I spend all year working hard to save up for my annual holiday, and the last thing I want is for it to be blighted with health issues, especially since I’m in a different country, with doctors speaking another language and a varied standard of hospitals.
This is my guide to help you have a healthy and safe holiday:
Vaccinations and medication
Firstly, contact your doctor’s surgery and ask for advice on what vaccinations and medication they recommend you have before traveling. Make sure you do this in plenty of time prior to your departure because you do not want to be leaving it to the last minute.
Some vaccinations can have side effects – you might find you get a cold, sore throat or achy body, and you don’t want to be ill on your holiday. It’s also worth having a tetanus injection if you haven’t had one in the last ten years but make sure you always take the advice of your doctor before taking any medication.
European Health Insurance Card
Holders of a European Health Insurance Card will receive free or reduced health care during your visit to an EEA country or Switzerland. The EEA consists of the member states of the European Union plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. Switzerland is also covered with some exceptions.
The card is free and replaces the old E111 form. You can apply online, or call the EHIC Applications Line on 0845 606 2030. I received my card within 4 days of completing the form online – make sure you have your national insurance number to hand.
It is essential that you buy adequate travel insurance before you travel and make sure that you are covered for medical expenses, delays and lost luggage. If you plan to participate in skiing, water sports and other adventure activities make sure that the insurance covers you for this.
Shop around because the price for a single trip can range from £4 to £30 from my own experience. More of us are taking expensive gadgets like iPod’s on holiday so total up the cost of replacing any items that you plan to take with you, and if lost would the insurance cover the cost to replace it.
Know before you Go
Researching your holiday destination is a good idea and could save you a lot of stress. First point of call should be the Foreign, Commonwealth Office website. Read the information on your destination and check any warnings and essential telephone numbers like the local British consulate.
Use Google Maps to find the nearest hospital, chemist, doctors from the hotel and print out the map with directions. Find an online version of the local English speaking newspaper and read the news so you know what’s going on and where to avoid. Read guides on Lonely Planet and WikiTravel.
Deep Vein Thrombosis
Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) is a blood clot, or thrombus, that develops in deep veins such as those in the leg. These are most common in damaged veins, or in veins where blood flow in constricted. To avoid DVT make sure you get up from your seat occasionally and walk around to exercise your legs. Read my guide to Deep Vein Thrombosis for more information.
Do not store hand luggage in front of you as this will restrict you from moving your legs. Whilst sat in your seat try and run through some stretching exercises by moving your legs, arms and neck. Try not to stay in the same position for too long.
Coping with Jetlag
Jet lag is a condition that arises from crossing multiple time zones in a relatively short time and consequently disturbs your natural body clock or circadian rhythms. Try and get some sleep. Sleeping on-board will not only help to pass the time, but can help you feel refreshed upon arrival. Drink plenty of water.
Avoid sleeping pills at all costs. When you arrive, getting a quick nap will seem very attractive indeed – but resist this temptation. Go to bed at your normal bedtime (based on local time). This will force your body to adjust to any new time zones far quicker.
Protection from the Sun
The sun is at it’s hottest between 12noon and 3 pm so it’s best advised to stay in shade and try to keep out of the sun as much as possible. It’s a good idea to wear a hat and cover up with loose clothing, wear sunglasses with UV filters to protect your eyes.
Make sure you protect children and babies from direct sunlight, apply SPF 25 (or higher) cover their head with a hat. Drink plenty of water to balance the loss of body fluid through perspiration and avoid alcohol. If won’t have access to water for more than thirty minutes, make sure you fill up a flask of water.
Awareness of others
It doesn’t matter if I am traveling alone or with friends I always make sure that I am aware of the people around me when walking around the streets at night. I try my best to get to know the local area and appear to know where I am heading rather than wandering around looking like a lost tourist.
I remember within 10 minutes of walking outside of my hotel in Kuala Lumpur, a Malaysian man approached me, welcomed me to the city, and asked if I would like to have a chat in a local coffee shop. I politely said no because I had read a news article about the increase of tourist robberies.