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Traveling to Remote Places

Nothing says getting away from it all like skipping the tourist traps and opting for harder-to-reach locales. Some of the best travel experiences can take place in the middle of nowhere. However, traveling to a far-flung destination can require a bit more prep work than a typical vacation. Be prepared for off-the-grid places with limited electricity or fresh water and without the comforts of home.

horses on Easter Island

Before You Go

  • Learn about health and safety concerns at your destination. Venturing off the beaten path involves certain risks that you may not encounter on a normal trip, such as extreme weather and limited or no access to medical care.
  • Make an appointment to get needed vaccines and medicines at least a month before you leave.
    • CDC recommends all travelers be up to date on routine vaccines, such as influenza and measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR).
    • Discuss your itinerary with your health care provider to make sure you get any destination-specific vaccines and medicines that you may need. For some remote areas, your doctor may consider medicine to prevent malaria and vaccines for cholera, rabies, and Japanese encephalitis.
    • Your doctor or nurse can provide routine vaccines, but you may need to see a travel medicine specialist for destination-specific vaccines.
    • If your destination is at a high altitude (8,000 feet or more above sea level), talk to your doctor or nurse about prescribing medicine to prevent altitude illness.
  • Prepare for the unexpected.
    • Make sure your health insurance will cover you in case of emergency. For example, your health insurance might not cover medical evacuation if you cannot get needed treatment where you are.
      • When looking into evacuation insurance, ask about the company’s resources at your planned destination before you buy. These companies often have better resources and experience in some parts of the world than others. Some companies may not offer services in remote destinations.
    • Leave copies of your itinerary, contact information, credit cards, and passport with someone at home, in case you lose them during travel or in an emergency where someone may need to find you.
  • Monitor travel warnings and alerts at your destination(s) through the US Department of State website. There may be reasons why few travelers visit some remote destinations, such as crime targeting Americans, civil war, or other violence.
    • Enroll with the nearest US embassy or consulate through the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to get safety updates and phone numbers you might need in the event of an emergency.
  • Pack smart. Prepare a travel health kit with items you may need, especially those that may be difficult to find on your trip, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines (enough to last your whole trip, plus a little extra), insect repellentsunscreen, alcohol-based hand sanitizer, toilet paper or wet wipes, and water disinfection tablets.
    • If you plan on doing any adventure travel, you may need to bring additional equipment and supplies.

During Your Trip

  • Be careful when indulging in the local cuisine. If you’re visiting a developing country:
    • Eat only food that has been fully cooked and served hot.
    • Do not eat fresh vegetables or fruits unless you can peel them yourself.
    • Drink only bottled, sealed beverages, and avoid ice—it was likely made with tap water.
    • If you are camping, hiking, or staying in a remote area, several methods can be used disinfect your drinking water.
  • Protect yourself from extreme temperatures and sun exposureFor some remote places, like Antarctica and the Sahara, severe temperatures are the primary health hazard.
    • When traveling to extremely hot or cold climates, take steps to prevent temperature-related illnesses, injuries, and death.
    • Wear sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher outdoors. Remember that sun protection isn’t just for the beach—you can get a sunburn even if it’s cloudy or cold!
  • Be careful when swimming, boating, or diving, especially in countries where emergency services may not be quickly available.
    • Avoid swimming in fresh water like lakes and rivers. Infections such as schistosomiasis and leptospirosis are spread by contact with contaminated fresh water.
    • To lower your risk of drowning, do NOT drink alcohol before or during swimming, diving, or boating.
  • Prevent insect bites. Using insect repellent can protect you from serious diseases spread by mosquitoes, such as Zika, dengue, and malaria.
    • Use an EPA-registered insect repellent with one of the following active ingredients: DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol, or 2-undecanone.
    • Apply sunscreen first, then repellent. Be sure to follow instructions on the label and reapply as directed.
  • Avoid stray, wild, or frightened animals, who may carry rabies (a fatal disease). In addition to the risk of rabies, all animal bites carry a risk of bacterial infection.
  • Always wear seat belts and choose safe transportation. In many developing countries, there may be poor road surfaces without shoulders, unprotected curves and cliffs, and no street lights.
    • When possible, avoid driving or riding on motorcycles or motorbikes, including motorcycle and motorbike taxis. In some countries, like Thailand and Vietnam, most American road deaths were related to motorcycle use.
    • Be alert when crossing the street, especially in countries where people drive on the left.
    • Avoid overcrowded, overweight, or top-heavy buses or vans.
    • When possible, avoid driving/riding at night (especially in mountainous terrain).
  • Use the bathroom responsibly. In remote areas, if toilets or outhouses are not available:
    • Urinate far from trails, camps, and fresh rivers or lakes where people may bathe and get drinking water.
    • Dig a “cat hole” (6–8 inches deep), away from water sources, to defecate.
    • Bury toilet paper or take it with you until you find a trash can.

After Your Trip

  • If you are not feeling well after your trip, you may need to see a doctor. Some travel-related illnesses may not cause symptoms until after you get home.
    • If you need help finding a health care provider, find a clinic here.
    • Be sure to tell your doctor about your travel, including where you went and what you did on your trip. This information will help your doctor consider infections that are rare or not typically seen in the United States.
  • If your doctor prescribed antimalarial medicine for your trip, keep taking the rest of your pills after you return home.

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