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Cheap student travel insurance, horror stories in travel, disease outbreaks, quote travel
By: Ryan Jones (justin) 2012.09.23

Horror Stories in Travel

How to Avoid Disease Outbreaks

How to Quote Travel Insurance

Travel Horror Stories

The doctor's office was set high up on a nearby hill; a dark, foreboding, fortress-like building constructed solely ofcement. The health-care professional, a bespectacled gentleman of around 40, engaged my study abroad host mother in hushed conversation as I sat on the examining table in a perplexed, feverish fog.

I had fallen ill earlier that evening with a sudden onset of fever and chills. After forcing me to consume countless gallons of Czech tea while laying prostrate, half-naked, and covered in cold, wet towels, my host mother had loaded me into the car. It was a Saturday night in the small town of Pisek, Czech Republic, and there were few options for immediate treatment.

After the consultation, which consisted of merely taking my temperature and asking me a series of glaringly irrelevant questions about my travel plans and home country, the doctor prescribed a medicine for my affliction. The packaging was in Czech, but my host mother assured me that the little yellow pills would work wonders in curing this so-called "Pisek Virus,"? an illness whose real cause is a mystery to this day.

Luckily, my host mother had the means to pay for my medication and doctor visit, as well as a way to get me to the doctor quickly. If I had been in the wilds of Mongolia, however, I may not have stories to retell.

How to Avoid Disease Outbreaks

Falling ill never merits a spot on anyone's list of top adventures, yet it is a reality that any frequent traveler must confront. It is only with adequate preparation, a well-stocked case of travel meds, and a solid insurance policy that an ill traveler can combat the strange and mystifying world of foreign health care.

Planning is the greatest weapon against contracting strange foreign diseases. Travel agents will often warn you of outbreaks at your destination, but they generally do not know where exactly you'll end up (you could make a side trip from disease-free Tokyo to, say, the malarial jungles of the Philippines). It's up to you to do the research in advance, get required and recommended vaccines, and update yourself on health risks.

First, check out the Centers for Disease Control, which lists specific disease warnings and vaccine recommendations at its Website, cdc.gov/travel. Additionally, the State Department lists vaccinations required for entry to certain countries at travel.state.gov/foreignentryreqs.html. Look at these sites well ahead of your departure date, as some vaccines (such as rabies and hepatitis) require multiple doses spaced over a period of weeks or months. Make sure you check reentry requirements as well, especially if traveling to Africa. If you have trouble finding a local doctor with yellow fever vaccines on hand (it can be tougher than you might imagine), visit the International Society of Travel Medicine at istm.org to find a practitioner in your area who specializes in travel medicine.

Unfortunately, not all diseases can be vaccinated against. When my friend Emily fell violently ill in Thailand two years back, we were lucky to run into a fellow traveler who'd had the same symptoms. She had gone to the pharmacy a day earlier and her new medication was working marvelously. Unlike the bumbling duo of Emily and me, she had information cards with disease symptoms and treatment information, and she knew that no prescription was required for medication in Thailand. A mere cab ride to the local pharmacy and 100 baht (a few bucks) later, Emily felt marvelous.

Most of the nastiest diseases are either water-borne or carried by insects. Therefore, in countries with questionable water supplies, drink only bottled water and avoid ice in drinks and smoothies. Try to avoid eating fresh fruits or vegetables without removing the skin, which is often washed in local water. Bring strong, effective insect repellent. Try Jungle Juice, Bushman, or some other high concentration Deet formula. Consider a sleeping net if you're heading to the buggier corners of the globe, along with pants with a long-sleeved shirt at dusk, when mosquitoes are most active.

For breaking news on freaky disease outbreaks see the World Health Organization's Travel information page at WHO.int/ith.

Tripprep.com has a nearly complete database of travel ailments, preparation, vaccinations, treatments, and symptoms.

Also check Lonelyplanet.com/health for exotic ailments and a section on women's health.

Sick and stuck in Bangkok? The International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers at iamat.org. After enrolling for a free membership, IAMAT provides a directory of doctors and medical centers in 125 countries, all of whom speak English as a second language and meet certain competency standards.

More on Travel Insurance

How to Quote Travel Insurance

Finally, a good travel insurance policy is a necessity if serious illness or injury strikes, since most domestic policies do not cover emergencies abroad. As David Compton of Compton Insurance Marketing (internationalinsurancenetwork.com) points out, these policies are cheap often only $40 to $50 per month and usually cover everything from trip cancellation to evacuation by air. "It is so affordable,"? he says, "it doesn't make sense not to have the complete package." Plans typically have low deductibles, worldwide coverage, international toll-free lines and often provide local representatives who can communicate with your doctor in the local language.

Travelers do need to shop around for insurance, says Compton, as there are many variations in terminology and specific circumstances. For those who plan to raft Class V whitewater or summit a glaciated peak, most insurance policies offer extreme-sports supplements for an additional fee.

Policies can be purchased on the Internet or through travel agents. Even with a policy, however, travelers should have an emergency cash reserve. If, perhaps, your Kyrgyzstani doctor is not able or willing to accept insurance payments, emergency cash will come in handy and can be reimbursed later.

No matter where you go, from well-trod Western Europe to your own African megatransect, precautions are a must. Chances are that nothing will happen, even if you eat the odd apple and drink the occasional smoothie. Yet, as too many travelers know, falling ill in the middle of nowhere can be a trip-ruining experience.

With available vaccines and health insurance, there is no reason to risk catching Typhoid in Cambodia, or Yellow Fever in Zaire. Plan and prepare accordingly, and instead of stories about laying prostrate on your bed at the local hospital in Malawi, you'll have an amazing near-miss/miraculously recovered story instead.


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