5 Tips for Finding Medical Help Abroad

When our family visited Granada, Spain in 2013, I slipped on a wet flight of outdoor steps our second evening and hit my head on a patio couch. I walked the twenty steps to our flat, my reddening hand on my forehead. Fortunately, we had allies in town. We were staying in an apartment in the Albaícin (photo of the view from the window below) that is part of the flamenco school of my dear friend’s sister, Carmen. Once I called and described my accident, Carmen and her partner rushed over from their home three blocks away.


When they saw the gash on my forehead, one of them sprinted for their car and the other held my arm and assisted me down the pedestrian walkway to the street where the vehicle appeared like magic a few seconds later. We made a wide circle round the outside of the city and back to the downtown for the urgent care center. It felt like I closed my eyes and we were there. I sat in a waiting room with Carmen while her partner parked the car (or was it the reverse?) The wait was not long before a nurse looked at my cut and brought me back to a room for a consult. She cleaned my wound and gave me stitches. Payment was not discussed until the end of the time.

The emergency brought me closer to my dear friend’s sister and her family. They were such wonderful help to me. ¡Gracias! Again, I was impressed at the efficiency and quality of medical care in Spain (see my wasp story).

When you need medical attention in another country, it can be frightening. That goes double if you’re sick in another language. Say you lost your voice, got stung in the mouth by a wasp, or have “Napoleon’s” revenge? (Personal examples ; ) How do you find help?

  1. Take a deep breath and jot down your symptoms. If your life is in danger and you are in a city, proceed to step 5.
  2. Not on death’s door? Find a pharmacy. A pharmacist can help by recognizing symptoms, giving over the counter medications and even can prescribe medications in many countries. No pharmacy nearby? Say hello to a friendly-looking local person; your restaurant server, your tour guide, a family walking down the street.
  3. Enlist the help of this local person by explaining the help you need. Shared language a plus but you can also use a phone as a translator; gesture and/or play Pictionary to express your illness or injury.
  4. Politeness, gratitude and patience are your best assets in your search for treatment.
  5. Take a taxi to a hospital. This will seem odd for a person from the United States, but seek treatment before worrying about how you will pay for it. This is not to recommend taking advantage of universal health care, but to realize that in another country treating serious health concerns is a priority. Medical systems abroad often are willing to help and allow you to make payment arrangements when the emergency is through.

Gracias for reading! Please leave a comment so I know you’ve stopped by. : ) Olé!

Para leer este ensayo en español, haz un clic en 5 pistas para buscar tratamiento médico en el extrajero.

An Alhambra Palace Door by Rebecca Cuningham 2013



Rebecca Cuningham

8 thoughts on “5 Tips for Finding Medical Help Abroad

  1. Useful also when staying anyplace unfamiliar . . . We have usually done pretty well by calling our HMO’s Nurse on Call for advice in sorting out the seriousness of symptoms.
    Thankfully I was volunteering with hospitals or clinics most of the time I needed medical help abroad.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply to fakeflamenco Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s