Are you about to go backpacking & travelling? Then here are some top tips on how to stay healthy while travelling to keep you alive!
When you are travelling you are going to be exposed to some weird and wonderful things, some of which will not like you, so it is vital to know how to stay healthy on your travels.
Knowing what to do when a medical situation arises is the difference between having the trip of a lifetime and coming home early. Don’t let an illness ruin your travels, and I know.
Of all the things that can happen to you on the road, I think getting ill in a foreign country is the worst. Nothing quite makes you miss home like being sick in a strange and unusual place.
On my round the world trip I had amoebic dysentery in India, a malaria-type illness in China and a tropical parasite in Indonesia. Safe to say a couple of these made it on my travel mistakes list!
Each one put me down and out of action for at least a couple of weeks. In fact, the last one in Indonesia was so bad I decided to bring my return flight home forward curtailing my trip early. It was such a rubbish feeling and something I really regret.
Two things would’ve made a difference – seeing a doctor (something I point blankly refused to do while travelling), and being more clued up on how to stay healthy while travelling.
So, if you’re about to go backpacking and travelling, this is the article for you! If you want your trip to be the best trip of your life then make sure you take these precautions!
1. Find out if you need any vaccinations or not
You don’t always need vaccinations for travelling abroad.
If you are nipping over the pond to the States or you are travelling through Europe, then you are good to go without any vaccinations. Also, despite being on the other side of the world, you don’t need vaccinations for Australia and New Zealand. However, if you are planning an epic round the world adventure, then it is likely you will need some.
Almost one in four UK travellers don’t have any vaccinations before they go away despite travelling to areas that have life-threatening infectious diseases. Don’t be a statistic.
This is something that you are just going to have to get, so take yourself off to your GP or a travel clinic, talk through where you are travelling to and find out if you need any vaccinations or not.
2. Get vaccinations and anti-malarial tablets before you go
Get the vaccinations you need well before you go, sort out anti-malarial tablets (if you need them), and wise up on what to eat and drink.
The main vaccinations that you’ll want to protect against are hep A&B, malaria, rapies, Japanene encephalitis, tetanus and typhoid. But again, always talk to your GP or doctor first.
Also, make sure you take precautions against sexually transmitted infections. That means taking a few condoms (yes, you too ladies). If you’re on the pill, take enough for your trip. This is an important one so make sure you’re protected against STIs.
3. Get the right travel insurance that covers you
Unfortunately, according to insurance company Covermore, more than 30% of young travellers leave on their trip uninsured or underinsured.
When it comes to forking out for damages when a simple £100 insurance plan would have covered you, it could cost you thousands of pounds, if not tens of thousands of pounds, so make sure you are insured. I could tell you so many horror stories I’ve heard form people who haven’t had insurance when things have gone south. It’s enough to make your eyes water so let me stress again – YOU NEED TRAVEL INSURANCE!!!
4. Don’t keep all of your medication in one place
If you have any pre-existing medical conditions that require regular medication, ensure that you have enough for your entire trip.
When travelling it is always a good idea to divide your medication between your day bag and your backpack in case one of them gets lost or stolen. The phrase “don’t put all your tablets in one basket” springs to mind here.
5. Malaria is a serious disease; make sure you take precautions
Malaria is a serious subject. Approximately 2,000 travellers return to the UK with malaria every year, and many more suffer while they are on the road. Make sure this isn’t you.
Obviously the way to protect yourself against malaria is to take some anti-malarial tablets. There are three main types of anti-malarial tablets – Doxycycline, Malarone and Chloroquine Avloclor. The type of drug you take will depending on where you are travelling and your own medical history.
Get into a routine of taking your anti-malarial pills just before you go to bed at night. By falling asleep straight away, it will counteract any nausea that you may have which is a common side effect.
When I was travelling, I always made sure I took my anti-malarial tablets. It’s a bit of a chore but it’s just something that you have to do!
6. Take a comprehensive medical kit
A fairly comprehensive medical kit (you can get these from most pharmacies and supermarkets these days) can make life a lot easier when in some of the more remote areas of the globe since it gives you a degree of self-sufficiency as well as peace of mind.
It is always advisable to carry your own set of sterile equipment when outside of Western Europe, North America and Australasia just in case you find yourself in a situation that requires a wee injection.
Many countries believe in giving injections just for the sake of it, very often containing nothing more than saline solution (or salty water to you and me), so ensure that an injection is truly necessary and then ensure they use your needles. A lot of countries re-use needles, and you really don’t want the risk of HIV / AIDS when you have got your own to use.
7. Drink clean water
One thing you always need to check is whether it is safe to drink the water of not. Typically, a lot of backpackers and travellers get ill from something simple such as brushing their teeth with tap water, or eating a salad that has been washed in the sink beforehand. Make sure you read up on whether it is safe to drink water. If not, buy bottled water. Lots of it.
If you don’t want to buy bottle after bottle of water, or if you’re worried about plastic waste, I’d really recommend travelling with a water-filtered bottle like the LifeSaver Liberty; I think this is the best one on the market at the moment. This means you can filter your own water wherever you are around the world. These are particularly useful when you’re hiking too!
8. Use sun cream
If you’re going on an extended trip of longer than a few months, it’s very easy to stop using sun cream.
When I went travelling for a couple of years, did I use sun cream every day? No, I didn’t, and to be honest with you it’s something I regret. Why? Because very recently I noticed I got a new mole from where I had burnt my skin.
I keep thinking back to when I was travelling and how much I probably damaged my skin from not using sun cream.
Now, I use this sun cream all the time. If you want to stay healthy while travelling, this really should be a priority for you so pack that sun cream!
9. Stay active and exercise on the road
Even though this is an important point, I’d say you naturally stay relatively healthy while travelling anyway.
Most of the time you’ll be clocking up more than 10,000 steps a day (the recommend daily rate) just by siteseeing. Add in other activities that you’ll do like hiking and surfing and it should be enough to stay active.
However, exercising is another thing! It’s recommend that you do 30 minutes of exercise a day, and that shouldn’t change just because you’re travelling. I’d really recommend you packing your trainers and going for a few runs every now and then.
10. Eat those vegetables!
When you’re travelling, it’s very easy to slip into bad eating habits.
When I’m in North America, I have to actually go out of my way to eat salad and vegetables as they’re virtually non-existent when eating out.
Other places like South America and Southeast Asia, it’s very easy to eat your 5 a day. With lots of local food markets, fruit is really cheap and readily available. Also, vegetables are naturally used a lot in the cuisine.
How to eat healthy while travelling is something you need to keep on top of!
How do you stay healthy while backpacking and travelling? If you’ve got any tips or advice let me know in the comments below!
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