When you leave familiar shores behind and travel in the tropics, the first thing that strikes you is the extreme contrast in almost everything. People, climate, sights, sounds, streets, and even the sky and the moon look different. Next stop, Mars? First timers can take considerable time to unbefuddle their senses. And then it becomes a race to take in as much of the new experiences as possible in the comparatively short time at hand. In this mad rush make sure you don’t fall victim to a range of hazards that may easily be avoided with a little bit of common sense and some precautions.
First and foremost, travel in the tropics means you’re basking under the glorious warmth of a stronger sun than you’re used to. As you revel in that gorgeous tan you’re developing, it is worth remembering to take precautions against sun burn and dehydration. Carry your sun block and drinking water around wherever you go, and not just when you’re at the beach. Dress in cool cottons to keep the humidity at bay, and wear a hat and sunglasses.
While swimming in the sea, watch out for jelly fish stings and other similar hazards that can put a damper on your holiday cheer. If you discover a seemingly idyllic and deserted beach where the sea appears calm, think twice, thrice or more before you dive in. Some areas have strong undercurrents that just might send you on your last vacation in the sky. Always get enough information from local authorities about the best and safest places to bathe before deciding to strike out on your own, whether it’s for a swim or a hike.
Eating out is an exciting adventure when travelling in the tropics. Strange cuisines ranging from fragrant to the grotesque tempt and dare your palate into trying things you normally would beat away with a stick. Well, you’re on holiday and it’s only natural to want to try anything once. This could result in anything from irritable bowel syndrome to Delhi belly. Well, now would be a good time to remind you to carry toilet tissue with you if you intend to be away from your hotel for a long time. Most toilets, especially in rural areas, do not stock tissue and you can save yourself tonnes of embarrassment if you have some with you!
You don’t have to have something exotic to upset your stomach; even a mundane salad or iced drink can make you double over from bacteria in contaminated water. Avoid salads and ice unless you’re sure of the source. Wash all fresh fruits thoroughly or better yet, eat only what you can peel. Make sure you carry medication for holiday tummy or food poisoning recommended by your doctor at home. Drinking from the tap is not an option in most countries. It’s safer to carry your trusty brand of bottled water with you from your hotel if you intend to be out all day.
Mosquito repellents and bug sprays are a must when travelling in the tropics. Consult your doctor about the need for malaria vaccinations before you set out. While in the tropics try and stay indoors during late evenings when the mosquitoes swarm around. Shut doors and windows or use screens if they are available. You’ll be better off in the hilly areas where you get to enjoy all the benefits of tropical countries without the hassle of blood sucking insects.
Before travelling to the tropics, discuss with your travel agent and your doctor, the need for certain immunizations such as yellow fever, depending on the area you’re travelling to and general ones such as tetanus shots. Some countries require mandatory shots, while others don’t seem to stress the need for any. Consult your doctor about the need for rabies shots if you intend to travel to remote areas or be in contact with animals. It would be in your interests, especially if travelling with kids, to check what applies to you.
Carry your own stock of first aid supplies including pain killers, band aids, disinfectants and even sterile disposable needles in case you need an injection are a good idea if you intend visiting remote areas. Make sure you get up to date information about seasonal viruses that are about at your tropical destination. Get authentic information about occasional health hazards such as bird flu, dengue fever, or other epidemics that may be making the rounds.
Read up on the place you intend to visit. Having an idea of what to expect, local customs, and food habits will smooth your transition and help you relax into your vacation more quickly. Getting to know the local people and gaining an understanding of their way of life and culture enriches your vacation in many ways, giving you a far deeper perspective of the place you are visiting. But don’t abandon your native caution entirely as you relax, as touts or scammers can be rampant around tourist spots anywhere in the world. Watch out for pick pockets and petty crime. Never pull out a wad of notes in public. Always keep small change in separate pockets for easy access.
Travel broadens the mind they say. But if it’s to the tropics it does things to your soul as well. It’s an energising experience that brings people back again and again, to the extent that some go native and decide to stay on. Make sure that your experience of the tropics is a dream rather than a nightmare by following these basic and common sense safe travel tips.