Global Rescue, the pioneer of worldwide field rescue, has seen it all: dramatic evacuations, strange injuries and unusual accidents that defy logic. From getting scratched by a lemur in Madagascar to being attacked by a giraffe in Zimbabwe to sheltering from brush fires in Australia, we’ve responded to medical and security emergency calls from members on their travels across the globe.

It’s almost impossible to plan for the unknown. That’s when a Global Rescue membership is essential for peace of mind.

Smart travelers already plan for known travel safety risks.

“Most of the time, the conditions we treat are preventable,” said Jeff Weinstein, medical operations supervisor at Global Rescue. “Do your research and take the appropriate steps — such as acclimatization, taking the appropriate medication, consulting your doctor about vaccination requirements — before your trip.”

The known travel safety risks are the easiest to prep for: travel advisories, weather forecasts, potential health concerns, coronavirus testing and COVID-19 documentation.

Travel Advisories

The government issues travel advisories to inform citizens of safety concerns in different countries. This is the information Global Rescue primarily relies on for its destination reports.

“A number of governments publish travel advisories to alert their citizens of potential hazards to travelers and expatriates in various parts of the world. For Americans, the United States Department of State publishes travel advisories online,” said Kent Webber, senior manager of Intelligence Products and Services at Global Rescue.

“Global Rescue reviews travel advisories from the U.S., the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and other countries to form a comprehensive view of the hazards and risks members may encounter during their travels.”

Travel advisories cover a range of topics including health, terrorism, violence, crime, civil unrest and weather. Formats vary from government to government.

“The Department of State uses a tiered advisory system with four levels: exercise normal precautions, exercise increased caution, reconsider travel and do not travel. The levels may apply to an entire country or regions within a country,” Webber said.

A travel advisory doesn’t mean you have to cancel your trip, but it does warrant a closer look at your destination.

“For most governments, travel advisories are intended as advice to inform travel decisions. They may advise of an approaching storm, a natural disaster, a coup, a military conflict, an uptick in crime or any number of unexpected events,” Webber said.

Keep in mind travel advisories can change quickly and may apply for a limited period of time or longer.

“Each potential traveler should perform their own decision calculus and decide whether the risk and potential hazards are outweighed by the urgency of their travel needs,” Webber said. “Global Rescue seeks to inform members of risks, but in the end, each member must decide for themselves.”

Weather Forecasts and Natural Disasters

Whether traveling for business or leisure, checking the weather is usually a first step for travelers. Is it going to be sunny for my beach vacation? Will there be snow for my ski weekend? Should I pack an umbrella and a raincoat if showers are forecast during my business trip?

Keep in mind meteorological seasons — hurricane season, rainy season etc. — can overlap astronomical seasons: winter, spring, summer and fall. In the United States, a season might be designated as fall. In India, fall might include monsoon or rainy season.

Avoiding particular seasons will provide peace of mind during travel. But some natural disasters — such as volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and other geologic processes — are not tied to a season. You can plan a trip around typhoon season in China, which runs May to November, but earthquakes can happen at any time.

“While earthquakes aren’t necessarily predictable, there are areas where they are more likely to occur,” said Harding Bush, associate manager of operations at Global Rescue. “When you combine poor infrastructure in those locations— places like Nepal, Haiti, India — it increases the risk.”

Plan to reschedule a trip if the area has been affected by a natural disaster. Talk to local experts to see if it is realistic to travel there and there are no risks for injury.

“Is the food and water safe? Is the infrastructure strained?” Bush said. “If you visit too early, you’ll be in the way of reconstruction efforts. Consider evacuation services as well.”

Bush suggests reviewing travel insurance to see if cancellations or adjustments due to natural disasters, specifically predictable and unpredictable, are covered.

“The ash from volcanoes can shut down air travel for an extended period of time. A volcano erupted in Iceland that shut down most of the air traffic in and out of Europe for weeks. Volcanoes may not be predictable but the levels of activity are known.”

Your Health

If you are visibly ill, there’s a good chance the airline won’t let you board the plane.

Not all illnesses are visible; many, like high blood pressure or an ear infection, lurk just below the surface.

Schedule a pre-travel health consultation before traveling. Discuss any health concerns with your primary health care provider to mitigate the risk of illness while away from home.

There are some instances where it just makes sense to postpone travel. The CDC recommends not traveling by plane if you have recently had surgery or any type of heart attack or stroke.

“If the doctor says you should not fly, then you should not fly,” Weinstein said.

Travelers with chronic illnesses, like asthma or arthritis, should plan for contingencies by packing enough medication for the trip as well copies of the original prescription. Reader’s Digest also suggests considering the location of health care facilities in your destination, diseases endemic to the destination and checking on the limitations of your health insurance.

Coronavirus Testing and Documentation

Testing is required for most international travel — but do you know which test is needed?

There are four types of diagnostic tests for COVID-19: polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, loop mediated isothermal (LAMP tests), antibody tests and antigen tests.

“PCR tests, LAMP tests and antigen tests detect which person has an active infection while an antibody test determines if there was a past infection,” said Roi Baligod, RN, AEMT, senior specialist in the operations department at Global Rescue.

The CDC recommends PCR, LAMP or antigen tests, but there’s no standard test for travel. The airline may ask for a PCR test and the destination country could request two tests: one before you fly and one after you arrive.

“There is a whole process and approach to testing,” Weinstein said. “Some countries, like the United States, will take antigen tests and PCR tests, some, like the United Kingdom, will only take a PCR or LAMP test. Antigen testing has become much more readily available and widely accepted for entering many countries.”

PCR tests, done in a high-tech lab, usually take 24 hours or more for results. Antigen tests have a rapid turnaround time, usually 15 minutes. With either test, there’s still the chance of a false negative or a false positive.

“Negative results of antibody tests could be a ‘false negative’ if taken too early before the body can produce the antibody in response to COVID-19,” Baligod said.

Travelers with a negative test result, false or otherwise, should be certain to obtain medical services to pay for quarantine if ordered by authorities. Travelers will also need to have documentation of any and all testing — and, in some cases, vaccination — in order to travel. Make triplicate copies: carry one copy on your person, store one in your luggage or carry on and leave one with a reliable person back home.

Travel Safety for Any Situation

How do you prepare for the unknown travel risks? A travel protection membership can provide peace of mind for any situation.

  • Travel Assistance. Whether it’s finding a health care provider or a lost passport, Global Rescue travel assistance can help with unexpected issues. Global Rescue can also provide referrals to legal representation in more than 160 countries. 
  • Destination Reports and Event Alerts. Let Global Rescue review the travel advisories for you. Set alerts for health, weather and security events worldwide and important information such as entry requirements, COVID-19 travel status and restrictions, detailed security assessments and required immunizations.
  • Security Membership. Our teams of military special operations veterans are available to provide advisory, consultation and evacuation services for events like natural disasters, terror attacks and civil unrest when you are in danger.

Global Rescue has been a leader and pioneer in the travel protection services industry since 2004. We provide the finest integrated medical, security, travel risk and crisis management services available anywhere, delivered by our teams of critical care paramedics, physicians, nurses and military special operations veterans. Click here to learn more.