I’ve been very fortunate to have travelled to many countries both for work and for my own personal enjoyment, and through those trips I have learned a lot, mostly by making mistakes and finding myself in less than comfortable situations.
Recently I got to spend a few weeks in Kenya helping out at a course where I taught basic medicine and trauma care. Mostly I was there to drink Tuskers and fix any of our guys that got broken. Within 72 hrs hours the first guy went down with a pretty gnarly stomach bug. He was losing it out of both ends at a pretty good rate so I hooked him up with an IV, a bunch of fluids, antibiotics and meds for the nausea/vomiting and diarrhea. He was back to 100% in a few days.
I was doing all the right things, I used bottled water when I brushed my teeth, I constantly washed my hands, and I stayed away from fruits and vegetables in town, but despite my good habits my lack of self control kicked in and I couldn’t resist the smell coming from a plate of meat one of the waiters was walking around with. It looked like “street meat,” but I figured I would be ok so I ordered it and crushed it without regret. Around 4am my body decided to perform an exorcism and I spent a majority of the day embracing my toilet and feeling sorry for myself.
The next day when I showed up to class many of the students were laughing and pointing at me, one of the students finally said “You eat the Kebab, yeah? Don’t eat the kebab,” he then begin laughing, shaking his head and repeating, “Don’t eat the kebab.” By “Kebab,” I guess he meant meat of an unknown origin.
After that I sat down with a group of the students and found out where to eat, what to avoid, and in general how to have a good time in Kenya. If you’ve never been, Kenya is a beautiful country with mountains to climb, national parks to explore and safaris to go on.
#1- Do Your Research: I’ve always tried to live and travel spontaneously, however, I married a planner and we don’t always see eye to eye. For instance on our honeymoon I didn’t plan very well and we spent quite a few stressed out days, running around Italy, trying to catch trains and find hotels. For our last vacation we both planned it together, purposefully leaving a few days for spontaneous outings. It worked out great.
-Talk to your friends and others who have travelled.
-Use the Internet to find deals, packages, reviews etc…
-Frommer’s is a great resource, check out their website frommers.com we used one their guide books in the Caribbean and it had a lot of useful tips.
-Make friends with the locals and get their advice.
-Tip your bartender very well. This should be a rule in general, but many bartenders in tourist spots get really annoyed by the hoards of inconsiderate tourist. Tip them well and they may give you good tips.
#2- Know Where The Local Hospital/Embassy is & try to find their numbers: If you do get sick or hurt, it is important you know where to go and how to get there. In foreign countries the Embassy(http://www.usembassy.gov) is your best bet if you get into trouble I.e, your passport and money gets stolen.
#3- Medical Advice: If you’re in the rougher parts of the world you might want to try and treat your basic illnesses on your own before braving the local hospital. Research what the common illnesses are and get your shots before you travel. Here’s what I suggest you bring.* follow all advice on the packaging of medications and consult a doctor or nurse hotline if you have any questions.
-Hand sanitizer…carry it everywhere and use it often, wash your hands as much as possible.
-Imodium: good for stopping diarrhea, you don’t want to be running around in a market trying to find a toilet. Trust me!
-Antibiotics. Try and bring antibiotics with you. Consult your doctor before you travel and see if they can prescribe you antibiotics. You’ll especially want to get Malaria prophylactic drugs if you are traveling to an at risk place.
-Tylenol: it treats minor aches and pains and reduces fevers.
-Pepto Bismol: this pink goodness can be a real life saver when you inevitably have stomach issues.
-Bottled Water: Hydration is key! If you can’t trust the water buy lots of bottled water and stay hydrated. If you do have diarrhea/vomiting you will become very dehydrated.
-Wet Wipes: for when the inevitable happens.
#4- Have A Working Phone: Spend the money, that is the bottom line. Either set your phone up on a global plan or buy a burner phone. Get calling cards, etc… I’ve been rocking a basic Nokia phone and the battery last for days. You may not be able to post selfies, but you can certainly call cabs, hotels and the Embassy(put that number in your phone!!)
#5- Do Some More Research: In the sketchier parts of the world where vacations can not only be awesome but cheap it is important to understand the culture you are going to be vacationing in.
-Find out the customs and courtesies of the locals.
-Learn a few basic phrases, especially “please,” and “thank you.”
-Buy a phrase book or download an app.
-Know where to go and where NOT to go before you get there.
-Play the “what if” game and know what you will try and do when things go wrong.
-Stuff happens, it’s half the fun of traveling.
-Try to blend in. Obviously, this can be difficult. What I mean is try not to look like the lost tourist waiting to get pick-pocketed. Figure out what people generally wear, don’t be the only person in shorts and flip-flops if everyone is wearing pants and shoes.
I hope you found these tips useful!