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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!

TRAVEL

Ten of the most amazing bike routes in Spain

Here are some of the greatest and most beautiful cycling routes across Spain for avid cyclists, from Don Quijote territory to the green north. Saddle up everyone!

Ten of the most amazing bike routes in Spain

Spain is a great country for cycling, so great in fact that it even has several dedicated cycling routes across the country called vías verdes or greenways.

These greenways were built along old disused railway lines and have now become an environmentally friendly way to explore the country (here is a map showing all the greenways).

But there are other cycling routes around Spain that are just as impressive and can be completed by avid low to mid-level cyclists.

Here are ten bike routes in Spain that will take your breath away (at times in both senses of the word).

The TransAndalus, Andalusia

The TransAndalus trail is a 2,000km (1,240 miles) long circuit specifically designed for mountain bikes. It goes through the eight provinces of Andalusia and gives experienced riders a chance to pass through incredible natural sites, such as the Sierra Nevada, Doñana and Cabo de Gata national parks. There are a total of 23 stages, meaning that you can pick and choose which one or ones you do, without having to complete the entire trail. Less experienced cyclists can choose a specific shorter section. Stage one starts in Seville and is a mostly downhill ride to Chiclana de la Frontera.

The TransAndalus passing through some of the region’s most spectacular scenery. Photo: jbdodane / Wikimedia Commons (CC 2.0)

Vía Verde de Ojos Negros, Aragon and Valencia

Running from the town of Ojos Negros, in the province of Teruel to Sagunto, on the Valencian coast, this is Spain’s longest greenway at 160km. It has been divided into two sections, so you can just choose to do one or the other if the whole route is too long. The first part follows the line of the Sierra Menera mining railway, in the Palancia river valley, while the second part descends towards the Valencian orange groves, on the shores of the Mediterranean.

Cycling along the Vía Verde de Ojos Negros. Photo: Pacopac / Wikimedia Commons

Ruta Don Quijote, Castilla-La Mancha 

Lovers of literature, Cervantes and Don Quijote will enjoy this route following in the unlikely hero’s footsteps. The whole route covers 2,500km (1553.4 miles) and runs through all five of the region’s provinces, but it’s split up into 10 sections, making it easy to select which one you want to do. Declared a European Cultural Route, it travels through two National Parks, six natural parks and six nature reserves, running along a combination of cattle trails, historic paths, riverbanks and disused railway lines. 

Windmills Castilla-La Mancha

See the famous windmills of Consuegra along this cycle route. Photo: JamesHose / Pixabay

Vía Verde del Val del Zafán, Aragon and Catalonia

This spectacular route travels alongside the azure blue channels which eventually end up joining the grand Ebro River. It passes through the regions of Bajo Martín, Bajo Aragón, Matarraña, Terra Alta and Baix Ebre. Punctuated by viaducts, tunnels and protected natural spaces, it’s a pretty straight and easy greenway to follow, with some final twists and turns when you reach the Catalan coast at Tortosa near the Ebro Delta at the end. 

Ebro Delta

This route follows parts of the grand Ebro River. Photo: Future75 / Wikimedia Commons

READ ALSO: Cycling in Spain -12 fines you need to watch out for

Camino de Santiago 

Pilgrims on foot are not the only ones who can enjoy this world-famous voyage. Cyclists can choose whether to complete the full 800km (500 miles) French Way or do the minimum 200km required to obtain the precious Pilgrimage Certificate.

READ ALSO: Top tips to safely enjoy Spain’s Camino de Santiago on foot or by bike

Camino de Santiago

You can also do the Camino de Santiago by bike. Photo: Burkard Meyendriesch / Pixabay

Vía Verde del Carrilet, Catalonia

This route runs for 57km (35.4 miles), linking the town of Olot and the Garrotxa Volcanic Naural park with the city of Girona. Following the banks of the Ter, Brugent and Fluvià rivers, it winds its way between fields, forests and bridges, with the towering ancient volcanoes as your backdrop. The route is well signposted and is also suitable for hikers. 

Via verde Olot to Girona

This route begins at the otherworldly Garrotxa volcanic natural park. Photo: Peremagria / Wikimedia Commons

Vía Verde Tajuna, Madrid

This spectacular bike path offers city dwellers the chance to escape the hustle and bustle without planning ahead. Simply get off at the last stop on Metro line 9 (Arganda del Rey) and hop on to your bici. The route runs along the river of the same name and runs for a total of 49km (30.4), passing through the quaint towns of Carabaña, Ambite, Oruco, Tielmes or Perales de Tajuna and Morata. This cycle path is also equipped for hiking and for people with disabilities or reduced mobility.

Via Verde Tajuna Madrid

You can see the ruins of the old station of Tajuna along the way. Photo: Malopez 21 / Wikimedia Commons

Vía Verde de la Sierra, Cádiz, Andalusia 

This 37km (22 mile) vía verde runs from the village of Puerto Serrano in the province of Cádiz to Olvera, a small village north-east of Ronda. It passes through no less than 30 tunnels and over four viaducts, as well as valleys and river banks. Free of traffic and a relatively easy ride overall, it’s ideal for a family day trip – and if the little ones are too tired, taxis with bicycle racks are available for the return journey.

Via Verde Cádiz

The Vía Verde de la Sierra is ideal for the whole family. Photo: El Pantera / Wikimedia Commons.

Timanfaya National Park, Lanzarote, Canary Islands 

Go for a ride through the land of volcanoes in Lanzarote’s Timanfaya National Park. Ideal for mountain bikers, there is even an 8km (5 mile) downhill track through the island’s unique landscapes and lava fields. The archipelago’s mild climate makes it a biking paradise throughout the year.

Lanzarote

Ride through the volcanic landscapes of Timanfaya National Park. Photo: Manfred Zajac / Pixabay

Vía Verde del Plazaola, Navarra and the Basque Country

One of the most beautiful greenways is the 66.5km (41.3 miles) Vía Verde del Plazaola, traversing through the regions of Navarra and the Basque Country, passing through an array of forests and meadows. 41.9km of the route passes through Navarra and 24.6km through Gipuzkoa, so you can choose which section to do. The route also takes you through many tunnels, including the longest tunnel you can cycle through in Spain. The trail takes its name from the abandoned Plazaola mines, you’ll pass along the way. 

Plazaola cycle route

The Vía Verde del Plazaola takes you through many tunnels. Photo: Cherubino / Wikimedia Commons

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