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Fala português? A Language Barrier Won’t Keep You Grounded—Insurance Works

Fala português? A Language Barrier Won’t Keep You Grounded—Insurance Works Featured Image

I enjoy culture shock from time to time. Traveling abroad is a welcomed interruption in my otherwise ordinary life. New foods, exotic traditions, foreign languages—these are some of the things I love the most about visiting a new country. Whether I travel off the beaten bath or into a thriving metropolis, the adventure of a new place prods me to book my next overseas flight.

A few of my fondest memories include getting lost in the Tahitian rainforest only to stumble upon a picturesque waterfall; sharing a single bus seat with two adults, children, and chickens in Mozambique; and touring underground cities thousands of years old in Istanbul.

Along with fond memories, I’ve also experienced some pretty nerve-wracking situations. Airline check-in counters that open just two hours before your sold-out international flight; weather delays that cause you to miss your connecting flight; seeing your luggage sitting on the tarmac as your plane ascends—even the most carefully planned trip can be disrupted by an unforeseen crisis. Even a language barrier can leave you stranded.

I have been through enough airports to say that the worst is the Maputo airport, the capital of Mozambique. Only a couple of airlines fly in and out of Mozambique and flight schedules are inconsistent at best. In 2009 I was visiting over Christmas and during my trip I learned that the Maputo airport decided to close on the day I was scheduled to depart—without notice. My flight was cancelled and that meant I could not make my international connecting flights.

As much as l love Africa, I was ready to get home. I don’t speak Portuguese, the local language, so I could barely communicate with the local ticketing agent. After a few days of frustration and not being able to rebook my flights, I was at my wits’ end. Even my local hosts didn’t know what I should do.

But there was hope. Before my trip, I had purchased an Atlas travel medical insurance policy and one of the plan’s benefits is 24-hour live assistance. I doubted they could help me in this remote part of Africa, but I was desperate and called the assistance line anyway.

To my surprise, I was connected almost instantly with a multilingual operator. She spoke with the local ticketing agent and helped not only reissue a new ticket out of Mozambique, but helped rebook all my international connecting flights. In less than an hour, my Atlas travel insurance helped me accomplish what I was unable to do in the past four days.

While language barriers and airport scheduling debacles may not be what we think of when we imagine unforeseen crises abroad, I know first hand that these things do happen and they can be just as disruptive as a medical emergency or natural disaster. I was fortunate enough not to have a medical emergency on that trip, but I was still able to take advantage of the live assistance my insurance provided.

The next time you crave a little adventure, be sure to think about purchasing a travel insurance policy. I’ll be happy to recommend a plan. You just never know how it might help.

Safe travels! Boa viagem!

Adam Bates, Vice President