Travelling to Asia with a medical condition might seem a little daunting at first, but the right preparation and research can make your trip a stress-free reality. Being well prepared doesn’t rule out being spontaneous; if you enjoy taking each day as it comes, knowing all the options before you set off will make on-the-spot decisions that bit easier. Here are some tips for getting everything in place for a smooth trip.
Find out as much as you can about your destinations before you book. Some places may feel less practical due to difficult access or being far from medical care, but with a few adjustments you might still be able to visit. Look into the hospitals and pharmacies near to your hotel, and find out how best to get there; translate any explanatory phrases about your condition into the appropriate language and have them written down and to hand. The best advice is always to talk your plans through with your GP who can offer their expertise on your specific circumstances.
If you take regular medication, find out how it might be affected by temperature or humidity and, as you’ll be travelling across time-zones, any changes to how and when you take it. If you take an injectable medication (such as those for diabetes) you’ll need medical ID and a letter from your GP to allow you to carry it on a plane.
Certain medicines need to be declared through customs and some which contain controlled substances, such as morphine, may need a special Home Office licence to be taken out of the country. It’s a good idea to have a medical ID bracelet or tag, along with a card translating any vital information, and a paper copy of your prescription details in case of emergency.
Starting your preparation as early as possible gives you plenty of time to allow for unexpected circumstances. Chat with your doctor at least 8 weeks before you travel (and, ideally, before you book), to ensure you’re both aware of any added implications your condition has for your trip.
There might be vaccinations or courses of medication (for malaria, for example) to be taken in advance which might be affected by your condition or interact with your other medicines. You might need special permission to order more of your medication than usual so you don’t run out while you’re away, which could take a few weeks.
Asia’s climate and conditions vary greatly depending on exactly when and where you visit; it’s one of the reasons we love this part of the world so much! However, at certain times of year, extremes of heat and humidity may affect aspects of health such as blood pressure and heart conditions, as can high altitudes, and during monsoon season some areas become difficult to get to due to flooding.
There might be a time of year when visiting a particular destination is more practical for your condition and you can plan your trip around those dates. Major towns often have better transport links and medical facilities than more remote regions, which is also something to bear in mind.
Travelling to Asia can take anywhere from 10 to 17 hours on a direct flight, sometimes longer. Though we all want to get to our holiday destination as quickly as possible, it may be more practical and comfortable to take several shorter flights and break up your journey. If you have a medical condition which is affected by long-haul travel, perhaps giving you an increased risk of DVT, why not make the journey itself all part of the adventure? A couple of extra overnight stops could reduce the stresses on your condition and, as a bonus, broaden the scope of places you can see in one trip.
Travelling with the correct insurance for your condition is vital. Should you need to access medical help while abroad it can be eye-wateringly costly (and sometimes impossible) to do so without insurance, and if you aren’t 100% transparent about any pre-existing conditions this can invalidate your policy. There are many companies which specialise in travel insurance for different medical conditions, and charities associated with particular health issues often have lists of specialist insurers as well as plenty of helpful advice.
On a final note, if you’re planning to start your child’s globe-trotting adventures while they’re still ‘in utero’, there are several ways you can make your trip easier and safer without giving up the fun. Get a letter from your doctor confirming your due date and any other pertinent information, drink plenty of water and take extra precautions to avoid DVT while flying. Always chat your plans through thoroughly with your GP or midwife as they will have the best advice tailored to you. Lastly, make sure you get plenty of photos of you and your ‘bump’ on your adventures to show your little-one when they grow up!
Hopefully we’ve put your mind at rest a bit about travelling to Asia with a medical condition, and shown how it can be done with minimum stress. Below are a few links to specific advice for different circumstances, and there’s no substitute for talking things through with your medical practitioner.
Our travel specialists are on hand to help you put together your ideal itinerary, so take some time to browse our website for inspiration on where to visit next or contact us for advice and inspiration.
The NHS Fit For Travel pages are full of useful information and links, the World Healthcare Organisation’s pages have specific information on pre-existing conditions, and the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention advice can be found here.
Read more about travelling with diabetes, and if you're looking for information on travelling with a heart condition, you can find helpful information on the British Heart Foundation's website as well as specific tips on heat and heart conditions. Cancer Research travel insurance advice can be found here, whilst if you're travelling and have a food allergy, these translation cards will come in handy. If you're pregnant and need to know what to consider when travelling, the NHS website has tips and recommendations.