What To Do If You Are Stuck Abroad

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, an increasing number of people are finding themselves stuck abroad. More airlines are canceling flights, countries are issuing travel restrictions, and confusion abounds across governments, airlines, and passengers alike. In the case that you do find yourself in this unfortunate situation, here is what you should do.

Stuck abroad
Here’s what you should do if you find yourself stuck abroad. Photo: Getty Images

Contact your airline or travel agent

If you booked directly through the airline, check the airline’s website for information. Already, over the course of this crisis, some airlines have canceled services and then opened up repatriation flights allowing passengers to return. Other airlines have done a U-turn and decided against canceling flights altogether. If you have booked through a travel agent, it is best to contact your agent for assistance.

United Airlines Fleet
United decided to backtrack on long-haul international flight cancellations. Photo: Getty Images

Even if some airlines have canceled flights, it does not mean that you cannot get home. Most airlines around the world also have partners on which you can fly. While this may turn a nonstop trip home into one with a couple of connections, nevertheless, it is better to get home than to be stuck abroad.

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Lufthansa, Eurowings, Calgary, Frankfurt
Airlines may be able to fly you home via a partner. Photo: Getty Images

Contact travel insurance

If you have purchased travel insurance (highly recommended!) it is worth contacting them to explore your options. You may end up with additional expenses that were previously unplanned. In those instances, travel insurers may be able to offer a reimbursement of some costs. While not all travel insurance covers flight cancellations, yours might and it is worth seeing what options you may have.

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Passengers waiting to board at Hong Kong airport
Read the fine print of your travel insurance to ensure you are covered in case of an emergency. Photo: Getty Images

Contact your embassy or consulate

If you do run out of options, it may be time to contact your embassy or consulate. Some countries are arranging repatriation flights. Recently, this involved Canada sending a 36-year old Boeing 737 to rescue citizens from Morocco. Then, Air Canada also stepped in and offered a 777 to repatriate citizens.

The embassy may also help you find alternate accommodations or routings home. For what it is worth, it is also a good idea to check up on travel warnings and advice from your embassy or consulate prior to traveling. Some even allow for trip registration and notifications that can help keep you in the loop in case of changing circumstances.

Delta Air Lines
Countries may organize special repatriation flights for citizens. Photo: Getty

Before you travel

If you have to travel abroad (many governments and health agencies are warning against nonessential travel), then it is best to also prepare beforehand. Purchase travel insurance that will cover any potential flight cancellations. Plan ahead and find ways to access additional funds if you do have to spend more time than you planned abroad. This includes taking extra cash for exchange, contacting banks and ensuring funds can be accessed abroad, and notifying close friends or family members about your travels.

Stuck abroad
Take precautions before you travel. Photo: Getty Images

Overall

Traveling abroad can be a lot of fun. However, in the middle of a global crisis, it can certainly turn into a nightmare. Be prepared before you travel by purchasing travel insurance that covers trip delays, cancellations, etc.. However, if you do find yourself stuck abroad, don’t panic. Start calling airlines and travel agents if your flight is canceled. If you still cannot find a way home, contact your embassy or consulate. Many have emergency lines that can assist citizens in times of need.

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JAY1951

I just don’t understand the “Overall” paragraph. What is “essential” is not travel but stop virus transmission. Unless you’re a health-sector work going to assist at your destination, some involved in organising vital cargo, or someone trying to return home (and shelter in place is also an option if it’s affordable).

Travelling now isn’t “a nightmare”, it’s a borderline criminal act of selfishness.

R Sprole

A personal risk assessment takes a few minutes. Financially and health-wise, can you afford to stay in the country that you are visiting [many countries have far lower case rates per population than others such as the US?] Do you have dual citizenship, and therefore care available, in the secondary location you are visiting? Do you have a place to shelter? perhaps a second home. Are you visiting parents or loved ones abroad that need your help?
There are many factors to consider including the return trip: exposure as you travel, risk to others upon landing and a potential two week quarantine.