A guide to staying healthy abroad

Expat Resource Center

As you plan to relocate to a new country, you will be focusing on securing peace of mind in as many aspects of your new life as possible; and healthcare is an essential one. We have put together this guide to take you through the basics of international healthcare, and to help you manage your well-being abroad.

So you’re about to become an expat. You are taking into account many factors to ensure a successful relocation. Have you figured out how the healthcare system works in your chosen destination? Moving another country can be an incredibly rewarding life experience, but it comes with a specific set of challenges for health and well-being.

Ensuring that healthcare will be provided for you and your family is one of the most important things you will need to consider when moving abroad.

When it comes down to health standards, statutory care and emergency treatment; details vary from country to country. There can be major differences in waiting times, cost, and access availability for expats; slotting straight into another country’s national health system may not be as easy as you’d think.

It’s key to research the implications for expatriates in your new country of residence, as all the home comforts you’ve come to expect may not necessarily be available to you.

Staying healthy abroad

As exciting as it is to move to a new country, remember there are always risks. This guide provides you with tips and advice for a healthy stay abroad:

  • Some countries present particular health risks that you may have not faced in the past – it’s important to do some research prior to your move. The World Health Organization is an excellent resource for researching your destination. Make sure you are informed of any health risks associated with your new country, as this could help you to be prepared and prevent an emergency.
  • Before your move, go for a medical check-up and consult with your doctor to find out if there are recommended vaccinations for the country you are moving to, and discuss any medical issues you may encounter abroad. Certain vaccinations may be a requirement to enter some countries. In cases where vaccinations are not required, they can still be highly recommended.
  • If you are moving to a country with considerably different weather conditions, consider the implications and be prepared. Respiratory illnesses are very common among foreign visitors in a new country; in many cases they are a result of the body dealing with new temperatures. Make sure you pack appropriately for the weather conditions you’ll be about to experience.
  • Get a copy of your medical history, and take it with you. It is also a good idea to scan and store it electronically.
  • You may want to visit your dentist before you go, or if you wear glasses, get a spare pair.
  • If you take regular medication, get an extra supply and take a copy of your current prescription (you may need this at customs or airport security). Finding out the generic name for the medicine is also useful, as it may be marketed under a different brand in another country.

Upon arrival to your host country

  • Make sure you know the number to call the emergency services.
  • If you don't speak the local language, try to learn some basic words such as help, emergency, or doctor.
  • Find out where the nearest hospital is, and check that your health cover will provide you access to treatment there.
  • If you are eligible for cover from the local health care system, start the paperwork as soon as possible. In many places, getting through the administrative steps can be complicated; so the sooner you start, the better.

Expat health insurance

Before you jump on a place, think about your well-being and make sure you have appropriate health cover.

In many cases, you will not necessarily have the right to healthcare in the country you are moving to. It is highly recommended that you always have health insurance cover to avoid a situation where you may not be able to access the medical assistance you require.

Even in some countries where you are eligible for treatment in the public system, you may find the quality of care does not meet the standards you are used to; plan accordingly.

Some countries (such as those which are members of the Schengen Area, the UAE and the US for some visa types) require proof of health insurance before a visa will be issued.

For expats moving from one EU country to another, an EHIC card (European Health Insurance Card) can provide cover for emergency treatment for a short period of time; until you can get cover in the local health system.

We at Cigna Global are very aware of all the difficulties that expats can face when trying to ensure healthcare services in a new location, so we’ve created a products suite specially designed for expats, with plans that can be tailored exactly to the needs of you and your family

We specialise in health insurance policies for expats just like you, ensuring you have the very best of care available to you as and when you need it.

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