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Good Travel Health - Tips to Keep You Well

Good travel health tips - Pile of shrimp image with handle that people touch in food.

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We’ve all witnessed those travelers who constantly wash their hands and drench them in antiseptics. I give them an “A” for effort. Nevertheless, in spite of their routine they may find their travel health less than desired.

Good travel health goes beyond how clean our bodies are. If fact, that may be far from most important.

How we use our hands, how we dine, how rested we are, and so much more helps determine how healthy we are while traveling.

These travel health tips come from decades of traveling the world. Note that I am not a doctor.

Watch how you use your hands

My mother knew nothing about Hinduism, but she said reserve one hand solely for eating, as much as possible. Use the other for everything else.

You put yourself at far less risk if you >

  • Not touch any part of a hand or finger onto an eye,
  • Into your nose, or
  • Into your mouth.

Avoiding these hinders spread of disease.

What’s on your hands does not usually become dangerous unless it enters your body. That includes vile substances like feces we may have collected from touching, for instance, unclean hand railings.

Dine right

Women touching super long hot dog with both hands

Choose a proper dining venue - 1

Food vendors on beachfront

Say you see two food carts (They are all the rage now):

  • One run by a sweet older woman who has no customers
  • Another swarmed by locals.

Please don’t take pity on that poor woman.

Those locals are dining elsewhere for a reason. Moreover, brisk business usually means less food sitting around—in other words, decomposing.

Food not sitting around applies equally to help yourself situations.

Love a nice buffet or salad bar?

Nevertheless, avoid loving them as much later in the day, unless you are among many diners.

Choose a proper dining venue – 2

As with food carts, look for restaurants FILLED with locals. I avoid places in tourist areas that do not depend on repeat business, unless highly recommended.

Otherwise, get a feel for a restaurant before ordering.

Looks messy from outside? Dirty windows? Signs ages beyond needing changing? Dirty floors, etc.?

If so, imagine its kitchen. And, whether or not its employees bother to take time to wash possible fecal matter (to put it delicately) off their hands after using a toilet. I could flll up much of this page with what could go wrong--hepatitis A and E, cholera, novovirus, salmonella, dysentery, and on and on.

Notice how food served

Display of shrimp with serving handle touch by people on food

How dishes are displayed is important. For example, are there sneeze guards?

In the photo above, note handle that people touch resting on food. All too often cruise ships use handles too short like this. No wonder these sometimes have massive outbreaks of diseases.

At least grab your serving from the back. That’s how I do it when too tempted. :)

Food temperature

Food being served outdoors without refrigeration or sufficient heat

The temperature of food should fit its type.

Hot foods like gravy are meant to be HOT. Cold foods like potato salad are meant to be COLD, unless these are foods like bread that don’t easily spoil.

That’s not happening in photo above. In this case some of the food set outdoors in a tropical climate over 3 hours.

Give yourself a chance to digest

While dining, you'll culture better digestion if you

  • Eat sitting down,
  • Avoid getting up immediately after last bite (gives your stomach a chance to start digestion smoothly),
  • Don’t douse your stomach with overly cold drinks,
  • Avoid arguments and stressful issues,
Take significant time to chew thoroughly,
  • Stay away from foods that you know disturb you.

These basic Ayurvedic tips have worked very well for me.

Someone with flatulence broadcasts a vivid signal that he or she probably has not been eating properly. Ditto complaints about stomach acid.

If happens too often, these bode ill for her or his future health.

Rolaids and Tums mask poor dining habits, not necessarily their long-term consequences.

Hydrate thoroughly

If from a cooler climate, you must ramp up your water consumption in a warmer one. To not do so can be deadly. Please do not drink water by habit--drink it by locality

My mother (again) had another tip. As with me, she wasn’t a doctor so take it as you wish. 

Bright yellow urine likely means that you are not drinking enough water. If it stays bright in spite of drinking a lot, you may need to see a doctor.

Rest sufficiently

Mother with little girds resting in hammock

There’s an old saying that “rest is the basis of activity.” That applies profoundly to travel.

If a backpacker, save for a budget that allows a some private rooms, instead of always shared dorms. In my experience, the latter seldom allow sleep without interruption.

Avoid too many overnights on trains and buses, in an attempt to save money. When possible, avoid redeye flights.

Most importantly, allot time for proper sleep, not in bed at 2:00 a.m. and up at 6:00 to catch a flight.

Think slow travel

Friends relaxing along False Bay, South Africa

Less hectic travel can often be healthier travel. For one, you are more likely to relax.

I know travelers who are in a constant frenzy of moving from one place to another.

Throughout the day, some issue a constant stream of Facebook posts, tweets, blog posts, calls, emails, texts, and all that.

They never give themselves a chance to relax. I doubt that their minds settle down quickly enough for sufficient truly deep sleep.

There’s a price to pay for this, not just in health but also in how profoundly we experience a place.

Thoroughly research travel health

Travelers book more and more online. Of course, I like that.

Nevertheless, when you give up booking in person with a travel expert you take on some risk. Don’t take that risk unless willing to do in-depth research to eliminate it.

No international trip should start without a visit to  

That site gives you latest travel health information specific to each country. I urge you not to depend solely on second-hand information from friends, travel forums, etc.

As an example, areas in which you need malaria protection have been growing steadily. Their maps posted online by unofficial sources may be totally out of date.

Hopefully, these tips will keep you happy, healthy and ready to enjoy our wonderful world! Travel health and other risks exist out there, but you'll find more than you think at home--one of which is stifling routine. 


December 7, 2017

These tips are really good! It’s awful to go on holiday and end up ill because you have eaten some that was unhygienic!
A good test is to look at the cutlery, plates, glasses before you eat. Are they clean? What about the staff, are their overalls/uniforms clean?
Looking out for small things like this can help save you a stomach upset which may spoil your holiday.

Don Nadeau
December 20, 2017

HI Nicola.

Thank you so much. Excellent tips. Sorry for late reply.



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