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How international health insurance saved a South American adventure

Picture the scene: you are on horseback, riding along narrow trails through lush, verdant greenery. Majestic hills rise in the distance, behind a shimmering heat haze. The air is filled with the exotic fragrance of flowers that you’ve never encountered before.

How international health insurance saved a South American adventure
Minutes from disaster: Silvana on her horse, near Itacare in Brazil, shortly before her accident. Photo: Supplied

You feel transported, and you are: this is the trip of a lifetime.

That’s when it happens. Making its way around a tight corner, your horse slips and crashes to the ground with your leg trapped underneath. You feel a sickening crack and your foot feels like it’s on fire.

It can only take a split-second for things to go wrong when you’re travelling. When it does, the consequences can be severe and life-changing.

The number one risk 

When you travel overseas, depending on the destination, you can dramatically increase your risk of illness or injury.

While statistics on the leading causes of travel accidents vary depending on the nationality of travelers, we can draw some conclusions from leading US experts.

For example, the CDC identified road accidents as the leading non-violent cause of death of US citizens overseas between 2015 and 2016, with drowning also a leading cause. The prestigious John Hopkins University also states that the risk of injury for travelers overseas greatly increases the moment they take control of a means of transport.

Considering the number of travellers who use vehicles, such as cars or mopeds, or ride horses on their holidays, it’s no surprise many place themselves in danger of serious injury or worse.

It only takes a moment for paradise to turn into a problem – see how ASN’s international health insurance can save the day when disaster strikes

Silvana’s story

Silvana Beer, an executive from Switzerland, knows this only too well. It was she who, while recently on holiday near Itacare on Brazil’s beautiful Costa del Cacao, was horse-riding when her mount slipped and her foot was crushed by the falling horse.

She tells us: “I was travelling with a friend in Brazil and we had spent an amazing month there. We were on a horse riding trek and it was magic. I liked the pace of it, and enjoyed watching the scenery.

“However I’m not a very experienced rider – I only go on horse-riding trips when I’m abroad. I didn’t really have the horse under control and it slipped, as the ground was very wet. Suddenly, my foot was under the horse and, as it turns out, horses are pretty heavy!

“I knew immediately that my foot was broken, but I still decided to get back on the horse and go back to our accommodation. When I got back, I made the mistake of taking off my shoe – it’s better to keep injuries like this compressed, so they don’t become inflamed.”

When Silvana eventually made it to the local hospital she had a small shock as she realised that they didn’t have a functioning X-ray machine. “That was the first time where I thought with more than a little fear, ‘Okay, where am I? What should I do?’

Brazil’s healthcare can vary hugely with hospitals and clinics in more rural areas often lacking the kind of equipment and resources that would be commonplace in bigger cities, or other parts of the world.

Eventually we found a private clinic where I was able to have an X-ray done. But there was no doctor on duty to assess it, so we took the X-ray to try and find another doctor to look at it.”

Silvana visited multiple orthopaedic clinics, and finally ended up at a public hospital where she had to wait hours before being seen by a doctor who could evaluate her X-ray.

“The doctor confirmed my initial fears that my foot was broken. He then was fairly blunt in his further recommendation: ‘Can you fly home? If so, don’t stay here. Just go.”

Healthcare across the world can vary wildly. Should the worst happen, ensure you have the very best treatment possible with ASN’s international health insurance policies

Silvana Beer shortly before flying home. Photos: Supplied

“If a doctor recommends you to go to another country for medical reasons, you do what they say, and so I left. I was very, very lucky to have help from my friends. Because if I was alone, I don’t know how I would have managed the situation and I’m very grateful that it was just my foot – it could have been much worse.”

Thankfully Silvana had an international health insurance policy with ASN, that covered accidents.

“Once I got through to ASN, they dealt with it in a very professional manner,” says Silvana. “They booked me a ticket back home in business class so I was comfortable and they also organised transport at each airport and provided a wheelchair for me, all covered by my policy.”

Comprehensive cover that you can rely on

If you’re considering an adventure such as Silvana’s, it’s important to consider what might happen if you suddenly injure yourself. Disparities in the kind of healthcare available in various regions could result in injuries being made more severe, or taking longer to heal, therefore slowing you down and having significant consequences.

As Silvana states, “I would really recommend having an international health insurance provider that offers accident insurance. It definitely makes sense if you’re travelling overseas for a few months.

“Having grown up in a country like Switzerland with a very high quality standard of medical facilities, you might prefer being treated in a private hospital rather than in a public one when you get sick or injured in a foreign country. Another benefit of having an international health insurance policy with an insurance broker such as ASN is that you can focus on the healing process and don’t need to deal with the claims handling yourself.”

As an international health insurance broker of more than 26 years, ASN has comprehensive packages for those who wish to explore the world, whether it’s part of a prolonged trip abroad, a relocation or otherwise.

They offer a free choice of doctors and specialists, with their own recommended network of healthcare providers to help get you back on your feet. The hotlines of these providers are open 24/7 and are available in a number of languages, and wherever you are, there’ll be support and assistance available when you need it.

