Stranded on vacation – a topic that is probably more relevant than ever before. Around the world, thousands of tourists are still stuck at their holiday destination and simply do not get home. (As of April 2020). Up until a couple of days ago, also we were still on the other end of the world wondering if we could still make it home before the last flights left the country.
But even without emergency situations like this, it can happen that you are suddenly stuck at your travel destination. Last year, this fate overtook various travelers in South America. Ecuador, Bolivia, and Chile, in particular, were affected by multiple protests in the country. But even natural disasters such as volcanic eruptions or strikes at the airport can also make it impossible to leave your holiday destination.
Below, you will find a checklist for processing that will help you get back to your home country as quickly as possible.
What to find out in this post
- 1 Stuck at your Travel Destination – How to get home
- 2 Stay calm
- 3 Sign up for your country’s Crisis Prevention List
- 4 Contact your travel agent
- 5 Get in touch with others
- 6 Only trust official sources
- 7 Follow the on-site instructions
- 8 Seek help locally
- 9 Get in touch with your work
- 10 Check the news and developments on-site
- 11 Stay safe
- 12 Help others
- 13 Act quickly, but not rashly
- 14 What can you do to avoid getting stuck at the vacation spot?
Stuck at your Travel Destination – How to get home
The golden rule is: keep calm. I know, I know, that’s probably easier said than done. I have had a tear or two in the past weeks, and again and again, a hint of panic found its way into my thoughts. It is all the more important to remain calm and to organize your thoughts. Careless actions or even panic attacks don’t help you at all in such a situation.
Sign up for your country’s Crisis Prevention List
I have only really noticed how important this is in the last few weeks. I will certainly no longer travel without having previously entered my date in the crisis prevention list of my country. In the event of a local crisis or sudden travel warnings, the Federal Foreign Office can reach you at any time and give you the latest information, warnings, or safety instructions.
Both the German and Spanish embassies looked after us incredibly well while we were locked up in the Galapagos Islands for about a week. We were provided with the latest information, developments, and tips every day. So we didn’t feel left alone at all.
Contact your travel agent
Are you on-site with a package tour? Then your travel agent should be your first point of contact. Luckily, your travel agency is still responsible for bringing you home safely. If, for some reason, this is not currently possible, they should put you in a safe place on-site and ensure your security.
Anyone who has not booked a package tour can still contact their airline or accommodation to get information about flights back home. Please note, however, that travelers with a ticket that has already been booked before the lockdown are usually served first.
Contact your embassy/consulate in the country
The best contact person on-site is usually your local embassy or the nearest consulate. Here you can get great information and tips that will help you to get back home safely.
The embassy should also be your first point of contact if you are unsure about applicable regulations, exceptional situations, lost passports, etc. If there is no embassy/consulate on-site, you can find the nearest one on the Internet and contact them by phone or email.
However, note that the answers in crises can take a little longer, or that personal inquiries cannot all be answered.
Get in touch with others
Especially those who are traveling alone feel quickly left alone and lonely. There is a good chance that you are not the only stranded traveler at your holiday destination. Maybe there is even other people from your country.
In travel forums or Facebook groups, you can usually quickly find people who are in the same situation. Establish a Facebook or Whatsapp group where you can exchange ideas and share the latest information. Usually, it helps immensely to know that you are not alone.
Only trust official sources
Even worse than the emergency itself is the false information circulating on the Internet. Whether misunderstanding or fake news sown on purpose – don’t believe everything you read or hear. While we were locked up in the Galapagos, we got so much false information and unnecessary scaremongering that it was easy to lose track of which information was real and which wasn’t.
Therefore, only check official sources before you make any decisions. Official sources can e.g., the Foreign Office, trustworthy/independent local news, or political orders. If you don’t speak the local language, ask locals for help translating or use Google Translator.
Follow the on-site instructions
There is a curfew, or you are not allowed to enter certain places anymore? Even if you cannot understand certain instructions or are curious to go out anyway, you should still follow the instructions and safety precautions on-site. In some countries, severe penalties are imposed for those who do not follow the orders.
Therefore, do not just try to go on your own if this contradicts the current regulations of the country.
