We were headed to South Africa and our first safari. We mentioned this to a family friend, a physician at the CDC.
"Take out private-plane medi-vac insurance," he said, "and if you get sick fly to Israel or Europe. Do not go to a hospital in South Africa."
Now, maybe a doctor with the CDC is more attuned to problems in certain countries--such as the incidence of AIDS in Africa, where more than 15 million have died. So we didn't think our friend was paranoid.
And we took out insurance that covered us with a medi-vac flight if we needed one.
We didn't--although on our way to the airport when our trip was over, we were rear-ended in our taxi by a truck.
Luckily, the cab had more damage than we did.
But a few years ago, in India, my wife complained of pain and fever. We were at the Ajanta and Allura Caves.
This was not in the middle of a major population center.
What to do?
We called my son, the doctor, back in the States. He checked out a website called jointcommissioninternational.org.
He looked up doctors in Mumbai--not a long flight from where we were. We called, and got an appointment for the next day!
We also telephoned the Oberoi hotel in Mumbai. When we arrived, we found this note on our pillows: "Get Well Soon."
That day, we saw the doctor, who took blood, gave my wife an X-ray, and determined that she had a minor infection.
They gave us medicine. The charge: $40.
We were lucky, in a sense, because India has significant medical care. But it also taught me a lesson: you have to be crazy to go on vacation without taking medical and emergency-travel insurance.
The bottom line is that it will raise the cost of the trip anywhere between 5 and 15%--and give you 110% peace of mind.
No one can predict what can happen, even in the most modern cities. We were in London and planned to go to Berlin for the Christmas markets.
The day before we were scheduled to leave, my wife twisted an ankle.
No walking around for her.
I called the hotel in Germany--one of the most renowned in Europe--figuring they'd do the right thing and refund our deposit. No such luck.