Loren Christie's tips to cope with vacation tragedies
Canada AM travel expert Loren Christie
Published Friday, January 6, 2012 8:52AM EST
When tragedy strikes during a vacation, it can be especially jarring. Not only are you dealing with a horrible situation, but you are in unfamiliar surroundings with no loved ones around to comfort or assist.
The Canadian government there to assist but it is important to understand what kind of help you can actually expect from consular services and officials. It may be more limited than you realize. Go to their website and download this booklet, which should act a companion to your passport. It offers vital information about your passport, how to protect it and what to do if it is lost or stolen; how to travel safely and responsibly, steer clear of the troubles many travellers experience abroad and deal with the challenges that may arise; and lists consular services available to Canadians around the world. It also includes:
- A directory of Canadian government offices abroad and contact information for Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada's Emergency Operations Centre.
- An Emergency Contact Card for you to note the coordinates of the nearest Canadian government office abroad to carry with you in case you need help.
If someone dies while travelling abroad, register the death according to local regulations and get a local death certificate. You will likely need a local death certificate in order to register the death back in Canada. Call a qualified funeral home in both Canada and the country where the death occurred. Both must be involved in returning the remains of a Canadian home. Consular Services will not pay for the burial, cremation or repatriation costs of a deceased Canadian, although they can provide advice and contact relatives.
The related expenses are the responsibility of the client or insurance company. However, the Department of Justice Canada may sometimes provide financial assistance to Canadians who are victims of violent crimes abroad through its Victims Fund.
Most airlines have stopped offering bereavement fares. They aren't necessarily cheaper now, but they are still available for some international routes. You will often get a better deal by just trying to book the lowest -- and most restricted -- fare available. Urns may be considered carry-on baggage and caskets are considered cargo, but the funeral home should be handling that for you anyway.
If you end up in custody because you have broken -- or are accused of breaking-- the laws of another country, you are subject to their judicial system. Consular Services can provide you with a list of local lawyers, but won't intervene in private legal matters, provide legal advice, post bail or get you out of prison.
As far as getting financial assistance with some of these unexpected tragedies, always check your travel insurance to see what kind of coverage is included. For example, some travel insurance policies may cover the preparation and repatriation of remains or they may simply cover cremation or local burial. Also, be clear on whether you have to pay upfront and be reimbursed with receipts or if you must contact your provider first to have them handle certain arrangements.
Finally, always leave copies of insurance documents, passports, credit cards and photo IDs at home with loved ones. No matter what may happen, it will make it easier for your loved ones to assist you through a difficult time.