Traveling to remote parts of the world, especially in Asia, may require Americans to rethink some fundamental aspects of their daily activities. We have found over the years that the squat toilet and the bucket shower can be problematic for some students. To help everyone prepare, we want to provide some information to consider.
A fear many have about traveling outside of the United States is personal safety. Much of this is ingrained in the fear of the unknown, and not on any firm data. While there are dangerous regions in the world today (Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Nicaragua, Yemen, Pakistan), there are many parts of the world that are considerably safer than regions of the US. Thailand in particular is a very safe destination for travel. By many measures of crime and safety rates, Thailand is safer than Canada, New Zealand, Australia, China, Belgium, and far safer than France, Italy, Ireland, and even the United States. And within the United States, places like New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Detroit are far more dangerous than many developing countries.
Travel insurance comes in two parts: travel health insurance and trip cancellation insurance. Travel health insurance assures that any medical expenses if you become sick or injured abroad will be covered. This covers minor illnesses to serious injuries or illnesses that require potential evacuation. It will also, if necessary, cover expatriation of remains in case of a death. It is highly recommended that everyone obtains travel insurance while they are abroad. Some domestic insurance coverages will cover international travel, but it is not nearly as convenient.
Trip cancellation insurance is insurance that will pay you a percentage of the trip costs if, for some reason, you have to cancel the trip. This can be due to illness, a crisis in the country you are visiting, or other event that may cause cancellation of the entire trip.
Stuff happens, and at inopportune times. So it’s best that you’re prepared. We will have a group first aid kit, but it is prudent to have a personal one as well. Not a huge one that will take care of any possible accident or disease that could happen. You’d need an entire hospital and a staff for that. What you want is something that will take care of minor problems that occur so that it doesn’t get worse, and for those with existing medical conditions, something that can make sure those conditions are taken care of. Plus, we’re not going to have enough NSAIDs, bandages, or Immodium for everyone; you are responsible for bringing your own.
Now, the easiest way to do this is purchase a premade first aid kit, and add on to it. The best ones for international travel are ones that are specific for that, such as the one above (which you can purchase at REI). But any first aid kit is better than none.
We will be experiencing just about every mode of transportation during this trip. We will be flying, driving in minivans (a lot, through city traffic as well as curvy, mountainous roads), riding in speedboats, riding in the backs of pickups over rough mountain roads, riding in tuk-tuks, riding bikes, riding tractors, and even riding on elephants.
Unfortunately, traveling causes misery for many people in the form of motion sickness. Motion sickness results from when the motion that your inner ear senses differs from the motion that you visualize. Many people experience motion sickness to one degree or another, some more severe than others. Some only get sick on ships during the roughest seas, while others can experience it during short drivers or even while skiing on an overcast day. Motion sickness progresses from a feeling of uneasiness to sweating and dizziness, and progresses to nausea and vomiting. Symptoms are exacerbated by lack of ventilation, inability to see outside the vehicle (and visualize the movement), being inside an enclosed space, or having anxiety or fear of traveling.
Estimates of the prevalence of motion sickness varies, from 3% to 60%, depending on the study. Many researchers believe almost everyone suffers from motion sickness, given strong enough motion stimuli. Women and children are generally more at risk for motion sickness. Continue reading Treatments for Motion Sickness
Vietnam is a very popular choice for travelers to Southeast Asia, and for good reason. It’s very cheap to travel there, the people are welcoming, the locale is breathtaking, the cities are vibrant, the culture is unique, the history is complex, and the food is amazing. There is a pretty good travel infrastructure in most of Vietnam, so it’s quite easy to travel there. And there’s something there for just about everyone: the culture buffs, the beach bum, the adventure traveler, the foodie, the city explorers, shoppers….
Getting there – I suggest flying to Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) from Bangkok. Flights are relatively inexpensive (roughly $40 one way on a discount airline). From Hanoi, you can then fly or take a train to Da Nang or Ho Chi Minh City, and then fly back to Bangkok. Air Asia, Nok Air, and Jetstar all fly from Bangkok to several Vietnamese cities. Please keep in mind that many of these flights depart from Don Mueang Airport in Bangkok, not Suvarnabhumi Airport, the airport we arrive and depart from. It’s anywhere from 45 – 90 minute drive via taxi or shuttle bus between the two airports, depending on traffic, so keep this in mind if you are arriving in Bangkok and departing for the US on the same day. Continue reading Vietnam
Staying healthy while on the trip is a very high priority for students, faculty, family, friends …… really everyone. Being ill on a trip like this really is not very fun. So far, we have had few illnesses on this trip. And there are several things we can do to stay as healthy as we can, although sometimes, stuff happens.
Before you leave…..
There are a few things you can do before even getting on the plane to help keep you healthy. The most important thing you can do is make sure you have all your vaccinations. This was covered in another post in detail. Make sure you have the standard vaccinations (DTP, MMR, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, etc.), as well as typhoid. As recent measles outbreaks have shown, even standard vaccinations like MMR are important when traveling abroad. Continue reading Staying Healthy in Thailand – MORE Things to Think About
One of the nice things about travelling to Thailand is that you don’t need too many special vaccinations other than the ones that you SHOULD have already (MMR, Td, Hep A, Hep B, Varicella if you haven’t had chicken pox, and possibly meningococcus, especially if you live in dorms). Pay particular attention to make sure your tetanus-diptheria is up to date, as well as the Hep A and B series. If you need the Hep A and Hep B, get started NOW as Hep B is a 4-6 month regimen. Here is the CDC’s recommendations: