If, like me, you are embarking East on the road to travel bliss you may want to take a look at this guide on how to get your health in check before your visit to Southeast Asia. So, firstly, health requirements can differ dependent on what you want to do and where you are actually going. For example, my trip will take me through approximately eight countries and many different provinces – due to this, I had to get a few things in order before I actually boarded the plane.
General health and fitness
For most itineraries, you are going to need to have a moderate level of fitness to do what you want to do. I am generally quite active, but I upped my exercise levels a few months prior to departure. I wouldn’t want to be caught short of breath when trekking through impressive temple complexes or be unable to scuba dive! Of course, this is reliant on what you want to do. If you plan on taking motor tours everywhere, then you don’t need to worry to much. However, if you want to fit in a few mountainous hikes or bike rides you will need to get your stamina in check. This is even more vital due to the extreme heat and humidity levels in certain countries.
You don’t need to be Gordon Ramsay to know that not all street food establishments have the same degree of cleanliness that our Western immune systems are accustomed to. Check out the preparation areas before deciding on a place to eat, it really is not worth the hassle of a hospital visit due to food poisoning. Dairy products do not go through the same processes, meat can be left out in the scorching heat and vegetables can be washed with unsanitary water – be careful and wash your hands regularly.
Basically, you will drink more water over here. It is super hot. However, unlike tap water at home, this is not safe to drink and you will need to buy bottled water (around $0.50 depending on where you are). When talking about alcohol, you need to watch out for this too! Of course, enjoy a few buckets, but be mindful of unlicensed and out of date alcohol (I have fallen foul of this one).
First aid kit
I don’t want to sound like a total dweeb, but I made myself a small first aid kit. It is really tiny and takes up no room in my pack whatsoever, it was really cheap to assemble too. My kit contains:
Plasters of varying size
Blister plasters – used them all within a week, thanks Birkenstocks!
Earbuds (Q tips)
Pro Plus (caffeine tablets)
Anti diarrhoea medication
So far, I have used everything! Huge shoutout to the safety pins, you save my life and modesty on the daily.
OK. Scary word. Malaria, to me, is absolutely terrifying. There are many areas with a risk of malaria in Southeast Asia. In fact, anywhere rural or on most islands there is a risk. There are a few options for antimalarials on the market: I chose Doxycycline, a relatively new product with few side effects. It is also the cheapest option. Winner! You can also opt for Malarone or generic Malarone, both of which are very expensive and have more side effects according to the fact sheet I was provided with. My experience with Doxycycline has not been 100% positive, it has taken a few weeks to adjust to. Doxycycline is actually an antibiotic, so you are more susceptible to stomach upset. Personally, I have vomited quite a few times within one hour of taking the tablet, which is obviously not a great reaction. I have now found that if I take it along with my lunch, I suffer no negative effect.
I have had injections for the following: Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, DPT (diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus), Rabies and Japanese Encephalitis. If you are in the UK, you should be able to get Hepatitis A and DPT injections free on the NHS (pro tip!), but the rest you have to pay for. Ensure you leave enough time before you leave for the full course of the vaccine – Hepatitis B, Rabies and Japanese Encephalitis all need two or three doses spaced one month apart. It is worth mentioning that a partial course of a vaccination is so much better than no vaccine at all! I went to Boots for my injections and paid approximately £400 for my injections. You could also visit a travel clinic if you have one nearby.