Travelling to Southeast Asia: 4 tips to stay healthy during the trip

Travel in Southeast Asia

Whether they are backpackers on a trip or businessmen reaching the growing opportunities offered by the region, the number of visitors in Southeast Asia is growing. Among the checklist before taking the big step lies the anticipation of health issues. Here are the steps to check before getting on the plane.

Travel vaccinations

Travelling in Asia requires anticipating the change of environment and getting vaccinated is one of the first things to do. If some vaccines can be done the day before leaving (Hepatitis A for instance), others require a longer period of adjustment (Japanese Encephalitis: 10 days). Depending on the parts of Southeast Asia visited, the required vaccines are not the same. Here is a list of the most common:

  • Diphteria, Pertussis, Tetanus (« DPT»)
  • Hepatitis A
  • Japanese Encephalitis

Once the destination is chosen, the Pasteur Institute website provides an updated map of the suggested and mandatory vaccines in the country.

As for the cost, it varies depending on the country you are currently living in and the optional vaccinations you want. In any case, it is highly recommended to get in touch with a general practitioner four to six weeks before the departure. For further information: Trips and vaccines: what to look for.

Preventing the risks of Malaria

Some regions in Southeast Asia are affected by malaria. This life-threatening disease is caused by parasites that are transmitted to humans through mosquito bites.
Even though there is currently no vaccine, numerous precautions may be taken while preparing the trip (for more details: Traveling to a country where Malaria is a risk).
Once again, visit the Pasteur Institute website in order to apprehend the risks in the country you’re traveling to. For even more accurate information, and because the risks increase during the wet season, it is recommended to contact local people before reaching your destination.

The possible precautions in the absence of vaccine

Providing a valid prescription, anti-malarial medications can be purchased prior to the trip. This preventive treatment, particularly needed if you’re heading to rural areas, can be very expensive. It may be a clever move to opt for generic drugs.
Whether you take the preventing treatment or not, when you’re in a risk zone, you should:

  • Wear long sleeves and full-length pants;
  • Spray clothes with insect-repellent;
  • Stay away from places where water is stagnating.

The right behaviours to adopt

Southeast Asia contains specific health risks other than malaria. Therefore, you will need to adapt your daily practices, especially the ones regarding food and water consumption.

Avoiding food and water risks

Southeast Asia has its own climate which causes a lot of medical complications. It is recommended to stay hydrated in this region where the combination of heat and humidity is the source of numerous diseases. On that issue, what may sound obvious but is often forgotten during the trip is to avoid non-drinkable water. Be particularly cautious with ice cubes, brushing your teeth or even washing your food with tap water.

Diarrhoea and stomach aches are frequently striking travellers going to Southeast Asia. While it may be caused by the local culinary specificities, you can prevent it with simple behaviours. For instance, avoid produces that are not cooked or fruits that are not peeled. You should also avoid getting your food from completely empty street stalls.

Finally, to rapidly manage gastro-types illness, adapt accordingly your first-aid kit with treatments against diarrhoea and stomach upsets.

Health documents

It is highly recommended to carry with you your personal health documents. This way, if you have a health trouble or simply if it is required at the airport, keep the following documents close:

  • Your international immunization record;
  • A letter from your doctor detailing your medication, what it is for and that it is for personal use.

Subscribe to a health insurance

Expats are strongly advised to take out a health insurance. The extremely high costs generated by health issues may lead to a great amount of difficulties.
In order to cover for health related costs and more specifically medical evacuation in the event of serious illness or injury, take a look at our health insurance.

Date of publication Aug 22 2016