From its capital to its language, its people to its history, and its food to its wine, there are a lot of reasons to visit France. But of course, as is the the case with all adventures in foreign places, travelling through the French Republic is not without its own risks — the least of which is the fact that you’re far away from home, in a strange place, without any clear knowledge of where the closest hospital or urgent care clinic might be located.
Let’s take a look at a few of the best ways to safeguard yourself against any accidents while travelling through France and what your options are if something does happen while you’re out on the open road.
It’s Worth It to Take Precautions
Here are some tips to help get your ducks in a row before you set off on your next adventure through the land of the Louvre and the French Riviera.
Don’t Assume You’re Immune
The thrill of traveling can often make fools of the most careful planners. And while it’s a wonderful thing to be able to let loose and enjoy yourself, it’s also important to keep in mind that no one is immune to the risks of injuries while travelling, especially if you’ll be engaging in any high-risk activity.
A perfect example is the popular Formula One driver Michael Schumacher. The living legend suffered a traumatic brain injury while skiing in France several years ago. The incident was enough to put him in a coma and required surgeries and intensive care, much of which initially took place in French hospitals.
The point is to never assume you’re invincible. Take the proper precautions and have a thorough knowledge of what to do in the case of an emergency before taking off.
While it is always a smart move to check how your health coverage might cover you while abroad, it’s not a bad idea to consider taking a little extra precaution by purchasing travelers insurance as well. This can help bring ease of mind in more ways than one.
Travellers insurance typically helps cover any lost luggage or other possessions during your travels, as well as any costs incurred by trip cancellations and accidents. It can also cover medical expenses. However, if you want to have the extra assurance that any medical expenses are covered while you travel, make doubly sure that it’s covered by the policy before making a purchase, as this isn’t always the case.
Write Down Your Important Information
It can be helpful to write down any important information like your name, medical conditions and/or allergies, medicines you’re currently taking, emergency contacts, and your address (both your home address as well as your travelling address). Keep this in your purse or wallet as you travel as it can help medical professionals in the event of an emergency where you can’t communicate; it has the potential to save your life.
What to Do If You Get Hurt
While precautions are always a wise move, sometimes calamity can strike no matter how prepared you are. Here are some helpful suggestions for how to handle a situation if you find yourself injured while visiting France.
The Language Barrier
If you’re a native English speaker whose best foreign language skill is the ability to use Google Translate, you may run into a bit of a language barrier when checking into a French medical facility. If you find yourself attempting to communicate with a paramedic, nurse, doctor, or another medical professional who begins the conversation in French (which would be completely understandable considering the circumstances), don’t hesitate to ask them if they speak English: Parlez-vouz Anglais?
Embarrassing monolingualism aside, it’s important to quickly establish your need to speak English in order to communicate any critical information. Chances are, particularly if you find yourself in a larger city, a good number of the medical staff will be able to speak English on some level.
Emergency Phone Numbers
If you find yourself needing to contact a medical professional, there are several emergency phone numbers that you can call to receive help. For example, 15 will get you in touch with an ambulance in the event of an emergency. 112 is the European Emergency Number, which can also be an excellent way to get a hold of someone who will most likely speak English. You can find other emergency numbers here.
Pharmacies and Hospitals
If you have a minor issue, look for a pharmacy. Not only will you be likely to find a solution to your problem, but if it proves too big to handle, the staff is likely to know exactly who to call or where to send you to find the proper treatment.
If your need is more serious, don’t hesitate to ask a pharmacist or make a quick emergency phone call in order to get straight to a hospital.
Accessing Foreign Healthcare
While the idea of traveling abroad can seem intimidating, it’s a comfort to know that France falls pretty high on the list of countries offering the best available healthcare. Their ranking, as of 2015, was 15th out of 195 countries. This isn’t just impressively high, it’s also a whopping 20 spots above the 35th ranked United States — a country in which more than 20 million children lack adequate access to healthcare.
While France has excellent healthcare which is accessible to all, it isn’t free. So expect a bill at the end of a visit. Don’t shirk the expense, either, as unpaid medical bills will come back to bite you sooner or later. However, it’s a relief to know that French medical bills are generally quite a bit lower on average than comparable bills in the U.S.
Remember the Basics
Finally, remember that you should never take a blog post as your final medical authority on any matter. While this post includes quality tips and tricks to help you prepare for any time you might spend in the French Republic, always make sure to discuss your travel plans with your healthcare provider as well. They’ll be able to give you any professional advice regarding where you plan to travel to. Then, once you’ve got your insurance sorted out and everything else in order, have fun and enjoy your trip!