a member of the human race or was someone that has never experienced a major body malfunction when abroad. If you happen to be a solo flyer jumping around the tantalizing countries of the world, it can sometimes be impossible to follow travel insurance rule procedure - found in the fine print - to ensure that you are covered.

My recent experience as a solo traveller:


Getting to an emergency department of a hospital quickly is apparently secondary to ringing your insurance company.Read The Fine Print - Travel Insurance - The Wise Traveller - Emergency Department

You need to be a medical fee math's genius:

While you are waiting in the emergency department still chucking up and in dire agony, you should be calculating in your head what you imagine your medical fees will be - then convert that amount into the right currency. According to the fine print you have to notify your insurance company if you believe it will exceed a stated amount.

This is when you are expected to be dexterous and manage to hold a vomit bag plus a mobile phone whilst experiencing agonizing gut spams that shake your whole body. You have to be careful that you don't drop your mobile into the puke bag during this delightful waiting period and manage to speak coherently at the same time to your insurance company without spitting chunks over the person beside you.


Your insurance company will ring your mobile ad nauseam day and night despite the fact that you may be doped out of your brain and possibly hallucinating on painkillers with a tube stuck up your nose making it impossible to speak. It is no excuse not to answer when you are stuck in a PET scan machine with more dye than blood running around your veins, it is 2 o'clock in the morning in the country you are in but to them it is work-hours, or you can't hear what they are saying because you are in a noisy multiple-bed hospital room and your bedmate is throwing a fit.

Read The Fine Print - Travel Insurance - The Wise Traveller - Hospital

Remember you must answer your telephone pronto or your insurance company will get very cranky with you.

The big constant question from your insurance company:

"Why don't you know what is wrong with you, let me speak to your doctor?"

Mmm...your insurance company has been told numerous times that the hospital staff don't speak English and doctors spend a maximum of 10 minutes with you each morning. Obviously, they don't read the notes of prior conversations had with their cohorts.

The only means of communication is a game of charades from which it is apparent that the doctors actually have no idea at that point, so you suggest that they may like to Skype the medicos and join in the game of charades.  There is never any mention of getting an interpreter.


You will be expected to have an office arsenal in your travel luggage and to have it with you when you go to the hospital in the first place.  Think access to a computer, a scanner, fax machine plus a printer to sign innumerable documents emailed by your insurance company.  The fact that there is no Internet connection for patients and you do not have a secretary handy to carry out these tasks for you is a moot point, as far as they are concerned.

You don't need a personal, of course not:

I stayed in a hospital gown flashing my rear end for 5 weeks as my clothes upon arrival became covered in projectile vomit. My luggage packed itself after spending 2 weeks in my pre-paid accommodation and managed to grab a taxi to the hospital all by itself.

My local pre-paid mobile (cash only for top ups) ran to an ATM then a mobile shop to top up its credits, whilst my mobile charger arrived at the hospital by pigeon carrier so that I could recharge the battery. There were so many staff (as if) that I had my own personal help to the toilet whilst wheeling my dancing partner - aka mobile stand holding drips for pain killers and saline plus an intravenous food bag plugged into a vein in my neck.

All of my pre-booked (most times pre-paid) accommodation and flights miraculously cancelled themselves and heaven forbid that I would deign to wear fresh nickers each day that would require washing, once I graduated from paper undies of the hospital couture brand. Personal toiletries such as a toothbrush, toothpaste and deodorant magically appeared, as did clean hospital wear - similar to resort wear of the lounging variety - that never required laundering.  All of my clients that I write for - I am a digital nomadic soul - are clairvoyant and immediately knew why that article I was on a deadline for had not shown up in their email inbox.

So why on earth would I need a personal carer?

Lessons learned:

  • Travelling solo can sometimes be a hazardous business.
  • Constant murmuring to one-self merely to exercise your vocal cords is frowned upon in any society, whether the locals can understand you or not.
  • You should never leave home without an electronic translator machine in your pocket - make sure that no Internet is required.
  • Do have your travel insurance company's telephone number on speed dial in your mobile.  For an added precaution add your country's embassy number as well, for when the travel insurance company annoys the hell out of you.
  • When making a claim do not be put off by bullying tactics via emails and telephone calls or an inquisition into your medical history and the fact that you did need that toothbrush, even if food wasn't going in your mouth but via a vein in your neck.
  • Never accept the first offer of settlement made by your insurance company. If you do not agree with the amount, take it to arbitration within the company and if you are still not satisfied, take it further.

NB  There will be no naming of the insurance company involved, as after much nefarious squabbling for 4 months, my claim for 5 weeks of hospital in a foreign non-English speaking country was finally settled.

Gail Palethorpe, a self proclaimed Australian gypsy, is a freelance writer, photographer and eternal traveller. Check out her website Gail Palethorpe Photography and her Shutterstock profile.

Editors Note: The author has described a personal situation highlighting some of the issues that occurred during her incident, the article was submitted as a personal experience account and it was published as provided.  The Wise Traveller does not know the name of the insuring organisations described.