Disclaimer: This information is general in nature only. While Budget Direct has endeavoured to ensure the information we’ve relied on is accurate and current, we do not guarantee it. Budget Direct accepts no liability for this information.
When you’re unwell at home, you can at least cope with the inconvenience in familiar surroundings. You can sleep in your own bed, be comforted by your family and friends and visit your favourite doctor for advice and treatment.
But what if you’re trekking in the Top End of the Northern Territory, touring India or enduring an 11-hour bus ride through Colombia? That’s when a molehill can turn into a mountain.
While some health risks are unavoidable, there are some tricks you can use to minimise your chances of a travel travesty. Here are some hints for staying healthy when you’re travelling:
Visit a travel doctor
A visit to a travel doctor is possibly the most important step in preparing yourself for a trip. All you need to do is discuss where you’re going and your personal health history, and they’ll usually be able to fill in the gaps. They’ll usually help you with:
- The complexities of medication – Some medicines that are legal here might be banned in foreign countries. Some might be allowed, but only with a medical certificate signed by a GP. The good news is that a travel doctor usually understands both of these requirements, and can make sure you’ll have access to anything essential around the world.
- Preparing for particular regions – Egypt will offer very different risks to your health than Iceland, or Mexico. A travel doctor will understand what risks are most heightened by certain areas, and recommend the vaccinations and preparations to stay healthy there.
Remember to pack some medical basics
When you pack, keep health in mind. Bring hand sanitiser containing at least 50% alcohol, some disinfectant wipes, headache tablets, and facemasks. Again, it’s worth double-checking with your travel doctor as to whether your medications or hand sanitiser might cause issues crossing borders – you’d hate to lose all your supplies at the start of your trip.
Understand water quality
We sometimes take for granted how fortunate we are in Australia that tap water is usually entirely safe to drink. In some places, the local tap water can cause you serious issues if consumed – even in small doses.
When in doubt, drink bottled water or purify dubious water before drinking. Boiling your water is usually a safe way to purify it, and there is an array of tablets and purification chemicals available to make water safer.
Keep in mind that local restaurants and attractions will also use the local tap water in a variety of ways. Any ice cubes in your drinks were probably made with frozen tap water. If you order a salad, there’s a good chance that same water washed it. Even the cups and crockery in your hotel were probably cleaned with local water.
Avoid the deadliest creature on earth – and a few others
It’s no secret that the humble mosquito poses a serious health risk all over the world. Malaria alone kills 200,000 people worldwide and incapacitates around 200 million more. It’s also responsible for the spread of yellow fever, encephalitis, dengue fever, the Zika virus, and plenty of other ailments.
The best way to avoid mosquito-borne diseases is to not get bitten in the first place. Wear a DEET-based repellent, use a mosquito net in danger areas and dress in light-coloured clothing with insect protection in mind. And of course, make sure to discuss mosquito protection with your travel doctor before going to any risky areas of the world.
Enjoy the local cuisine (responsibly)
Of course, if you wanted to be 100% safe, you wouldn’t eat any local foods – you’d stick to the stuff you know and trust. That being said, local cuisine is one of the main joys of travelling – you simply haven’t experienced a Bangkok market until you’ve tried a $1 plate of Pad Thai.
The best advice we can offer is to know how to enjoy local cuisine and cut the risk (without cutting the fun). In general, you should:
- Stick to crowded restaurants rather than deserted ones (the higher turnover of ingredients is usually a good sign)
- Hot and boiled foods will always be safer than anything lukewarm
- If you can, avoid high-risk foods like unpasteurised dairy, raw or lightly-cooked eggs, coleslaws and pasta salads, suspicious seafood, and peculiar poultry.
Know your treatment options
If you do succumb to illness abroad, know what steps you’ll take to look after your health. What hospitals are there in your local region? What is the emergency number to call if needed? Will you know how to communicate any existing medical conditions to local doctors?
It’s also worth understanding what coverage you have, should your trip take a twist. Most health insurance policies won’t cover overseas hospitals, whereas travel insurance can. It can also cover the potential transport delays, unexpected cancellations, and other consequences of your unforeseen health issues.
If you’re really looking for peace of mind on your next trip, it’s worth comparing policy options, and making sure your wellbeing is as protected as possible.