Tips on Traveling to China and other Asian Countries

This article was written by Dr. Ruth Nemzaff and was posted in Huffington Post

Before Leaving

1. Visit your local travel medicine clinic to be sure your immunizations are up to date.

2. Bring all your medications. Even the ones you only use occasionally. They are not available everywhere or the formulation is different. Take medications along in the event you are struck by travelers’ diarrhea.

3. Buy medical evacuation (medevac) insurance if visiting a country without excellent hospitals that meet the standards of the United States or your home country. A helpful, reputable website where you can shop for the best option for your needs is Squaremouth.

4. Call ahead and get a wheelchair! If you have less than a mile of walking in you, go online and ask the airport for transport from your plane to the immigration area or to your connecting flight. Save you walking stamina or some place more interesting. They will have a wheelchair and attendant waiting for you when you get off your plane. If necessary, they will have an electric cart. The service is free though you will probably want to provide a tip and you do not need medical certification.

5. Pack light. Weight is the enemy of all travelers, but for those with aching joints the heavy lifting and pushing become even more difficult.

6. Wear only comfortable, sturdy shoes or sneakers. This is not a time for glamour!

Once you arrive

7. Use bathrooms when you see them. You might not find another one for a while. Men with enlarged prostates and that’s’ most men over over 70 and many even younger lads do not have quite the control they used to and peeing by the road is frowned upon in most cities (though more acceptable in the countryside). In Asia, Western-style seated toilets can be a rare resource. If you can’t squat, go at your hotel or look for fancy restaurants. Be prepared to discard used toilet paper in a wastebasket and not flush it (plumbing can be primitive).

8. Follow good preventive health measures when eating. Those in developed countries take the FDA (or their country’s equivalent) for granted to assure our food supply is safe. Though even so we occasionally have a food-borne disease outbreak. In many developing countries there are no such protections. Do not eat uncooked vegetables or fruits you cannot peel yourself. Eat only hot food that has not sat around. Drink only bottled water and use bottled water for brushing your teeth. (Just think if it as washing your toothbrush in feces and you will follow the rule!) Assume that not everyone who handles your food has adequate washing facilities at home such as soap and running water. The hotel may be five-star, but the waiters and kitchen workers homes’ may lack rudimentary sanitation or clean water.

9. Do not eat street food, no matter how appetizing it may look. That includes ice cream.

10. Expect the unexpected. Be willing to change your plans. In the past, you may have enjoyed climbing 777 uneven steps with no railing to see a beautiful monastery. Now you may need to view it from a lovely restaurant on the next peak. If you hire a guide, make sure the guide will be willing to modify your plans if the walks are too long or difficult. The guide may know of alternative routes for reaching the pinnacle.

11. Take a break. In the old days you might have been able to go-go-go all day and then go out at night. Maybe not so much today. Either take a nap, if you love your evening restaurants, or if you are not a foodie go all day and then snack in the hotel. You may need to do both.

12. Travel with a caring, compassionate companion.It will be disappointing and frustrating at times. You might want to agree in advance that sometimes one of you will go ahead alone and the other will sit in a cafe observing or reading. You may have different physical challenges, so empathy will be indispensable.

13. Accept help. Think of it as a great way to meet kind caring people and to renew your belief in the kindness of humanity. You will find many barriers to entry unless you do. It could be a sandy boat ramp, a way to large step or a steep passage.

14. Talk to the people around you, exercising your usual good judgment. Meeting other people is as interesting as sightseeing and a lot less strenuous. People are very quick to let you know they are not interested in talking. A one-word reply is a good clue to move on.

15. Use a walking stick or a cane. It helps with balance on uneven sidewalks, open sewers and other unexpected obstacles.

16. Be grateful for what you can do, rather than bemoan what you can’t. This may take discipline, but it’s good practice.