When deciding to travel Asia, we figured five months would be the perfect amount of time to explore. Not wanting to be unprepared, we decided to expertly search the web for the perfect backpacking accessories and travel gear.
Overall, I think we did a good job, but I also think you learn trial by error. Hopefully some of our mistakes and packing gear will help you prepare for traveling Asia.
When I was traveling in my early 20’s it was to “find myself, to meet other backpackers, and to explore.”
Now, I usually travel in the off-season to avoid crowds and lines. It’s also more important for me to visit more rural countries and meet locals instead of drunk backpackers. As for travel gear, I realized I value quality over quantity.
Please be aware there are some Amazon affiliate links in this post. If you purchase something through the link, at no additional cost to you, I get a small commission that keeps me traveling.
In this blog post I want to talk about health and planning tips before long-term travel through Asia:
- Pre-departure dieting for UC
- Top 2 when choosing a travel insurance company
- Shots & Inoculations for Asia
- The lady stuff
Pre-Departure Dieting: Ulcerative Colitis
Sorry mom and dad, neither of us have medical insurance because we left our jobs. Because of this my biggest concern was my ulcerative colitis (see blog post here). I have been on medication on and off for nearly 10 years so I knew I had to prepare differently.
The most important was to ensure I was stable off my medication before losing my health insurance. Approximately 3-4 months before our first flight overseas I became medication independent and turned vegetarian.
Well, I am 97% vegetarian. The 3% is for the slips and the few times I eat fish or meat.
[Sri Lanka is an amazing country to travel and feel healthy especially for a vegetarian/vegan. Highly recommended for the active traveler and health nut, read my post here.]
As a precautionary to anyone who has UC, be aware that if needed steroids are readily found at most pharmacies in Thailand. This leads to the most important pre-departure prep…
When you hover close to 30-years old, you start thinking about what could happen. And therefore, health insurance becomes more important.
For three years I sold travel insurance for my job. After loads of research these are what I consider to be the most important when deciding what coverage to choose:
A lot of insurances are secondary – meaning if you are injured on your trip they will pay your expenses abroad. However, once you are in your home country they stop coverage and let your primary insurer kick in. Since I don’t have a primary health insurance it was important for me to find a provider who will get me home and continue coverage.
I checked WorldNomads, InsureMyTrip, and TripMate, but the only coverage I found that acts as primary coverage is: Travelex Insurance
If you are on a backpacking trip or guided tour and [for example] there is medical emergency for a family member at home. What happens? Your trip is interrupted. Meaning you will need to go home.
So, what if you’ve already paid for flights and hotels? How much will you will be reimbursed for the interruption? I always ensure my provider covers 150%. Personally, I don’t believe 100% is sufficient because there will be unavoidable expenses for the interruption. You will need a flight home, maybe a hotel, etc. Thus, make sure you are covered for 150%.
Shots and Inoculations for South East Asia
Since I have an auto-immune disease I am a teeny bit over-cautious. The technical term is a hypochondriac.
Go to your PCP and check with the local travel clinic before you leave, follow your providers suggestions. I recommend calling your primary health insurance first because they actually cover some vaccines.
For travel to South East Asia a ton was recommended. Below is a short list of recommendations, estimated costs, and in bold what I ended up getting or had:
- Hep A & B
- Typhoid Fever ($120)
- Malarial medication ($75-250)
- Japanese encephalitis ($450 – 1,000) – (16 USD in Bangkok, Thailand)
- Diarrhea medication/Imodium (under $10 – also cheaper in Asia)
- Bug spray with Deet or Citronella ($3-7)
- Sunscreen (I counted this because it’s often expensive overseas)
Although I did purchase Imodium from the clinic Thai people swear by a natural remedy: charcoal pills. Plus, they are only $1.15 for a 10 pack.
Dengue fever is common in Sri Lanka and Myanmar, so bug spray is a must! Citronella works just fine.
Japanese encephalitis: Through a friend of mine, I found out that the Thai Travel Clinic you can get the Japanese encephalitis inoculation for under 500 thb. That’s about $15, so if you would rather get it — go to Bangkok and save some cash. It’s an outrageous cost back home.
It shouldn’t take more than an hour of your time. The shot itself has a two-week incubation period, so after two weeks you’ll be immune. They use a live vaccine so we only need one shot versus multiple in the USA. Visit CuriousKGo’s WordPress for travel tips here
The Lady Stuff:
I switched from the pill to Nexplanon and it’s been smooth sailing ever since. This way I don’t have to carry pills with me or worry about my health insurance paying for it. The downside: in the beginning my period was sporadic because Nexplanon has less estrogen than the pill. I am now taking Pueraria Mirifica [wiki description here] and my period is back to normal, we are A-OK!
My friends use the diva cup, it’s reusable, it’s eco-friendly, doesn’t take up too much space in a 65L bag, and you don’t have to spend time or money looking for tampons every month. I haven’t tried it yet, but it’s looking more appealing the longer I travel.
Also — if it’s affordable to you, I recommend looking at organic tampons, panty liners and pads. You should know what’s going into the most intimate part of your body!
When I left to go overseas in 2012, I didn’t get any shots. I also didn’t carry insect repellant and my backpacking bag was from the 70’s. If you are going overseas it’s important to plan ahead at lease the important stuff.
Also, be aware of your imprint while traveling. I highly recommend buying a reusable straw, especially for South East Asia. And just think about what you want on your body, DEET or citronella? Be aware of the products you are using, weigh cost over effect.
If you think more could be added or taken out, please leave suggestions below.
What would you recommend adding to your bag when backpacking Asia?
If you’d like to see what gear is in my backpack click here.
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