We like to travel. The sensations caused by discovering new corners of the world. The experiences that are stored in our memory and to which, inevitably, we return from time to time. But, sometimes, travelling can brings unexpected scary situations and emergencies.
Recently we have talked about recommended vaccines for some destinations. Also monsoons and how to prepare to overcome them if they surprise us during the trip and. No, we do not want to scare anyone or create the false image that travelling can be dangerous. But the truth is that a month ago we suffered in the first person what happened in Sri Lanka and that has made us reflect upon it. What should be done if a conflict breaks out, there is an attack or a national emergency in the country where we are on vacation?
We do not have absolute answers, but we do have our own personal experience and we want to share with all of you who are part of the unuk community our particular advice, trusting that you never need it.
Register with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
The bureaucracy is tedious, but it can be very useful in emergency situations. It is not fast, but it can be located if catastrophes or situations like the sad bombings of a few weeks ago in Sri Lanka happen. It’s as easy as visiting the Web site for your Ministry of Foreign Affairs and registering there (for Spaniards, here). The authorities will know that we are in the country and will check our data if we cannot be found.
Locate the nearest embassy
We say “closer” because, oddly enough, not all countries have embassies for each country. In the case of Sri Lanka, for example, the closest Spanish embassy was New Delhi (India). In that case, it will be important to locate the consulate of the country and have at hand the contact information, address and also communication channels in social networks.
Travel with a good insurance
In previous posts we talked about the need or not to travel insured. Our response will always be a great YES. Many things can happen during a trip, from a small wound that gets infected to a stomach virus. But also, the need to leave the country earlier than planned. In this sense, the insurance offered by airlines for long journeys may be advisable since sudden changes in our itinerary will usually be much easier or perhaps less expensive.
Get a local SIM card
When the time comes, it won’t matter if we have a local number or not or if the invoice will be astronomical or not. But having a SIM card will facilitate communication. Many governments decide to block social networks and communication channels during the first moments of a national emergency. It was the case, for example, of Sri Lanka. WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram remained virtually deactivated during the first two days of bewilderment and communicating with Spain proved almost impossible. At times like this, a local card will allow you to bypass ‘censorship’ through mobile applications that relocate the phone’s IP and its data in another country. Without a SIM card from the country where we are, all communication will depend on the WIFI network and it will be almost impossible to circumvent government controls.
It seems obvious, but still, we should not forget about it if we happen to be involved in an emergency situation. Keep calm, inform yourself and act accordingly understanding that everything in those days will be much more expensive. There are many priority situations that will surround you and not everything can be how and when you would like. It is convenient to follow the indications of the authorities — both local and those of our country of origin — and to preserve the necessary temper to face them. You have to think that, many times, family and friends live with much more concern and anxiety than those who are in situ during the emergency situation.
Trust the local people
They know better than anyone else the reality of their country, so it is always a good idea to stay in touch with them to capture the state of real concern and urgency of the situation. Share information with them and, if possible, stay close to them. In our case, we spent the next three days in a hotel run by a married couple formed by a Sri Lankan man and a German woman, who kept us informed at all times of what was being said in the country. Hospitable people, they made things much easier for us in those days of commotion.
Check Twitter as an information channel
Interestingly enough, Twitter was the only social network that in the case of Sri Lanka was not blocked. Many falsehoods are written in it, but it is an excellent way of communication and information in emergency situations. Many government institutions, faced with the avalanche of calls and emails, choose to communicate via Twitter. The information is updated much faster than in traditional media and private messages are not usually blocked as easily as in other much more visual networks — for fear of circulating images and videos. Of course, we must know how to select wisely our sources of information.
We hope you never have to make use of these and other national emergency tips. These are situations of exception that very rarely happen on a trip, but it never hurts to know how to act if we have to live one of them. As the saying goes, “better safe than sorry”. Or in this case, “blocked”.