A lot of people panic about the potential from getting some life-threatening disease in Asia. Like being the victim of a crime, it could happen, but it’s highly unlikely.
You may have heard a horror story or two from someone who had to cut their trip short. Again, I’ve travelled extensively, and never caught anything serious, nor did anyone I knew. Did I and everybody else I ever met travelling get at least one case of terrible diarrhea? Yes of course. Sorry, I don’t mean to be gross, but I have to be honest. You will get sick at least once, and then likely, you will be okay for the rest of your trip.
Medication and Shots
Definitely pack an extra supply of any necessary medication you take, at least a few month’s worth. Make sure to bring a record of your prescription.
As far as over-the-counter stuff goes, you could pack a million different pills from home to mitigate any potential problems– colds, stomach aches, headaches, etc.- but unless you commonly take something you absolutely can’t go without, I’d suggest you don’t worry about it. If you pack a bunch of non-essential pills and syrups, it will just be excess weight in your backpack and will go unused. Seeing a doctors and buying medication is usually very cheap and quick in most Asian countries. For common stuff like a bout with the stomach bug, you can find adequate and speedy care.
As for shots, definitely go to your doctor and get all the common shots and boosters they recommend. Now on to the big question:
Do I take Malaria medication?
This is a tough decision and I don’t want to tell you what to do. I will say that I never contracted Malaria, and in all my years travelling in Asia, I only knew one person who did and it was in a totally unexpected place. I have, however, known several people who have taken the medication and “freaked out”. I’ve even known of a couple who had to cut their trip short, though I’ve heard some newer anti-malaria drugs have less side effects.
In the end, you’re going to know what’s best for you. Personally, I think a better strategy is to pack some really good bug spray from home and make sure you are generously applying that throughout the day. The risk of side-affects from the Malaria medication was never worth it to me. But again, I’m not a doctor and I’m not responsible for your health. So I recommend you do have a good discussion with your doctor before you go and do your own research.
Definitely make sure you get travel insurance before you go. Make sure to check into your credit card company as you might have some travel insurance that you didn’t even know about (seriously). Banks offer plans, as do local insurance companies, and there are several online travel insurance companies that are designed specifically for this.
Whatever you decide to do, make sure the coverage is extensive and covers a lot of crazy, stupid things like extreme water sports and monkey knife fights. You just never know.