Solo Travel 5 Tips for Staying Healthy

Solo Travel 5 Tips for Staying Healthy: Do this to avoid getting sick as often on travel.

I planned to greet the New Year in Cambodia and then travel alone to Vietnam and Thailand. I had been looking into required vaccinations and health issues for travelers.

I firmly believe: “Know before you go”. However, every question seems to bring a series of new questions. In addition, I received confounding answers from both intrepid fellow travelers and the US government’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  The toughest question? How aggressively to plan for potential risks? Statistics help but only to a limited extent. Where risk of serious harm is only 5%, if it happens to you, it is 100% in your case! Is it better to pay $1,500 for potentially unnecessary vaccinations or take your chances?  Do I get a 3 part rabies series and a 2 part Japanese Encephalitis shot or avoid stray animals and low-flying mosquitoes? Weighing all sides, I have come up with the following tips for myself and fellow solo travelers:

Solo Travel 5 Tips for Staying Healthy:

Tip 1: As to pre-trip shots, consider the following:

What season will you be traveling, and what is its impact on local diseases?

Do such risks exist in cities or only outlying areas which can be avoided?
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Does your chosen activity, like tramping through a rainforest or canoeing after sundown, create additional issues?

Will you be staying in a modern high rise or “glamping” off-the-beaten-path?

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Solo Travel 5 Tips for Staying Healthy:

Tip 2:  For airborne tropical diseases, make avoiding mosquitoes or other insects a serious effort.

Always follow instructions for malaria pills allowing time beforehand to get started. Be aware most require some follow-up on return. (Daily pills can be tricky when you are in transit for 24 hours, crossing the International Dateline and completely jet lagged.)

In using insect repellent and sunscreen, coordinate how you use them so that they don’t dilute each other.

Be aware that even fairly neutral products can entice mosquitoes. Get the unscented or hypoallergenic brands. (Women should note this also as to cosmetics, even lipstick.)

Check to see when mosquitoes feed at your destination. They may snack all day, but in evenings and/or early mornings they may be more plentiful.

Wear protective clothing. In a 5 star safari camp in Botswana, we had delightful dinners outside each evening. However, we were instructed to wear long sleeves, long pants, socks and mosquito repellent.

Solo Travel 5 Tips for Staying Healthy:

 

Tip 3:  Where water is suspect, consider the multiple ways it impacts you.
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Not for swimming!

Prior to a Nile cruise, I traveled alone through the old suqs of Upper Egypt. I regaled at being the only foreigner and being far from crowds of other tourists. I spent the day having tea and chatting in Arabic with local shopkeepers. I gave no thought to what I ate or drank. Shortly thereafter on my cruise as I lay in my bed, I was enchanted to “see” the sun rising over the Nile!  Somewhat delirious from fever, I then realized that I was actually staring at the overhead electric light in my cabin not the sunrise!

If water is contaminated remember:

Only drink from an unopened bottle of water. (Dishes washed in polluted water are also a risk.)

Don’t brush your teeth or rinse your toothbrush with tap water or swallow water inadvertently in the shower.

Only accept ice in drinks if you are sure it comes from bottled water or other reliable sources.

For hot drinks like coffee or tea to be safe, they must be boiled with varying lengths of time required depending upon the temperature.

Pharmacies often sell tablets for use in cold drinks. However, they may take about 30 minutes to be effective.

In any case, none of the above will address chemical pollutants.

Solo Travel 5 Tips for Staying Healthy:

Tip 4. Pack your prescription medicines but only after checking local laws.

Medicines abroad may not be of the same mix and strength as at home. Even over-the-counter drugs can carry unacceptable risks for some travelers. If not dangerous, an untried product may not work or may have side effects that detract from your enjoyment of your trip.

Some countries carry mandatory jail time of up to 4 years for even small amounts of prescriptions or over-the-counter medications for personal use and completely legal at home.

Solo Travel 5 Tips for Staying Healthy:

Tip 5. Avoid stray animals and livestock.

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Although a long-time dog lover, while traveling alone in Santiago, off the coast of Senegal, during a cholera epidemic, I came across a mangy, stray dog.  To avoid an encounter, I dashed off, tripping on the slick brick street resulting in a large cut on my knee.  On returning home, my traveler’s clinic’s only concern was whether my tetanus shot was current. (Meanwhile, I had envisioned dire tropical diseases.) However, animal-borne diseases are common and as a foreign traveler it can be hard to evaluate the local risk. Although I have ridden on elephant-back for a week’s safari and gamely petted llamas on South American forays, unless I have reason to believe it is safe I avoid animal contact while traveling.

If nothing else, this is the best way to avoid bureaucratic enquiries on return. US citizens will see a question on inbound Customs forms asking if you have been to a farm or touched livestock. Once visiting a winery on a Latin American tour, the vintner quickly warned us not to step off the path, or we would then get to spend time with agricultural inspectors on return.

However, at home or abroad, surprises can occur but need not be catastrophic as I learned in Zimbabwe. A bridge broke under my foot just above salivating crocodiles. Luckily, I caught the attention of nearby rescuers who lifted me over the side of a boat just in time!  As colorful as that experience was, statistically accidents often occur within 25 miles of home, possibly making it safer to head out of town than remain behind!

Take a look at our Solo Travel 5 Tips for Staying Healthy. Then please give us your comments and tips!

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