Only a few weeks after her horse riding accident, Silvana is back in South America, this time in Colombia, continuing her adventure. She credits the rapid response of ASN’s insurance partner to her injury for being able to continue doing what she loves – exploring the world!

She concludes: “After seven weeks back in Switzerland and very intensive physiotherapy, I’m doing a lot better. Now I am travelling again – and this time I’m being more aware of the risks!”

Ensure that you are quickly back on your feet, should you experience an accident abroad. Learn more about ASN’s comprehensive range of international health insurance packages

Take our interactive quiz to find out what kind of traveler you are!

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The six most spectacular train trips in Austria

With its mountain peaks and crystal-clear lakes, Austria has more than its fair share of stunning scenery to fall in love with. And travelling by train can give you the chance to take the views in properly without any distractions. Here are Austria's most scenic train routes.

The six most spectacular train trips in Austria

Semmering rail line in winter

You’ll get epic views whether you travel in summer or winter, but the snow adds to the romanticism. Photo by Miroslav Volek on flickr.

Semmering Railway
Built between 1848 and 1854, the 41-kilometre-long Semmerling line was made a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site in 1998 and it’s easy to see why: it runs through some jaw-droppingly beautiful scenery between the mountain towns of Semmering and Gloggnitz. It was a huge technical achievement for its time, not least because of the hefty gradient of the line. It was also the first European mountain railway to have a standard gauge track.

You’ll see glorious mountains, obviously, plus huge viaducts – 16 of them, if you’re counting – and 15 tunnels, including one whopping 1,430-metre-long one, and over 100 bridges, as well as plenty of lush forests and deep valleys.

semmeringbahn.at

Mariazeller Bahn

Clear skies are made for scenic train rides. Photo by flightlog on Flickr

Mariazell Railway
Remember we mentioned gauges above? Well, the Mariazell Railway is a narrow-gauge route – built like that because it was a difficult terrain for trains to cross. Running from St Pölten in Lower Austria to Mariazell in Styria, at 84km-long, it’s Austria’s longest narrow-gauge line.

The mountain section (Bergstrecke) of the line is the most picturesque. Get on at Laubenbachmühle where this starts and enjoy the train’s climb to its peak of 892m above sea level in Gösing where you’ll have gorgeous panoramic views and a glimpse of the 1,893-metre-high Ötscher mountain. Stay on board to see viaducts, reservoirs and deep gorges, in particular glimpses of the wild Erlauf gorge.

Want to really make the most of those views? Book a panorama carriage, which gives you super-comfy seats and unobstructed views of the scenery unfolding as the train trundles along. 

mariazellerbahn.at

Perfect peaks and lush valleys await. Photo by Schnitzel_bank on Flickr

Arlberg Railway

The Arlberg raiway is one of Europe’s highest – it climbs to 1,310 metres above sea level at its highest point. It goes up at a fair tilt, too and is one of the steepest passenger lines out there.

Connecting Innsbruck and Bludenz (on the Swiss border), it’s the only east-west mountain line in Austria. Visual delights include the Tyrolean Trisanna Bridge near the hilltop castle Wiesberg, snow-peaked mountains, the 6.6-mile-long Arlberg tunnel, and verdant valleys and forests at the Arlsberg pass  – go at sunset/sunrise and look to your right for the best views.

arlbergbahn.at

Schafberg Railway

There are – unsurprisingly – a lot of steep railways in Austria and this one is no exception. This is the steepest steam cog-railway in the country and has been running between St Wolfgang in Salzkammergut up to the 1,783-metre Schafberg mountain since 1893.  

It’s a gorgeous journey up the mountain with the views getting better and better the higher you go. At the top, you’ll have (weather-permitting) clear views over Salzkammergut’s glittering lakes, as well as the soaring peaks of neighbouring mountain ranges, such as the Höllengebirge.

schafbergbahn.at/

Tauern Railway
If you’re heading to Venice by train, then this is the most scenic route to take and it’s worth the trip in its own right, too. You’ll pass stunning valleys and gorges as the line winds its way up the High Tauern mountain range of the Central Eastern Alps.

The best views are on the right-hand side of the train when you’re heading in this direction, so try to get a window seat if you can.

oebb.at

Are you even in Austria if your train doesn’t pass a field of cows? Photo by Schnitzel_bank on Flickr.

Zillertal Railway
There’s always something rather romantic about travelling by steam train and the traditional Zillertal locomotive with its wooden carriages is no exception. It putters gently by the side of the Ziller river along the 32-kilometre stretch between the towns of Jenbach and Mayrhofen, giving you ample opportunity to take in the views as you pass picture-perfect villages and gorgeous valleys surrounded by mountains. 

If you’ve got your heart set on the romanticism of steam trains, make sure you check which train you’re getting as the steam-powered engine doesn’t run as frequently as the faster diesel one. If you haven’t pre-booked, get there early to make sure you get a seat as it can get very busy.
zillerbahn.at

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