Dig out your cargo shorts, lace up your hiking boots and strap on that 50 litre backpack – it’s time to do some serious travelling. Setting off on a backpacking adventure is simultaneously the most terrifying and most exciting experience you will ever have. Leaving behind the familiar surroundings of the UK and venturing through new countries, new terrains and new cultures is an act of faith in your ability to navigate and live independently. Not to mention the challenge of stuffing all your belongings into a backpack that always feels too full, but never has enough space.
Within that bag you have all your clothes and shoes, as well as electronics, books and toiletries, which inevitably means something isn’t going to fit, unless you’re a Tetris mastermind. When you’re about to hit the road for months at a time, organisation is essential, especially for health, so you have to know what you definitely need to pack and what you don’t.
First Aid Kit – Ensure everything in this kit is individually wrapped and sterile. A mini kit will be enough to see you through most situations. If you’re heading somewhere remote or mountainous make sure you’ve got an emergency foil blanket too.
Antiseptic Cream – Bites, scratches and cuts can get infected more easily in tropical climates or places with unclean water, so a tube of this can be a literal lifesaver. Try to keep any injuries clean and dry to help them heal.
Blister Care – Blisters are a traveller’s nemesis; a few hours with swollen feet thanks to the heat can give you several sore spots from even the most comfortable of shoes. Blisters not only hurt but can also get infected. Using blister pads can save a day trip or even your entire getaway.
Rehydration Sachets – Dehydration can help contribute to all sorts of illnesses. These sachets can help recovery from too much sun or even a hangover but don’t rely on them, keep hydrated at all times. Consuming rehydration sachets regularly will be a necessary part of your recovery process for any digestive issues or sickness.
Diarrhoea Treatment – Not the most fun thing to bring up, but very necessary as traveller’s tummy is a very common issue. There are many varieties available, so find which tablets best suit your destination or carry a small selection just in case.
Malaria Tablets – It is essential you find out about any tablets or injections you need about 2 months before travelling or you may not have time to be properly inoculated. Finding out if you need malaria tablets is quite straightforward, as is getting them prescribed. These are a must for the most popular tropical backpacker destinations. Don’t forget your mosquito net either!
Painkillers – Over the counter tablets will usually do the trick. We forget that most minor illnesses can be eased with simple painkillers. Those small tablets also might just tide you over long enough to find proper medical help in remote areas.
Obviously we’ve covered the things to carry with you to assist in times of need, but what about avoiding being ill in the first place? Don’t assume that the rules around food and water in one country will apply in another, or even from town to town. Find information from the internet or city guides or ask the local people or restaurants, were the best places to eat are and if the water is safe to drink.
Tap water – It’s rule number one when travelling abroad that you avoid tap water unless you are confident you’re in a country with developed infrastructure for both water and waste. You can check information that is readily available about drinking from tap water before you go, but in most cases, play it safe. Bottled water is cheap in most countries for exactly this reason.
Restaurants – A deserted restaurant or street stand is usually quiet for a reason. Find the places the locals eat as they’ll know who to trust and what’s delicious. Avoid salad and cold meats because they can harbour a lot of nasty bacteria if not stored or prepared properly which is quite common in under developed countries. Oh, and steer clear of seafood, just to be safe.
Boiled or Peeled – If you’re particularly worried about foodborne illnesses, or have a sensitive stomach when it comes to changes in your diet, stick with food that has been boiled or peeled. Germs can be killed through the cooking process and, in most cases, can’t get through fruit or vegetable peel.
We hope that you manage to stay healthy on your backpacking adventure, but if you are unfortunate enough to get sick and it lasts more than a day or two, get in contact with us and find out if you can make a holiday sickness claim. It’s important to note that we’re only able to assist if your entire trip was booked through a UK tour operator, including all-inclusive hotels or hostels.
If you found our tips for keeping healthy abroad useful and you want to keep these handy while on holiday, please download our leaflet here.