7 Tips You Need for a Healthier and Safer Trip

Traveling around the world is something I think everyone should experience. But with all of the positives of travel, there are some negatives, like health and safety issues. Below are a few basic tips that many beginning backpackers, and maybe some veterans, overlook. These tips will help keep you up and running and not missing a thing, whether you are traveling around the world or just taking a short vacation.

Needle Exchange

1. Get your damn vaccines. I met many travelers who traveled without vaccines. Some of them simply didn’t know they should have them, while others openly opposed spending the money to get them. Granted vaccines can get expensive, they are there for a reason. Many of the diseases and viruses these vaccines prevent don’t exist anymore or have been almost completely eradicated in the U.S. and other European countries, so our immune systems are not prepared to fight them. Here are a few ways to cut the costs of vaccines. First, skip the regular doctor’s office or travel clinic and visit a government subsidized health center (like your local county health department) or a university clinic if you can. These clinics usually offer the vaccines for up to 50% off what you might find at a normal physician. Another option, which is a bit more extreme, is to get your vaccines abroad. If you are traveling for awhile this might a worthwhile investment and you can find out more about this with this informative post on getting vaccines overseas from one of my favorite travel blogs, JohnnyVagabond.com.

2.  If you are traveling to a country and are advised not the drink the water… guess what, you probably shouldn’t be using it to brush your teeth either.  I forgot this a few times but it didn’t take long for me to learn my lesson.  Either carry a bottle of water with you at all times, or bring a portable water purifier in order to not find yourself trying to decide between morning breath or a grumpy stomach.

3. Pay attention, this statistic caught me by surprise- according to the Center for Disease and Control the highest cause of injury for people traveling is car accidents.  I’m not sure if this includes bus accidents as well but I would imagine.  To help avoid this make sure to choose trusted transportation companies, or if you are driving yourself, make sure you are familiar with the traffic laws and customs of the area you are driving (like even though there ARE stop signs, no one actually stops).

yay Pepto Bismol!

4. Did you know that 1 in 3 international travelers get traveler’s diarrhea? To help prevent this, take Pepto Bismol everyday before you ever get sick. According to a doctor in the clinic at my alma mater doing this (along with some of the tips below) will reduce your chances of traveler’s diarrhea by up to 50%. If you’ve been lucky enough to never experience traveler’s diarrhea, then just let me tell you, a 50% chance of stopping this before it happens is a gift from the medicine gods! Few things can ruin an amazing tour or exploring a new city more than the feeling that you need to be no more than 10 feet away from a toilet at all times.

5. Carry a dummy wallet. During my time in Central America I made sure to always carry a wallet with me. In this wallet I carried a few expired cards and whatever cash I expected to spend that day. My more important documents, my cards, and most of my money were either stored safely with my backpack or in my money belt. I recommend you consider doing something of the same. In the unlikely chance that you are ever robbed you can simply hand the thief your wallet with nothing of real value in it and hopefully in their rush they will leave you alone without considering the possibility of carrying a money belt.

Mosquito hawk

6. Take malaria medication if you plan to visit an area that is considered dangerous. I don’t know from experience but I’ve talked to people who have experienced malaria and it sounds like it reall, really, really, sucks. So put in a little effort to protect yourself. On top of medication, (which is only around 80% effective) it is smart to cover up and/or wear bug spray with DEET in it. The higher the percentage of DEET the better, but also the worse you will smell, so find a happy medium for yourself.

7. Sunblock, Sunblock, Sunblock. Chances are you are going to be outside a lot during your travels. Walking the cities you visit, going on outdoor adventures, and seeing everything the world has to offer. If you are like me you will probably be exposed to a lot more sun than you normally are. Lather up ladies and gentlemen, all day, everyday. A bad sunburn (or even only a slight one) can definitely put a damper in your plans and may even cause you to have to stay inside and skip out on things you planed to do. I met people on multiple occasions who had spent too much time in the sun, and were suffering because of it.

So there are my seven tips for you. Have any insightful things to add? If so leave a comment of different techniques you use to keep healthy and safe while traveling for me and all of our fellow travelers!

{ 6 comments }

ayngelina August 8, 2010 at

Rather than take Pepto every day which can be harsh on your stomach for a long period of time I’d like to suggest eating yogurt every day. The bacteria settles your stomach and experienced travelers swear by it. If you look at countries where stomach problems can be an issue (i.e. India) you see that the locals also eat a fair bit of it.

I’ve been traveling 4 months through Latin America and haven’t been sick once even though I almost exclusively eat street food and I owe it to my daily yogurt habit.

Matt August 9, 2010 at

I’ve heard the yogurt tip, thanks for mentioning it! That is a pretty impressive that you haven’t been sick yet after 4 months, I am going to try that when I go back in December. I might do something similar to that sailboat trip you just posted about!

Alouise August 10, 2010 at

The fake wallet tip is something I always use. I also think traveler insurance is always a good thing to have. Sure you could save some money by not getting it, but it’s nice to know that if some kind emergency or medical situation arises when you travel that you’ll be covered.

Matt August 10, 2010 at

yes, I think traveler’s insurance is a must. I know it can add up on a long trip but if something were to ever happen that would realllllllyy suck if you didn’t have it.

jamie August 12, 2010 at

Great tips matt!!

Ivo Stoichev August 16, 2010 at

There’s quite a lot of common sense in your tips, and it really is better to be safe than sorry. But it often happens that you learn things in the process, and there’s no way to know the driving habits of a country until you visit, for example.
But anyway, great post 🙂

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