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How to handle a travel emergency

Finding help away from home

If your car breaks down far from help, turn on the emergency flasher lights (or parking lights and a directional signal in an older car) and get the car well off the road if you can. Tie a white or red cloth to the handle of the driver’s door; raise the hood. Stay in the car until help arrives. If you can’t get the car off the road, turn on the emergency flashers, set up flares if you have them, and wait on the roadside. If you’re traveling in a group, stay together. When someone stops to help, ask him to call the police, highway patrol, or your auto club at the next phone box or tollbooth. Request the same aid from all who stop.

Before your car is towed or repaired. ask for the estimated cost. Many towing companies won’t take checks or credit cards. If you’re short of cash, try contacting a relative, friend, or your bank to arrange a transfer of funds.

Getting medical help

If you or someone with you gets sick while traveling, go to the nearest hospital. Hotels and motels in major foreign cities and large resorts may have an English-speaking doctor on call. Otherwise, try the nearest U.S. consulate or military post, an American Express office, or the Red Cross. If you anticipate you may need a doctor, the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers (IAMAT) will send you, for a donation, a list of English-speaking doctors abroad.

Lost luggage and other mishaps

If an airline misplaces your luggage, go to the airline desk immediately. Present your claim checks (but hold on to them) and fill out a claim form. If you need clothing or overnight supplies, ask airline personnel about reimbursement. For ways to reduce the risk of losing your bags pack properly.

When driving in a foreign country, have adequate insurance. If you’re involved in an accident or run afoul of the law, contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.