Life happens even when you’re traveling. Safety precautions apply whether you’re going to the mountains in Bolivia, the beaches of Thailand, cities in Europe or jungles in Africa. Don’t let illness ruin your travel plans. Trippy user Jenn from Boston knew that when she asked:
What to avoid to minimize the chance for illness? Visiting Thailand for the first time. What recommendations do you have for avoiding illnesses? Do I really need to avoid all water and fruit?
I am going to Peru in a few months and worrying about Altitude Sickness when in there. I live by the seaside; I had never been at altitudes as high as Cusco. Have you experienced Altitude Sickness when in Peru? How do I prevent it?
Here are 15 things to avoid when traveling to minimize your chance of illness:
1. Drinking water
Walker from Seattle wrote this about water in Thailand:
Wash your hands often! Bring your own water bottle, buy the big jugs of water and refill from there for your daily wanderings. There are the bottle-less vending machines also to refill your water bottle at. Did I mention it is a good idea to wash your hands often…? Happy Travels!
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a complete list of destinations where you can check if tap water is safe to drink. For example, Thailand, according to CDC:
Don’t drink tap or well water; ice made with tap or well water and drinks made with tap or well water.
Usually, hotel staff will let you know if tap water is safe to drink. But when in doubt, don’t drink it. Buy bottled water to stay hydrated and healthy.
2. Cut fruits and uncooked vegetables
Bart from New York City shared this:
Maybe avoid raw leafy greens, as they may be washed with sub-par water, but no problem with fruit, especially peel-able fruit.
Don’t eat cut fruits and uncooked vegetables (salads) when traveling to destinations where the tap water is questionable. Look for fruits with a heavy peel like oranges and bananas.
Janelle from Charleston wrote:
Stick to the old adage “if you can peel it, then you can eat it.” Bananas and oranges are good, lettuce, and strawberries bad.
Another traveler Phyllis didn’t have any problems when eating cut fruits. She shared her experience:
We ate fruit the entire time in SE Asia and never had any problems. The pineapple is SO good! Regarding street food, we followed the advice to always eat hot food and go where there is a line. This served us well. The only time we experienced a problem was in Luang Prabang, Laos when we did not heed that advice and ate from a buffet which came highly recommended. 500 mg of Cipro, twice daily for five days cured that mistake. You should travel with Cipro (just in case!) which is readily available at any pharmacist in Thailand as a bad stomach is probably not a matter of if, but rather when. Don’t fear the food just eat responsibly!
3. Raw foods including raw eggs
Avoid eating raw fish or raw eggs, and avoid smoothies, freshly mixed fruit juices, and ice. Order your meat well done.
CDC recommended all travelers to avoid raw or soft-cooked (runny) eggs, raw or undercooked (rare) meat or fish. So avoid raw, undercooked eggs, seafood, poultry, and meat.
4. Doing too much while acclimatizing to high altitude
Our bodies need to make adjustments at altitudes above 8,000 feet when there is less oxygen in the air. Altitude sickness can happen because when your body doesn’t have enough time to adjust to the lower oxygen level and lower air pressure. So avoid doing too much when you arrive. Take it easy on the first day or two to acclimatize said Alex from London. Here’s what she said:
The best thing to do is give yourself time to acclimatize. Take the first day in Cusco slow, give it a day or two before trying any hiking (Inca trail) — you can always explore other sites in the Valle Sagrado like Maras, Moray, Ollantaytambo, etc. I did experience altitude sickness — it was worse in Puno — but Cusco was my last destination, so I was more used to it. Mild symptoms were constant short breath (that never stopped), and the worse was hyped heartbeat and sudden dizziness. People advised me not to eat meat or heavy foods on the first two days, but I started in Arequipa, a city known for its culinary traditions, so I never followed that rule and didn’t get any nausea. One thing I did do that helped ALOT was drink loads of muna (mint) tea. I also carried muna leaves (or picked them out wild from trails) when going hiking, smelling the crushed leaves made me feel much better and ‘cured’ my dizzyness. Different people react to altitude in different ways; it doesn’t have much to do with how ‘fit’ you are. So my advice is to take it slow and let your breathing get accustomed. Your body should give you the signals (easy breath, normal heartbeat) when you are ready to speed it up.
5. Creepy crawlies
Bugs (like mosquitoes, ticks, and fleas) can spread a number of diseases in Tanzania. Many of these diseases cannot be prevented with a vaccine or medicine. You can reduce your risk by taking steps to prevent bug bites.
