How to stay healthy while you travel

Staying healthy while you’re travelling can be challenging. Whether it’s the heat, exhaustion, foreign cuisine or a nasty bug, there are plenty of health hazards to keep an eye on when you’re on the road. But that certainly shouldn’t deter you! As much as I hate getting sick on the road, I’d still rather be sick somewhere warm and pretty and exciting than be stuck at home. Getting sick sucks whether you’re at home or on vacation, but luckily there’s a lot you can do to stay healthy while you travel. Follow these 5 tips and you’ll be able to minimise the risks significantly:

1. Get vaccinated

Travel health starts before the actual trip. Check with your doctor a few months in advance to make sure you have the right vaccinations for your destination. Although they may not be covered by your insurance, it is worth to spend a few more bucks to keep you from contracting a potentially lethal disease. A life-threatening virus does not make for a fun souvenir.

2. Eat healthily

I know you want to try all the interesting new foods. And you should! Just be smart about it. Always pick busy restaurants and street food carts, as they have more turnover so the food is cooked fresh. Be especially careful if you eat meat and ask for meat and seafood to be grilled to order, you don’t want to catch a nasty parasite. Be wary of foods that have been lying out for a while as well as raw veggies and fruit that have been washed in tap water. If you have a sensitive stomach, you might be better off buying unpeeled fruit and taking a pocketknife you peel it yourself, just to be sure. And make sure you get all the nutrition you need instead of just gorging yourself on fast-food and sweet treats. Don’t forget to check if the tap water is safe to drink, if not, buy bottled and make sure it is sealed. Or get one of these filter bottles so you can cut back on your use of plastic. The same goes for iced drinks, if the ice is made with tap water, it might be best to avoid it. Being careful might help you avoid that dreaded Bali belly. Don’t go overboard though, unless you have a super sensitive system there is no need to brush your teeth with bottled water or miss out on all that scrumptious street food out of fear. The amount of foreign bacteria your body can handle differs per person, so while I can eat pretty much all street food and drink iced drinks all day, others will immediately get sick from one sip.

3. Don’t take any unnecessary risk

This one seems obvious, but it can be easy to get lax when it comes to safety when you’re enjoying a nice vacation. Don’t go walking alone at night if you wouldn’t at home and always keep an eye on your drink. Although the locals may do it, don’t ride a motorbike without a helmet, don’t go hiking or climbing without proper gear. And make sure you book activities through agencies that comply with safety regulations. Being smart is key to staying safe while you travel.

4. Carry a first aid kit

It’s not always possible to get to a pharmacy while you’re travelling, so make sure you have a little first aid kit with you. Mine holds a few staples such as bandages and gauze, as well as a tick pen, painkillers, betadine and diarrhoea meds. That way you can treat the little things yourself in a pinch. Sometimes your doctor can recommend additional medication specific to the place you are travelling, such as emergency malaria pills for South East Asia, so always consult your GP before travelling!

5. Get global coverage on your health/travel insurance

Nothing ruins your holiday quite like getting hurt or seriously ill in a foreign country. If you do end up going to the hospital or even going home, a good travel/health insurance is key. Not only will they cover (most of) the cost, they might be able to help you organize transportation and care. Insurance can be expensive, but a medivac out if the jungle is much more expensive. And the last thing you want is to be stuck on the phone all day trying to figure it all out, so get travel insurance and global health coverage so that if something happens, you don’t have that additional stress. Travel insurance will also often reimburse you for any booked activities, excursions and other costs that you’re missing because of injury or illness. When I had a 30-hour delay at the start of a 10-day trip to Sri Lanka, my travel insurance reimbursed me for the cost of 1 full day of the trip, which was about 150 euro.


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