Sure, we’ve all been told about the risks of carrying cash, and we’ve been warned about con artists taking advantage of travelers, but there are still other concerns while traveling. If an emergency arises, and you’re suddenly out of money, how will you eat? Where will you stay? How will you get back home?
Whether you’ve lost your return tickets, you spent all your money gambling, or you’ve been accosted and robbed, an emergency financial situation can leave you in serious trouble, especially if you’re in a foreign country. Even if you’re not too far from home it can still take awhile for someone to send you money or come to rescue you.
If you’re stuck in a city for longer than expected, and broke on top of it, you’ll still need to eat, bathe and have a place to sleep. That can be a tall order if you have no way to pay for such things. One place where you can always get a cold drink of water and use the bathroom is a hospital. Hospitals have water fountains where you can get a drink, and visitors’ bathrooms where you can freshen up a little. They also have lounge areas and, sometimes, free parking.
If you’re in the US you can relax for hours at a rest area off the interstate, but only if you have a way to travel. Rest areas have large bathrooms where you’ll often see people doing everything from filling up water bottles to blowdrying their hair. Most rest areas have security officers that check on the area regularly, but generally, you can stay between 12 and 24 hours at a rest area before being asked to move on down the highway.
In America most cities have a “soup kitchen” where hungry souls can go for a hot meal and refreshing drink. It’s also a place to rest for a couple of hours and get off your feet. Having found myself in such a position once in my life, I was shocked at how well I was treated, how good the food was, and how sympathetic others were towards my plight. In fact, I was dressed rather nicely, not expecting the emergency that arose, but was treated just like all the rest.
If it’s a weekday, and you’re still in the US, the Department of Social Services may be able to help you. They are able to analyze the situation and decide if they can help in some way, like issuing a gas card or writing a check for car repairs. Other places that may help include the Salvation Army or The Goodwill.
More in foreign countries than in America, some people are willing to barter rather than receive cash. If you need car repairs, for example, you might be able to trade for something you’ve brought from home, like small appliances or electronics. In some countries, certain items are rare and hard to come by, making them sometimes more desirable than cash. These items can include nail polish, jewelry, certain clothing, personal items such as tooth whitening products or makeup, or even your luggage!
Most any city in any country has ATM’s and Western Union. Call and ask a friend or family member to wire money to you and you’ll be on your way home soon – if they have the money to send you.
When planning a vacation always allow extra money over the normal expenses expected. Have a backup plan in case of emergency, a list of phone numbers for friends and relatives, and a guide book for the city/country where you’re visiting. Have the address and the phone number of the area US embassy, as well, in case it is needed.