One of the benefits of travel insurance is the access to private hospitals you get if something happens while you’re in a developing country. Private hospitals abroad aren’t always the expensive or lavish affairs they are at home; and sometimes, they’re downright necessary.
I’ve seen the insides of both general and private hospitals in developing countries. Here’s the scoop:
The Private Hospital
While my partner (at the time) was coming down with dengue fever in Thailand, all our local acquaintances unanimously agreed: we had to go to the private hospital. He received a private room (with a table, TV, full-sized couch for me to sleep on, and wifi) and private bathroom. It was nicer than anywhere we’d stayed the previous entire month!
Price-wise, the private room and constant kind attention of many doctors and nurses was incredibly reasonable – but we didn’t need to worry about that, because the travel insurance company paid the bill directly.
While in Thailand, we never saw the inside of a general hospital. Perhaps this was best; the private hospital was well-versed in treating foreigners (from having English-speaking doctors, to systems in place assisting with visas and official complications) and had excellent facilities.
The General Hospital
Years later, with another partner, I was in Grenada (in the Caribbean). While riding our scooter, we were hit head-on by a car that turned in front of us without signalling.
What happened afterwards is still murky for me. We were taken to the general hospital, where I was treated for minor wounds, necessitating stitches, needles, wound cleaning, and toenail removal.
I was released that night, but my partner wasn’t so lucky. With a fractured hip (in two places) and a dislocated femur, he was destined for the general ward of the general hospital for over a month while he remained in traction. His circumstances were complicated, and to make things worse, he didn’t have travel insurance; which likely would have helped him fly to a country that could deal with his type of injury with more modern techniques. At the very least, he would have had the chance to stay in the private hospital down the road.
I visited the private hospital down the road myself, three days after the accident, when I experienced dangerous side effects to my concussions. I was whisked in with the same efficiency and kind manner as the private hospital in Thailand, and treated immediately. In comparison to what I saw of the general ward when I visited my partner (where basics like bedding and toilet paper weren’t provided), the difference was night and day.
You never know when something will happen. If you’re in a developing country, ask to be taken to the private hospital (in some cases, they’ll do so automatically). Telling the medical attendant that you have travel insurance is usually your passport to a private hospital.
Have your travel insurance policy information and contact number at all times, and present it immediately so the insurance company can assist you in getting the best medical care available.
Nora Dunn is The Professional Hobo; she left Canada in 2007 and has traveled full-time in a financially sustainable way ever since. She’s an international author on travel, personal finance, and lifestyle design, writing for sites such as Wise Bread, Flight Network, and TuGo.