So you’ve booked your flight, googled all the best places to go and now it’s time to investigate vaccinations, travel insurance and packing. In that order.
Different parts of the world require you to take different precautions – the yellow fever jab I had to have to enter Ghana has not been required at any of my other destinations, for example- and the best way to get yourself covered is by visiting your nearest travel clinic or requesting a specific travel consultation at your regular GP. Some jabs require multiple doses over several months, so try and sort them as soon as you can!
While some travellers choose to travel without vaccinations, I’d recommend having the suggested shots rather than risking a bout of typhoid on your trip. Typhoid is a real buzz kill.
For Southeast Asia, you’re probably looking at hep A&B, typhoid and the diptheria, tetanus and polio combined jab. Rabies shots may be worthwhile if you’re working with animals or staying far from civilisation- these jabs will buy you extra time to get to hospital if you are bitten. Malaria tablets are also recommended for some areas, but taking a mosquito net and a heavy duty mosquito repellent will usually do the trick as far as places like Thailand and Vietnam are concerned.
Hep A&B, typhoid and the diptheria tetanus&polio jab are available free on the NHS. Other jabs are not, but don’t fork out hundreds at private clinics when you could save your money for japanese encephalitis, rabies and other such treats.
Next up: travel insurance. This is a no-brainer. Whether you’re mad enough to ride a scooter in countries with insane traffic, you like to run with scissors or you’re just the kind of person to get bitten by a bug carrying dengue fever, get some bloody insurance.
You can get cheap backpacker policies, single trip or annual scenarios and even when you choose an option that covers white water rafting, tubing, elephant riding, rock climbing etc etc etc you can still get insured for vastly less than medical care will cost you if you get into a sticky situation. I’ve used Go Walkabout before and this time I’m covered with insure&go – I spent less than forty quid on 4 months comprehensive cover, and if I die then at least somebody ends up a millionaire!
Shop around and find the best deal for you, but never ever set off without insurance.
Last up: packing. Remember you’re going to have to carry all this around with you. And you’re going to buy elephant pants and chang vests and fake havaiana flip flops. Pack as little as possible.
Suncream, mosquito repellent, pants, a toothbrush. These are things you shouldn’t leave without. Spare trainers (one pair is more than enough) 20 different outfit choices and a hairdryer …. these are not essentials. I met girls in Ghana who had packed stiletto heels and an iron. A f*cking iron. Don’t do this to yourself.
Get suncream that isn’t a waste of time (factor 30 or 50) and get a mosquito repellent that contains DEET (jungle formula do a 50% spray, although Boots own brand ‘extreme’ repellent is also great). An afterbite stick or cream in your first aid kid wouldn’t be a bad shout either.
Print copies of your flight plans, take photocopies of your passport, pack a padlock or two for securing lockers in hostels and a moneybelt for when you’re on the move. I always take a spare phone – something worth no more than a tenner – incase mine gets stolen.
I travel with a backpack that is either 45 or 50 litres (I can’t remember, whatever) and I always set off with plenty of space inside it. If you take an 80 litre bag and fill it, you’ll do what everyone else does which is have sore shoulders, tired arms and a constant trail of clothes left behind at every hostel you visit. Whatever amount of clothing you think you need, halve it. Anything you’re missing can be easily and cheaply bought at your chosen destination.
So now you’re jabbed, insured and packed- time to unpack and repack and unpack and repack and spend the rest of your time googling things to do when you arrive!