woman and luggage sitting on airport floor with head bowed down, stranded while traveling

What to Do If You Get Stranded While Travelling

July 24, 2023laurenslighthouse

Last updated on August 4th, 2023

You can do everything possible to avoid common mistakes while travelling. But what if something terrible happens, and there’s nothing you can do about it? While the idea of spending a little longer travelling sounds amazing initially, your opinion may change if the reason why your trip’s been extended is because you’re stranded.

You could be stranded because of an injury (oof), a lost passport (our friends have been there) or even political unrest (oh heck no!), among others. It certainly wasn’t fun being stuck in Bali when our Vietnamese visas hadn’t come in yet, on the very last day of our Bali visas no less! Our stress levels were high up there and I may have shed a river of tears at the check-in counter as we kept refreshing our phones for the visas. We definitely learned a lesson or two, and in the midst of my tears, had to figure out new plans A, B and C if we didn’t make it on that plane.

We learned to think on our feet when things didn’t go the way they planned at the very last minute. It’s tempting to panic, but you really shouldn’t (at least not yet). Instead, consider these few tips to help yourself out of a difficult situation when travelling!

You can pack everything you need for your trip, but without adequate travel insurance, you could find yourself in a tough pickle. We love SafetyWing for multiple reasons. It’s incredibly affordable at only $45 every 4 weeks, you can start and stop it at any time, it’s got amazing coverage for emergency medical and travel insurance like lost baggage and delays and much more. Did I mention it’s only $45?

Contact as Many People as Possible

Consider contacting as many people as possible when you discover that you’re stranded. These people include your loved ones or friends who might be expecting you to meet them at the next stop of the trip. But also your airline, bus company, or any tours and hotels you may have booked.

As the countdown was reaching zero for us to check in at the Denpasar airport in Bali, we spoke with the agents who were more than helpful. They gave us a few backup plans as we waited, and if the visas didn’t come in time for the flight we booked – which they didn’t – we could pay the fee to change our flight to the next day! Luckily (or maybe not so lucky), our visas came in just 20 minutes after the check-in desk closed for the flight we booked. But at least the visas came in that same evening before the weekend so we could rebook for the next day!

We then promptly extended our Bali visas and messaged our hotel in Hanoi to let them know we weren’t going to be able to make it that night.

Explain to your folks and necessary contacts what has occurred and see if you can make alternate arrangements. Airlines may get you on another flight like they did for us! And hotels and tours could save your reservation to fulfill once you arrive. You never know what can be done until you ask! We were so blessed to have our accommodations fully reimbursed in Siargao, Philippines when our connecting flight to the island was cancelled. The owners were kind enough to issue a refund through Agoda even though the free cancellation policy was over! It never hurts to reach out to them!

Find Somewhere to Stay 

You might need to find somewhere to stay the night if things aren’t resolved on the same day. Yet this is rarely straightforward. Every hotel or hostel in your price range could be fully booked, so you’ll need to look elsewhere. It’s definitely easier to find something in a bigger city like Manila or where we were in Bali. We like using Agoda to find last minute deals for stays when we’re stuck.

It can get worse if you’re stranded in the middle of nowhere, but this doesn’t make things impossible. You may be able to sleep in your car or stay on the bus with other passengers. If you’re in a remote area, the best thing you can do is get yourself to the nearest airport if it’s safe to do so and you have the proper documentation with you to fly. Just make sure you keep a close eye on your belongings and try to get to a safe spot! Sleeper buses or overnight trains should be a good start.

Speak to Your Embassy 

Stranded travellers might also need to speak to their embassy for advice and see if they can help. This is a useful solution if you have misplaced your passport, and they will help you make arrangements for a temporary passport. If you’re from the U.S., you can find contact information for the U.S. embassies in whichever country you’re visiting. Agents may also help you work out your next moves to ensure you can get home safely. 

Sometimes getting to the embassy isn’t possible. Our friends were stuck in Morocco when one of their passports was stolen just as they were going through immigration. Instead of being helpful and ushering the couple to the Canadian embassy, the Moroccan authorities told them they were there illegally and had to be deported. A few thousand dollars later, they were on the next flight to London to get a new passport at the Canadian embassy. If you’re ever in a similar situation, try to phone up the local embassy before being pressured to book that flight out. They might be able to give you advice on how to deal with the misunderstanding.

Utterly outrageous, but what else could they do under that pressure in a foreign country? This is where good travel insurance can come in. More on that in a bit!

Stay Put If It’s Not Safe 

It might be tempting to risk it and get out of Dodge, especially if you’re in a hurry. But, whether the area is experiencing political unrest, riots, or a natural disaster, you should stay put until it’s safe. This may mean you need to stick around in one place for a while, but it’s worth it to ensure you take care of yourself and not put yourself at further risk.

Check Your Insurance Policy 

As I mentioned above, we always recommend getting travel insurance for your trips. For longer trips spanning 4 weeks or more, SafetyWing is our number one recommendation. Their Nomad Insurance is one to be reckoned with and we have yet to see anything similar on the market for that policy pricing.

Given that you have travel insurance, it’s worth checking your policy to see what you are covered for. Dependable travel insurance companies like Generali outline what is and what is not covered under specific circumstances. Depending on your coverage, you should get compensation for any expenses or injuries. 

Great travel insurance goes a long way in situations like these! Most good travel credit cards cover emergency travel and medical insurance for up to 21 days from the start of your trip. If what they cover is not enough, make sure you find an additional policy that does!

Getting Out 

Learning you’re stranded while travelling is the last thing you want, but there’s no need to panic. There are ways to get around being stranded. And as long as you don’t do anything that puts yourself in further danger, you will get out of there and back home or to your next destination before you know it!

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