As expected at this time of year, the last few weeks have seen many headlines connected with summer holidays abroad as we Brits lay down our towels on the sun beds and prepare for a week or two of fun in the sun. For the most part, that’s what we expect and that’s what happens. But stories of Brits falling ill or becoming injured abroad have left many of us concerned and bewildered as we learn that some hospitals overseas are turning people away who don’t have adequate travel insurance, or indeed are stitching people up with huge medical bills which they were completely unprepared for.
Being unable to speak the language doesn’t help either. It’s also fair to say that in some cases, the ability to communicate at the point of needing medical care/an operation could well give the British traveller a greater sense of control of the situation, or at least give them the information they need to make an informed decision on whether to proceed with treatment or seek further advice before they are presented with a fat invoice.
But extortionate medical bills are only part of the story; there are many more ways that language-phobic Brits could find themselves being unwittingly ripped off this summer. Problems with language barriers could also lead to being ripped off by a local taxi driver, ordering the wrong meal in an expensive restaurant or even being over-charged for goods in a shop - if you can’t communicate, you’re at an immediate disadvantage and it also means you’re an ideal target for rip-off tactics.
How can you avoid this? There are no guarantees you can, but doing your research and ensuring you’re better-prepared than usual for any trips abroad this year and beyond is a good place to start. Learn a few local phrases in advance of taking a holiday, take a good phrasebook, have your wits about you at all times and use your instincts – if something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. If necessary, use an experienced interpreter to communicate on your behalf should the need arise; and remember that communication is power.