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Top Tips For Not Getting Sick When You Travel

Posted by Emily Cummings on 6/18/17 8:53 PM

ILP China

Have plans to get sick while traveling? I didn’t think so. No worries, we have the tips you need to stay in tip-top shape during your travels.

So no one likes being sick — especially when you have an awesome vacation planned or are away from home on a semester abroad. But travel makes it pretty easy; you're in a new country, with new food, with a new culture.

Hold up: If you're looking for a way to live abroad instead of just visiting, we've got you covered  Get an idea of what living in Ukraine is like with this free guide

While you can’t completely eliminate the risk of getting ill at home or abroad (and it is normal to feel a little off while traveling), you can keep these tips in mind to help you stay as healthy as possible no matter where you are in the world: 

  • Get Plenty Of Sleep (+Tips to make that happen)
  • Drink Lots Of Water
  • Eat The Right Foods
  • Wash Your Hands
  • Bring Hand Sanitizer 
  • Consult With Your Doctor

Get Plenty Of Sleep (+Tips to make that happen) 

I know you want to cram every second of your day siteseeing — but you need to take care of yourself when you’re away from home. That means getting enough sleep even when you'll be sleeping in unfamiliar places like a hostel or a hotel or your new apartment in Poland or Thailand. 

For volunteers, we suggest packing up something familiar from home to sleep with like a pillowcase or a small blanket. While ILP provides your housing and your bedding no matter where you are in the world, it's nice to have something from home to help you sleep. 

You can also get enough sleep by keeping a regular schedule; stop scrolling your phone an hour before bed to avoid blue light, sleep with earplugs and an eye mask to help keep things dark and quiet and listen to a podcast to help you fall asleep. These routines will help sleeping feel familiar, even when you're in an unfamiliar place. 

Drink Lots Of Water

In a lot of countries it’s not OK to drink the tap water, so plan on buying bottled water to keep yourself hydrated all day long ... and using that water to brush your teeth with. ILP Volunteers will have access to filtered water at their apartments and/or the school they teach at, so we recommend packing up your favorite water bottle to travel with and filling that up with purified water to help keep yourself hydrated. 

When you're on vacation, you can buy bottled water on the street for a dollar or two (or less, when you're traveling in Asia). It's handy to budget a little extra money for bottled water so you can stay hydrated. 

Eat The Right Foods 

The food can make you feel sick when you're traveling; there may be more carbs than you're used to (many cultures don't involve as many fresh veggies or fruits as you are used to) plus there are foods that can make you sick if they aren't prepared properly. Your body will need some time to adjust to the food so we suggest packing common medicines (some medicines are hard to find) to help you settle your stomach. 

Eating foods that are cooked all the way through is also smart, so skip out on raw fish ceviche while in Mexico. While we love  street foods - (yummmmmmmm) if you're not used to a country's foods (aka you're a tourist traveling through), your chances of that food not sitting well with your stomach go way up.

It’s also a good idea to stay away from fruits and vegetables you eat with the skin on (things like bananas are safer than apples, because you don’t eat the outside). Lots of times, these fruits and veggies are washed with (you guessed it), tap water.

If you're worried about getting sick, do some research on your country's street foods or just skip any sketchy looking carts all together. However I will say you're usually safer with dessert type treats rather than meat filled snacks.

ILP DR

Wash Your Hands (Lots)

Seems obvious, right? You’ll be exposed to a lot of new germs while traveling. Even just being on a plane with a lot of people for a long time can expose you to a lot of germs that can get you sick. Just like you would during cold and flu season at home, wash your hands lots while traveling. 

On that note .... 

Bring Hand Sanitizer

When you travel, your hands touch everything….and I mean everything. The metro, rented bike handles, cafe table tops and pretty (but dirty) foreign money to name a few. While it’s not as good as a hand wash in a sink with soap and hot water, hand sanitizer can help you keep germs at bay. I also like traveling with wet wipes for when my hands are really dirty.

Lots of times food poisoning doesn’t come from the food, it comes from eating the germs on your hands. With your handy sanitizer, you can munch on ice cream in Poland with no worries. 

Consult With Your Doctor

Please consult your physiciana state or local health department, and the Center for Disease Control when deciding whether or not you will receive vaccinations for your ILP semester. They are the best source for recommendations, information about costsand procedures for receiving vaccinations. While most of the time the decision is yours, particular vaccinations are required for some countries throughout the world (including Uganda).  

It's also pretty normal to feel just a bit off while you travel. It could be the change of food, or the jet lag, so it's just extra important to keep yourself healthy by eating right and taking care of your health while abroad. 

ILP Poland


Did you get all those? Lots of them are common sense but it’s a good reminder, even if these tips aren’t as fun as other parts of travel (like crossing world wonders off your list). But if you are looking for more travel tips, we’ve got you covered.

And if you want to spend a few months adventuring in foreign countries while teaching English to cute kids, we can help with that too. ILP has schools all over (like Haiti and Thailand and Romania…and more! See them all right here). If you’ve thought about living abroad for a semester, I say do it. You can talk to an ILP Representative to get help figuring out where you want to go, how to get help paying for it and get answers to your questions. Just click that button and get started! 

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Hi! We are ILP, a non-profit org that has service abroad opportunities for college-age volunteers. Check out our tips for making the most of your time traveling and living abroad.

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