What to do if you’re a Canadian facing an emergency in a foreign country

Canadians who travel outside the country may plan their vacations to a meticulous degree, but they often don’t know what to do if the unexpected happens.

The latest example is a Winnipeg woman whose daughter died at an all-inclusive resort in the Dominican Republic. Holly Twoheart told Global News that she was “lost” dealing with all the different things that arose.

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The federal government recommends all travelers check in before they leave Canada.

Registration of Canadians Abroad is a free service that allows the Government of Canada to notify you in case of an emergency abroad or a personal emergency at home. The service also enables you to receive important information before or during a natural disaster or civil unrest.

That’s the first step and recommended for any Canadian planning on travelling outside of the country.

If you, or a loved one, are outside Canada and lose your passport, need urgent medical care, have been arrested or detained, or face an emergency, Canadian consular officials may be able to help you. This help provided to Canadians abroad is called “consular services.”

You can email [email protected] or call directly at 1-613-996-8885.

Global Affairs Canada should also be contacted immediately at 1-613-944-4000.

The following is a credit-card sized information card that can be printed, folded and put into your wallet. Take the five minutes to download, print and write down the relevant information and tuck it into your wallet or travel case before you leave on your vacation.

You can reach consular officials 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in 150 countries and through the Emergency Watch and Response Centre.

The website includes links and information to help Canadians with the following:

  • Arrest and detention
  • Child welfare, abduction and custody issues
  • Death abroad
  • Financial assistance
  • Forced marriage
  • Hijacking, hostage takings and kidnappings
  • Large-scale emergencies abroad
  • Lost or stolen belongings abroad
  • Missing persons
  • Passport security
  • Physical assault abroad
  • Sexual assault abroad
  • Sickness or injury

You should also be in immediate contact with the local Canadian embassy or consulate. A full list of where they are and how to contact them is in that link.

Travel Insurance

It’s not uncommon for many travelers to forego purchasing extra travel insurance. But it’s a situation not recommended by the federal government or travel companies.

The Canadian government said travel insurance is “essential” as you never know what can happen.

“Your Canadian insurance is almost certainly not valid outside Canada,” the federal government said on its travel website.  “Your provincial or territorial health plan may cover nothing or only a very small portion of the costs if you get sick or are injured while abroad.”

But it’s also important to know what ‘kind’ of insurance you are buying and what it covers.

“When assessing a travel health insurance plan, you should ask a lot of questions. Carefully research your needs and verify the terms, conditions, limitations, exclusions and requirements of your insurance policy before you leave Canada.”

It’s also recommended travelers check the Canadian government’s website for any travel advisories that may be in effect before they leave.

The government keeps an updated list on its website.

Michelle Fischer of Transat Travel.

Sherridan Harris of Trafalgar Tours Canada and Michelle Fischer of Transat Travel had a few other tips for travellers in emergencies.

“You always want to make sure you take a photo of your passport, or a photocopy or both and make sure you have one with you and that you also leave one at home with somebody,” said Harris.

“In the event you do lose it or have it stolen, this way you can prove your identity and still get out of the country.”

Fischer has worked as a travel agent for 25 years and said she always recommends purchasing insurance.

“It is the number one thing, in all the years of experience,” she said. “It’s the unexpected. I think the most common answer is ‘nothings going to happen I don’t need it.’ But unfortunately life is unpredictable and things do happen.”

Interruption insurance is something else to think about, Fischer added.

“What if something happens to a family member or your house burns down?” she said. “You can be just arrived and with our insurance, you can be on that first flight home to take care of what has happened.”

-With files from Elisha Dacey

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