Here are steps to prevent bug bites recommended by the CDC:
- Cover exposed skin by wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and hats
- Use insect repellent
- Use permethrin-treated clothing and gear (such as boots, pants, socks, and tents). Do not use permethrin directly on the skin
- Stay and sleep in air-conditioned or screened rooms
- Use a bed net if the area where you are sleeping is exposed to the outdoors
Generally speaking, whenever you are in wilderness areas, never place your hands or feet where you cannot see first. Rattlesnakes, scorpions, or black widow spiders may be sheltered there.
6. Certain street foods
Avoid prepared foods left out for hours without refrigeration. Trippy users, Janelle and Phyllis, shared their thoughts on street food:
If you’re into street food, try to stick to the vendors that have long lines of locals. That ensures the food is cooked to order and not left sitting out for long.
Regarding street food, we followed the advice to always eat hot food and go where there is a line. This served us well. The only time we experienced a problem was in Luang Prabang, Laos when we did not heed that advice and ate from a buffet which came highly recommended. 500 mg of Cipro, twice daily for five days cured that mistake. 😉 btw, you should travel with Cipro (just in case!) which is readily available at any pharmacist in Thailand as a bad stomach is probably not a matter of if, but rather when. Don’t fear the food just eat responsibly!
7. Lack of sleep
Sleep deprivation has many bad effects on our body, namely mood swings, fatigue, lack of motivation, lower level of alertness, and weaken the immune system. Have enough sleep and get more energy so you can make the most of your trip.
8. Accessive alcohol
According to an article on Fox News, Beware of drinking alcohol abroad, tainted drinks are a threat to tourists. Authorities found that unlabelled, expired alcohol and unsanitary practices at a bar in Mexico may have been the course of death of a tourist. It’s best to drink in moderation, ask the bartender to mix the drink in front of you and stick to a brand you know.
Do remember not to drink excessively. Too many drinks will lead to more harm than good.
9. Touching things
The best way to reduce your exposure to germs is to avoid touching things. But in the real world, you can’t avoid touching doorknobs, counters, chair rails, and more. The CDC listed these tips to avoid getting sick:
Wash your hands often, especially before eating. If soap and water aren’t available, clean hands with hand sanitizer (containing at least 60% alcohol).
10. Touching your face
Don’t touch your eyes, nose, or mouth. Germs can get into the body through the mouth, nose, eyes, and cuts (skin). Bring hand sanitizers and keep your hands clean.
11. Countries with disease outbreaks
The World Health Organization (WHO) and CDC have an updated list of countries with disease outbreaks. It’s best to avoid those countries. For example, in Venezuela, infectious diseases are on the rise, and in the last year, there have been over 1,000 cases of measles, and 1,600 suspected cases of diphtheria.
12. Swimming in dirty water
If you’re swimming in lakes, streams, rivers or canals, don’t swallow the water. Never swim in lakes or rivers after a heavy downpour as it may be contaminated with sewage, animal feces, urine or wastewater. According to CDC, schistosomiasis is common in freshwater streams, canal, and lakes in the Caribbean, South America, Africa, and Asia.
Janelle, a Trippy user, warned about swimming pools as well:
Don’t swim in the hotel pool. Public pools are unsanitary, no matter where you go.
But Andrey from Honolulu replied:
You should be fine:) It’s all overblown IMO. It’s impossible to totally avoid city water. Things like brushing your teeth, ice cubes, etc. will happen almost without you knowing. I didn’t eat many raw veggies there, but fruit was no problem at all.
13. Ice cubes and fresh juice
In my travels, ice cubes and fresh juices were the culprits for diarrhea and discomfort. CDC issued this warning:
Juice that was squeezed by unknown hands may be risky. The same goes for ice pops and other treats that are made from freshly squeezed juice.
14. Getting tattoos and hennas
FDA stated getting a tattoo can put you at risk for serious infections like HIV or hepatitis if you are exposed to unclean tools, practices, or products.
Tattoo inks may cause allergy or bad reactions. And inks may be contaminated with microorganisms too.
15. Being worried
Worry and stress will make you sick. Kim from Canada, a solo traveler, had these thoughts about travel highs and lows:
1.) Traveling solo has taught me that I need people. As much as I want to think of myself as a strong independent woman who can handle anything on my own, my life is richer and more meaningful because of my friends and family.
2.) Magical moments can be found all over the world in the most mundane situations if you open your eyes and witness.
3.) I am capable of so much if I only challenge myself. Travelling is full of high highs, and low lows and the experiences stretch me to be a more authentic version of myself.