For women going places

When Things Go Wrong Abroad


Dealing with the unexpected while traveling abroad is bad enough, but when things go wrong overseas it’s not only frustrating, it can be scary. Different culture, surroundings, language and currency all heighten the chaos in a bad situation. However, if you stay calm and treat these problems as just part of the experience, you’ll find they’re easier to manage.

Certain issues, while inconvenient, don’t have to be entirely unexpected. For instance, if you forget your adapters or converters, you should be aware that duty-free shops in airports are a great place to stock up on these gadget-aids.  If you don’t notice until you’ve reached your hotel? Ask the concierge! The hotel may have extras you can use, and otherwise, the concierge can direct you to the nearest hardware store. If you feel homesick, head straight for comfort food or retail therapy. Try an Egg McMuffin, a Starbucks latte, or pull out the iPad and watch a little American TV.

Yet there are more disconcerting issues you might face. You might walk into a public toilet and find it’s a hole in the ground. While this is a reality you might more readily expect while outside of the first world, this can surprise you anywhere from England to China. Things to do about it: Check the bathroom sign (often it will tell you if it is a squat toilet) and carry a small pack of toilet paper or towelettes in your bag.

In the event that your client takes you to what you thought was a nightclub, but turns out to be a gentleman’s club, you should remain respectful but true to yourself. In some countries, this type of entertainment is accepted as part of a normal business day. As a woman, it can be uncomfortable and  embarrassing. You can grin and bear it, or bow out gracefully. There is not necessarily a right answer, but as a female business traveler you should be aware that you might face this dilemma. Never force yourself into a situation in which you feel uncomfortable.

In another example of the expect-able unexpected, transportation strikes are not uncommon, especially in Europe. Generally, the public is given advance notice of strikes (a quick internet search can give you some information about strikes in your area – try GoneOnStrike, SummerInItaly - for strikes in Italy only, or FCm Travel Alerts)  but there occasions when the public is caught off guard.

Here are some tips on how to deal:
  • If you learn of a planned airline strike, and are scheduled to fly on the day of the strike, call to see if you can get a flight change (free of financial penalty, of course).
  •  Public transportation strikes may require a lot of walking. Ask the  concierge or local friends for tips and advice – they know the more about the transportation system, but they also know shortcuts.
  • If you lose your passport, contact your country’s nearly embassy or consulate for help (here is the list of US embassies and consulates). If you are a United States citizen, you will need complete the lost-passport application you will get from the embassy or consulate. You will need proof of citizenship (this is where having a copy of you passport comes in handy!), two passport photos (get replacements before going to the embassy), and proof of identity (driver’s license or birth certificate). There will also be a fee for a replacement.

Getting a traffic ticket abroad is not much different from getting one at home, except you won't be able to contest it (check out this article on fishy traffic tickets). Stay aware of the customs and road laws. Of course, there will always be the truly uncontrollable. The best fix is to keep calm under pressure and stay hyper-prepared - true Woman Road Warrior words to live by.

See you on the road!

Kathy Ameche

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2/27/14, 4:17 PM  

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