Thursday, July 30, 2009

Around the World Travel Guide Part 8 [Medical Requirements / Travel Insurance]

Helpful Tips for Planning a Year Long Trip Around the World Part 8
[Medical Requirements]

You think you’re ready to go around the world, and that’s just great. That’s super. But have you been to see a doctor yet? No. Well you really should. Sure your body is great at fighting off all of the diseases that you encounter on a regular basis, but outside of your own country things can change pretty fast.

There are a number of things that you need to be aware of. This is by no means a comprehensive list of diseases you should look out for, but it is a good starting point, and you’ll be pointed in the right direction for further research. Be sure to ask your travel doctor for further information (yes, travel doctors cost more money – but they specialize in the field. Your doctor may be great at soar throats or achy knees, but when was the last time he looked up on Myanmar’s health requirements? Go to someone who knows.)

Links for the following are taken from the CDC Yellow Book (available free online.)

Hepatitis A / B
You should inoculate yourself against both Hepatitis A / B as soon as you can. This normally requires two or three needles taken a few months apart. The first needle will protect you for a year, but if you get the second you’re secure for life. A number of doctors complain about people not returning for the second, which almost makes it a waste to get the first shot. Even countries like Canada are prone to Hep A and Hep B. Ice cubes, spa tools, and any number of other items can infect you.

Yellow Fever

Getting your yellow fever jab isn’t just important, it’s an entry requirement for some countries. This is mostly found in central Africa, and South America. If you’re in a yellow fever zone, playing the odds is not a good idea. Again, if you’re travelling from an infected zone into some countries you will need to prove that you have had your jabs, just to get out of the airport.

Japanese Encephalitis
From India, through South East Asia, up to the Russian border, this is prominent. Though it mostly affects children anyone can become infected. This can be a seasonal disease, and as such you should ask your travel doctor just how much of a threat it will be for your travels.

If you’re travelling through rural areas, or any environment where there are a number of wild animals you need to be careful about rabies. Often in the western world people get a rabies shot after they have been bitten – but can you be sure of quick hospital access when you’re on the road?


Malaria is a tricky little bugger. Once you get it, you’ve got it. And, upsettingly, it’s pretty easy to avoid. You just need to take pills. A lot of pills. And they vary depending on where you travel to. The malaria pills for South America may not be the same ones you need for Africa. The virus is constantly changing. It is transmitted by mosquitoes, so wearing long clothes, and covering yourself in DEET is a great preventative method, but they should not be used to replace the pills.

Remember, most pills need to be taken for four weeks after leaving the infected zone. If you take them for two weeks after leaving, think you feel fine, and stop taking them – you are subject to malaria. Do not take chances with your health.

Travel Insurance
Travel Insurance is the way to make sure you won’t risk your health on the road. If you’re leaving for a one year trip, World Nomads is the company to go through. They offer good coverage at a low cost (relatively speaking, of course.) They cover lost / stolen luggage, as well as trip cancellation. They also, of course, cover your medical, expenses. And since most of their information is available over the internet, filing a claim is easy.

Some credit cards, or CAA / AAA offer insurance as well. I would recommend World Nomads however, as they specialize in people taking one year trips. Just make sure you have the proper requirements for long coverage. For example, in Ontario, Canada you need to request out of country OHIP coverage to quality for travel insurance.

Next Up:
You’re all set to go, but you need to leave everyone else behind. They’re jealous, or they’re excited, or their terrified. How do you deal with all that emotion all at once? And how will you stay connected once you’ve got your pack on your back, and you’re trekking around the world?

Jump to other Parts
0. Index / Summary
1. Planning Destinations
2. Budget / Culling
3. Hotels vs Hostels
4. Internet Research
5. Tour Groups / Solo Travel
6. Important Travel Gear
7. Packs / Packing
8. Medical Requirements
9. Saying Goodbye / Staying Connected
10. No Fear Travel
Bonus: Overlooked Travel Tips and Tricks


  1. Just to add a couple of points regarding malaria, as it was something that I had prepare for prior to my departure to Ghana. There are only a couple strains of malaria are the type that permanently reside in the liver, so it's not necessarily always a permanent infection. As for the pills/prophylaxis, they don't actually prevent malaria outright, but keep it from killing you (from becoming cerebral malaria) and allows you more time to seek proper treatment. From other volunteers doing development work who had been in Ghana for more than a year, it wasn't a question of if you would get infected, but when.

    As you mentioned, long clothing and DEET are good preventative measures. I would also add treated mosquito nets to that list.

    As well, I would suggest scheduling an appointment with a tropical disease clinic once you're back. Sometimes there may be no obvious symptoms of things like worms.

    Best of luck in your preparations!

  2. Jason: I thought that was the case with Malaria pills too - that they just kept it from killing you. However, when I talked to my travel doctor I was told that Doxy (one of the many pills out there) actually prevents you from becomming infected.

  3. I guess different doctors have different opinions. My travel doctor cautioned that no anti-malarials were 100% effective and suggested a few different options. In the end, I opted for Malarone after speaking with a co-worker who had lived overseas for several years and had been infected with malaria despite the Doxy.

  4. No - nothing is 100% though. Isn't Malarone the one that causes psychosis? The people I know who have become infected, and there are a few, all stopped taking their pills about 2 weeks after they left the Malarial zone, or ran out and just thought "forget about it." The people who have taken the pills for the full 4 weeks after leaving the zone have all been fine though. There's a lot of a chance involved i'm sure.

  5. Lariam / Mefloquine is the one that is known to cause nightmares and trigger other things. My roommate had pretty trippy dreams with that one. Malarone would be an exception - just one week after leaving.

  6. Hello, I love your site. It has been very helpful to me and my planning.
    I am leaving on my year long trip Jan 16, 2010.
    Does World Nomads cover you for a 12 months period? All other palces I contact only do 6 months. I found 1 copany (BCO) that did cover for a full year but they said that I had to contact OHIP and put of card on hold/exteneded absence (I live in Toronto) in order to get the coverage? Did anyone else do this?

  7. you do have to contact ohip - whatever you do. World Nomads is 6months first, then you can extend it to cover as long as you need.

    OHIP will hook you up with 2 years of out of country coverage once every 5 years, I believe it is.

  8. Remote areas are scary. There was a reporter here that went into a remote village to cover news about a mysterious disease that's taking the lives of the people. Little did he know that it was a different type of malaria. It killed him later on and almost took the life of his camera man. So it is best to know the diseases that are common to that area, just like what you did in the post, great work.
    Medical practitioners need not to worry with travel concerns give it to the medical alliance they would be glad to help.


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