This post was first posted on July 9, 2012.
As the height of the summer holidays approaches, International SOS compiles six pieces of advice every traveler should read before setting off.
“At International SOS, we receive and respond to thousands of calls each day through our 27 assistance centers around the globe. Depending on the season and destination, we see certain issues that are more prevalent,” says Dr. Craig Stark, regional medical director for China and remote territories at International SOS.
“[During] the summer holiday period, many of our members take trips further from home – often to unfamiliar or remote destinations – where they tend to spend more time outdoors. During this busy time of year, extra vigilance and advanced planning can go a long way towards avoiding and preventing common summer travel pitfalls,” he adds.
While each destination has its own set of unique challenges, the following tips are applicable to most international travel locations:
- Don’t wait with health concerns. In some locations, especially more remote ones, it can take hours or days to locate and travel to an appropriate medical treatment center. When you are in unfamiliar territory, you can’t afford to wait and see if a problem worsens. Travelers should act at the first sign of a health issue and seek help through a travel assistance provider or local resource as soon as possible. International SOS members should call their assistance center number immediately.
- Test the waters. Each summer, International SOS sees an uptake in water-related accidents and illness. When swimming, remember that the water does not need to be very deep to cause trouble. Swift currents, rocks, tree branches and other submerged objects can cause serious bodily harm. Cold water can also be extremely dangerous, causing hypothermia even in hot weather. When combined with alcohol consumption and an unfamiliar environment, the dangers mount significantly. When it comes to consuming liquids (from tap water to ice cubes), be sure to familiarize yourself with the country’s water safety recommendations to avoid illness, and – when in doubt – stick to sealed bottled water.
- Mind the bite. Bites and scratches from animals and insects – including dogs, cats, monkeys, bats and mosquitoes – can cause major issues for travelers, so make sure you have had the necessary medications and injections to protect you before you travel. Keep your distance from animals when traveling and avoid the temptation to pet them, no matter how cute they may be. For travelers with severe allergies, be sure to carry a fresh epinephrine injection provided by your doctor for immediate response to a foreign bite.
- Manage your medications. When traveling, carry a copy of any prescriptions written by your doctor and keep all medications in their original containers with labels intact. Note that some medications must be kept within a certain temperature range; avoid leaving these prescriptions in a hot luggage compartment or car trunk. Bring at least a week’s worth of extra doses of any medication you take regularly to avoid running out if you are sidelined by an extended travel delay.
- Take care of your skin. One of the quickest and most damaging injuries affecting travelers is sunburn, particularly in destinations close to the Equator, where the sun is strongest. Exposed and unprotected skin can burn in as little as 15 minutes, and those burns can become quite severe. A sunscreen with an SPF of 45 and over is recommended, as is limiting time spent in direct sun light – particularly during peak hours (10am to 3pm). Re-apply sunscreen often, particularly after enjoying a dip in the pool or ocean.
- Stay safe. Many countries are facing rising levels of economic pressure and, as a result, there have been some reports of increasing instances of opportunistic street crime targeting foreign travelers. Travelers should be particularly aware of low-level scams at airports or railway stations, attempted over-charging by taxis, pickpocketing and attempted theft or manipulation of credit card details. Constraints on government spending have also led to mounting tensions and there have been numerous strikes in countries, including Greece, France, Spain, Italy, Bulgaria, and Hungary. Strikes can occur with little or no notice and may result in scale backs or closures of public transportation. Prepare for a worst case scenario by researching ways to get around in the event of a shutdown.
These tips are courtesy of International SOS.
Photo courtesy of Per.Olesen (Flickr)