June 7, 2019

Five things you need to know about travelling abroad with UCalgary

Going anywhere on university business this summer? UCalgary has you covered

In any given year, more than 3,000 University of Calgary students, faculty and staff travel with study-abroad opportunities, student exchanges, research fieldwork, international conferences and more. With all these individuals flying overhead to countries far and wide, Janet Stein, director of risk management and insurance, and her team keep track of everyone around the world to ensure all UCalgary community members are safe and cared for in the event of an incident.

“We want to make sure everyone who has the opportunity to have an international experience with the university can do it safely and in a well-informed manner,” Stein says.

An important part of getting informed, she adds, is reviewing what is available to you as a UCalgary traveller.

1. Get briefed before you book

When travelling abroad, Stein says it's imperative travellers understand the environmental, political and socioeconomic environments they are visiting — no matter how safe a country might seem from a distance.

“We provide trip-specific briefings for individuals and groups, which can be customized depending on the traveller’s experience, specific security needs or health concerns in that location,” Stein says.

These briefings identify the closest hospitals, embassies, airports, and other important resources travellers may need abroad in the event of an incident. In addition to the pre-briefing, Stein’s team continues to monitor the countries daily — sending update to travellers and checking in on their well-being when an international incident occurs.

“To monitor these countries, we track the news for any significant events and read the Government of Canada Travel Reports,” Stein says. “If there are any issues, we check if there’s anyone from UCalgary in those countries and reach out.”

2. Register your travel

But in order for Risk Management and Insurance to provide travellers with updates and support, they need to know where you are first.

“The University’s International travel policy requires most individuals travelling outside the country on university business to register with us so we can provide the resources and assistance they may need, and keep tabs on the country they’re in,” Stein says.

Registering travel has a direct impact on traveller safety. In 2018, there were 10 significant incidents in eight countries when travellers required assistance. Some of the past incidents included:

  • high-impact weather events like tsunamis, volcanic eruptions or hurricanes
  • political coups
  • terrorism-related incidents
  • high-impact medical outbreaks like SARS or Ebola
  • a significant transportation stoppage, like the recent 737 groundings

To ensure the university can provide assistance, register your travel on the Risk Management website.

Itching to collect those miles? Book online or with an agent to utilize your frequent flyer program of choice, like Aeroplan or Air Miles.

Itching to collect those miles? Book online or with an agent to utilize your frequent flyer program.

Lina Kivaka from Pexels

3. Download the International SOS app

Once individuals are registered, they’re provided with resources for their international travel. One of the most important is the International SOS service and phone app travellers can use to keep themselves safe and connected.

“International SOS provides people with information about specific travel risks, delivers travel alerts if something happens, and connects you to SOS staff with the touch of a button,” Stein says.

In the last five weeks alone, three travellers encountered incidents where SOS resources were used, making it an essential resource.

“Recently, a traveller had a medical emergency and needed to find a hospital. Using International SOS, they were able to get to a vetted and approved hospital with appropriate equipment and expertise to help them,” she says.

Learn more about International SOS and the services they provide on the Risk Management website.

4. Use UCalgary’s travel management company (and their discounts)

The University of Calgary is partnered with Maritime Travel, a travel management company that provides everything you need for your time away, including flight bookings, rental cars, hotels and more.

Tony Krajnc, travel team lead with Supply Chain Management, says the university acquired the partnership specifically so travellers could get the best financial deals, while also receiving the best care and support if there are issues with accommodation, flights or travel.

“Our biggest priority is the safety of the traveller,” Krajnc says. “In case of emergency, Maritime helps by getting in touch, making arrangements, rebooking flights, and ensuring no one is stranded in times of need.”

Maritime also provides discounts with two of the country’s biggest airlines, WestJet and Air Canada, as well as car rental companies and hotels. And, if you find a cheaper rate elsewhere, Maritime price-matches across the board.

Learn more about Maritime and other financial benefits, like free online booking with Concur, visit the Finance website.

5. Prioritize your cybersecurity

In addition to your personal security, Stein says that whenever you travel outside Canada, there are different laws that may apply to using technology and protecting your cybersecurity can be a concern.

“You may be going into a country that doesn't allow certain devices — you need to understand the rules before you get your devices taken away, or your personal information confiscated,” she says.

Information Technologies and Risk Management recently collaborated to bring UCalgary the most up-do-date information on cybersecurity while travelling abroad. Some tips include:

  • locking all unattended technology to prevent unauthorized access
  • not leaving your device in an unattended area or vehicle
  • being aware that public wireless networks are untrusted and avoid using them if possible
  • avoiding public computer workstations and charging stations
  • not connecting unknown USB flash drives to your devices in case they contain malicious software
  • use a university-provided scrubbed laptop computer