- Research the country you plan to visit beforehand and visit a travel doctor to make sure you're adequately vaccinated.
- Travel insurance is vital. Some countries have reciprocal healthcare agreements but they should never replace comprehensive travel insurance.
- If you can, cook, peel and/or boil food before eating — and drink bottled water in areas of poor sanitation.
Australians love to travel — they take more than five million trips to overseas destinations every year. But our adventurous streak has its downside. Each year the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) deals with around 20,000 cases of Australians in some form of trouble overseas, including over 700 hospitalisations and over 100 evacuations for medical treatment.
Which?, CHOICE’s sister publication in the UK, conducted a survey on 'holiday injury hotspots' in which members related their experiences of a total of 21,230 holidays. It found that 11% of respondents had fallen ill or were injured while travelling in the last twelve months — with stomach problems taking the number one spot
he ill-health hotspot award went to India, with 52% of visitors travelling there falling ill, followed by 47% of travellers to Peru, and 42% of those who visited Sri Lanka.
Please note: this information was current as of November 2007 but is still a useful guide today.
Do your research
Before you go, you’ll need to suss out potential health risks — and don’t rely on your travel agent. A Swiss study published in the Journal of Travel Medicine found an investigator posing as a traveller was given no spontaneous health information by half the travel agents he visited, despite malaria being high risk in the country he was asking about.
While your travel agent may be more forthcoming, it’s also wise to seek independent advice on the country you wish to travel to. Some countries are on the government’s 'not to travel' or 'advised against' lists, which are updated on a regular basis with new threats and health alerts.
These can be found on the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade travel website: www.smartraveller.gov.au.
Among other things, the smartraveller website also contains advice on up to 150 destinations and their potential risks, tips on travelling with children and contact details for Australian embassies and consulates around the world. You can also register your details there beforehand so you can be traced in an emergency.