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TRAVEL

Making Your Trip to Europe Safer

Written By

Mike Hallman

CEO of Air Medical Transport and Travel Security Company, Medjet

5 min read

Mike Hallman is CEO of Medjet, a Morgan Stanley Living & Giving Partner. Hallman is a 45-year veteran in finance and travel, a graduate of Notre Dame’s School of Business and a frequent contributor to major publications on the topic of travel safety.


Worries about the current geopolitical strife in the Ukraine go far above how it affects travel, but we also know that many people have spring and summer trips planned and are wondering, “Is it still safe to go to Europe?” The current opinion of most travel experts is “yes.”

Russia and Ukraine are obviously “Do Not Travel” destinations, and travelers should avoid any countries that border Ukraine or Belarus, but currently, we are not recommending anyone cancel trips to Western European / NATO countries like France, Italy, Spain or Portugal.

If you do intend to keep your travel plans, we have several tips for protecting your investment in the unfortunate case that things change to stay safe while traveling:

Insure your trip and enroll in MedjetHorizon.

Whether it’s your sense of safety, worries over a new COVID surge or variant, or any of the more typical reasons that you may cancel a trip, having it insured is important. Even if you’re not worried about recouping travel costs (you’re using miles or staying with friends), we still recommend medical coverage: at least $50,000 of medical expense coverage plus medical evacuation benefits (make sure the policy specifically covers COVID). Travelers need to keep in mind that the medical evacuation of most travel insurance policies is only meant to get them to the “nearest adequate facility” in an emergency. Once they reach an “adequate” hospital, insurance will likely insist they stay there. That’s where a medical transport membership comes into play. Medjet gets members moved to hospitals at home regardless of “medical necessity” (even if they’re COVID positive). With a MedjetHorizon upgrade, Medjet members also have access to a 24/7 security line. This covers crisis response for political threat, disappearance, violent crime, natural disaster and more, with expert in-country response teams to help get you to safety.

Check government travel advisory updates frequently.

(For U.S. residents, see here).

Stay informed on current news, follow the U.S. Department of State on Twitter and your destination’s consular Twitter for local news. U.S. citizens should enroll in S.T.E.P. (Safe Traveler Enrollment Program) so government officials know you’re in the area if there’s an emergency. MedjetHorizon members can also access security updates and assessments via the eTravel Alerts portal on the Member Resources page of our website.

COVID entry requirements, while now relaxed in many countries, are still in place in others, so do your research.

Each country has different requirements and may now have different definitions of what “fully vaccinated” means. Research the entry requirements for countries you’re just passing through as well, and prepare all paperwork in advance. We have the Sherpa Trip Planning and Entry Requirements tool on the Member Resources page of our website to help our members with this.

If you’ve had COVID recently take a Documentation of Recovery with you.

Even though you may have only had to quarantine with COVID for 5-10 days, you can test positive for up to 12 weeks. As long as the “test negative to come home” rule is in effect for U.S. residents, you may need this document from a qualified physician to prove that you’ve recovered, are no longer contagious and are cleared to travel. There are several tele-med services that offer these specific letters or you can obtain one from your own physician (just make sure it incorporates all the appropriate dates, wording, and the physician’s license information).

Don’t just have a Plan B, rehearse it.

Our COO once said in a USA Today article, “The number one piece of advice I have is to think through every single worst-case scenario, create a plan for how you’ll react, and make sure everyone in your travel party knows that plan (as well as at least one person at home).”

I’m a firm believer in a well-planned Plan B. Some of the most important things you can do are:

  • Research where the closest (and best) hospital is to your hotel.
  • Learn the 911 number for each of your destinations (it’s not always 911 and can vary by city).
  • Bring a copy of your passport to carry with you at all times and, in case your actual passport gets lost, leave a copy with a relative back home.
  • If you take medication, bring an additional two-week supply in case you’re delayed. Do not count on being able to refill a prescription in a foreign country. We’ve had people run out, think it wasn’t a big deal “for a couple of days,” and land in the hospital. Take extra medication!
  • Each time you leave your hotel, each family member should have a card with the hotel’s name, address and phone number in their pocket, especially if you’re in a country where you don’t speak the language.
  • Choose a rendezvous place and time for each day, or several times a day if your activities will be in different parts of the city. That way, if you get separated and can’t reach each other, you’ll have a predetermined plan for regrouping. Choose an alternate place and secondary time, in case your first one is not accessible. I know it sounds like a lot of extra (and very likely unnecessary) planning, but it’s worth it.

Travel is more complicated these days – and the ongoing conflict between the Ukraine and Russia is a top concern for would-be European travelers - but don’t let that deter you. Many experts are saying that now is the time to go, while crowds are still thinner, recovery deals still abound, anticipated fuel surcharges and airfare increases have not yet been drastic, and the dollar is still strong.

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