Seek help locally
Most locals have the best sources for the latest information. If you don’t speak the national language, it can be helpful to have a contact person on-site. For example, this could be an employee of your accommodation.
Perhaps you know someone personally on-site who could help you? Don’t hesitate to ask. Maybe you also know someone who knows someone? Check with your relatives or friends to see if someone has a trustworthy contact person where you are.
Another great option is travel forums and Facebook groups. The world is full of loving and helpful people.
Get in touch with your work
If you cannot get back to work on time because you are stuck at your holiday destination, your employer should, of course, also be informed. Therefore, contact your workplace in good time and discuss possible solutions. Maybe there is even the possibility to work online from where you are at the moment?
But it can also be that your days of absence are deducted from your vacation days or salary. Some also let you rework the missed working hours later. In order to avoid possible nasty surprises when you return, you should directly address the further procedure and the consequences when you inform your employer.
However, many employers are tolerant, especially if force majeure (such as natural disasters) is responsible for your absence from work. However, the worker must, of course, do everything possible to find a solution to the return.
Check the news and developments on-site
It is crucial to stay informed and to follow developments on the spot. So if possible, read the latest news from a reputable source (in the local language). Most of the time, there is also information in English or maybe even in your native tongue.
Check with locals or the embassy for reliable sources to follow to stay up to date with what’s happening around you.
Do nothing that could endanger you or your fellow human beings. Be sure to abide by safety regulations and don’t go out on your own unless it’s absolutely safe.
If an exit or onward journey is not possible or safe, you should look for a safe place to stay. Contact locals, other travelers, or the embassy to find a suitable place to stay. Follow your embassy’s messages and announcements for up-to-date safety information.
Search for alternatives
Your flight has been canceled. Can you maybe switch to a different mode of transportation – maybe return by train or rent a car? The border to country X has been blocked – is there maybe the possibility to leave via country Y?
When the airspace around Bali was blocked three years ago due to a large ash cloud, there was e.g., the opportunity to travel to Java by boat and fly from there. In any case, inquire about alternative travel options on-site. Here, too, the exchange with other travelers in travel forums or Facebook groups might be helpful.
Do you speak the local language, or do you have any other skill or information that you can use to help other travelers? Did you find an alternative means of transportation or a flight back home? Share this information with other travelers. Inexperienced travelers, in particular, are grateful for every tip.
On the Galapagos Islands, it was sometimes not so easy to understand the information without speaking fluent Spanish. That is why we were happy to help pass the information on to other travelers in English and German. But please,
Don’t try to be a hero
This means: Only pass on information to other travelers if they come from a reputable source. It doesn’t help anyone if you pass on misinformation.
This requires a hint of healthy self-assessment. Do you really have the knowledge or the needed skills to help others? In the Galapagos, we met e.g., a traveler who boasted of her Spanish language skills and passed on the Spanish information given by the security forces to other travelers in a completely wrong translation, thus causing confusion and misinformation. This is really not the moment one should seek for attention and showing off.
Act quickly, but not rashly
In the event of natural disasters or announced strikes, it is necessary to act quickly, e.g., take an earlier flight home or get out of the disaster zone.
Despite everything, take a short moment to take a deep breath and think everything through before you act. Spontaneous rash actions could make your situation even worse.
What can you do to avoid getting stuck at the vacation spot?
Before you travel, check about travel warnings
You can find current security information and travel warnings on the website of the Federal Foreign Office of your country. If a travel warning is given for your travel destination, please consider carefully whether you really want to/have to start your trip.
Postpone your vacation in case of doubt
Of course, it sucks to have to cancel a vacation, especially if it has already been paid for, and you have spent a lot of time planning it. But safety comes first.
Travel providers are often accommodating and will waive your cancellation costs if there is an important reason or help you to rebook.
It is definitely better to go on your vacation next year in safe circumstances than to put yourself in danger.
Follow local news, information and travel advice/warnings
For some, it is only a vacation when you can really switch off your social media without any outside contact. Despite everything, you should at least stay informed about the information on-site and, if necessary, travel information or warnings.
Have you ever been stuck at your vacation destination? What helped you to get home? Do you have a great tip? Let us know in the comments below!