Health Care, Insurance, Sickness, Oh My!

24.10.2018 |

Episode #6 of the course A practical guide for budget travel by Damon Dominique, Joanna Franco, and Alyssa Perrott


We know the feeling: that scratch in your throat you detect just as you begin to explore the pleasures of Perth, the mysterious stomach pain that hits you as soon as you land on a remote island in Indonesia, that intense fatigue that tells you the traveler’s burnout period has arrived on the last leg of a backpacking trip …

Today, we’re exploring how to navigate health and illness on the move. Traveling on a budget doesn’t mean you should put up with excessive sneezing, pooping (y’all, it happens), or worrying. Put on your nurse’s hat and keep reading.


Know Your Body

Before you leave, pack plenty of items that will suit your body’s likely needs. If you have any specific dietary requirements, such as if you’re vegan or celiac, look up translations for the terms before you leave and consider packing flashcards or post-it notes. You can then present these to pharmacists, doctors, and waiters.

It’s also a good idea to pack comforts of home, meaning your usual headache pills, vitamins, medication for period pain, immunity boosters, birth control, etc. The stuff you know already works!

This also means you won’t have to spend the money later. Nobody wants to be paying Iceland’s prices for … well, anything.


Get Insurance

Travel insurance is worth coughing up cash for. Check with your existing health care provider to see if there are options for overseas cover, and find out if your bank has any partnerships. Then thoroughly compare the market and eliminate options based on your personal needs: Will you be skydiving or skiing? After a basics package? Is dental included? Here are three companies we recommend looking into: World Nomads Insurance, RoamRight, and Seven Corners.



Honestly, it can be easy to fall off the nutrition wagon when traveling.

Make use of supermarkets and the like: Fruit and veggies won’t break the bank. Buy staples for yourself like cereal, milk, bread, and peanut butter, just so that in the worst case scenario, you’ll always have a backup. And pack your own food for the day, like sandwiches you can munch on when you’re waiting in an enormous queue for a museum or a ride at a theme park.

Also, drink a ton of water. It costs little to nothing, so go crazy with it! It’s a H2O party!


Say Yes to Self-Care

A bout of the blues, burnout, anxiety … it’s certainly normal for these things to occur at some point or other during your trip. If you need a self-care day, take one. Spend half the day indoors watching Netflix, just chillin’ with you, yourself, and you, and do not feel guilty about it. Take two showers per day if you want! Go shopping! Have an early night (or three)!

It’s okay to spend a little money and time on whatever you need or want, to regain your energy, to get back to yourself. Take a break so you can get back to doing the most and feeling your best.


Speak Up

If in doubt, talk it out. Ask the local pharmacist for advice on your ailment—it’s their job, after all! Google translate basic vocabulary, or hit up your hotel staff, hostel workers, or internet forums to find a doctor/pharmacist/therapist near you who speaks your language. Many medicines will have different names abroad, but they’ll still exist—illness does not discriminate, so we’re all searching for cures for the same things! Also, be mindful that some countries require prescriptions for different medicines abroad. Need antibiotics in Mexico? Pay less than $5 and you’re stocked for the month.


Clinics, the Red Cross, and Other Sterile Places

For better or worse, every country has a different medical system. Healthcare options vary, but you can start by searching for a local clinic. If you purchased medical insurance, put it to use! You’ll be reimbursed as per your chosen policy. Sometimes, they’ll even cover in full! That $12 you paid for insurance you didn’t think you’d need is suddenly paying off in a big way!

There are also lower-cost Red Crosses in every major city, handy websites like this French one, and in certain countries, it’s even cheaper to pay a full-priced medical bill than even contacting your insurance.

There you have it—sinuses cleared and money saved! Tomorrow, we’ll be covering the essential items you should consider arming yourself with for budget travel. You won’t want to miss it!


Recommended reading

Which Country Has the World’s Best Healthcare System?


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