There's only one thing more important to travellers than their passports and that's their health.
Lost or stolen passports can be replaced but if your health is compromised then things can go from bad to, "Help, I'm gonna die!" pretty quickly.
I had one of these moments a few years ago, during the first week of a six-month trip through India, in a city called Aurangabad.
Having touched down in Mumbai a few days earlier, my immune system was an easy target for the bugs and viruses India is infamous for.
As I rolled into Aurangabad on an overnight bus from Mumbai, a serious case of "Mumbai belly" was taking hold.
Bedridden for several days and unable to hold anything down, there was little I could do other than consult the booklet in my well-stocked Travel Doctor medical kit and diagnose myself with a water-borne disease.
After popping the recommended dose of antibiotics, I went into hibernation and waited for them to take effect.
Fortunately they did the trick and since that day my Travel Doctor kit has become one of my "wouldn't travel without" items.
Here are my top tips for looking after your health while travelling:
If you're travelling to developing countries or destinations near the equator, you'll need to get your vaccinations up to date. Typhoid, rabies and cholera are just a few to consider. Many vaccinations last only a few years so it pays to keep a record.
I received my first round of shots at the Travel Doctor clinic in Wellington. They provided everything I needed, including a medical kit. When getting vaccinations, make sure it's at least one month before your depart, as a follow up jab is needed in cases, while other vaccines don't take effect straight away.
Before flying out, make a list of emergency health contacts for the destination you're travelling to. Think dentists, doctors clinics, embassies and hospital emergency wards. Also include emergency contacts back home such as family, friends and your GP.
Buying adequate travel insurance is a no-brainer. For a few hundred dollars most travel insurance policies will have you pretty well covered in a medical emergency which could cost an uninsured person thousands of dollars, or worse, their life. Check the policy document for fish hooks. For example, any mishaps relating to the influence of alcohol or drugs will most likely be exclude.
Exploring a culture's food is one of the most exciting parts of travelling but think twice before making a beeline for street food. Know what you're consuming and how it's been prepared before tucking in.
Know your limits
Travelling is a time to step outside your comfort zone - just make sure you don't put yourself in danger by ignoring risks.
For a useful guide on keeping safe while travelling visit safetravel.govt.nz.
- Sunday Star Times