It's an indisputable fact that sanitation, good health and security practices in third world nations are not on the same level as in the United States. When a lot of embittered third world citizens are engaged in a life-and-death struggle for basic needs like food, clothing and shelter, it's unrealistic to expect they'll give priority to good sanitation practices or care about your security. Not surprisingly, health and security hazards lurk all around for the unwary American traveler. Here are some must-follow tips for Americans planning to visit a third world country for business or pleasure: 1) Before you leave, make sure to get your vaccinations. Some of the vaccinations must be taken four to eight weeks prior to your date of travel because a lot of vaccines require time to become effective.
Go to an international travel clinic or a hospital in your area and get the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommended vaccines.
Here is a list of vaccines recommended by CDC.
Routine vaccines are usually recommended. These vaccines are for influenza, chickenpox (or varicella), polio, measles/mumps/rubella (MMR) and diphtheria/pertussis/tetanus (DPT) and given at all stages of life.
Keep in mind that the vaccines and drugs required vary from country to country. For instance, if you are traveling to India you may need to keep medicines to counter malaria. Before leaving, get your doctor to prescribe antimalarian drugs like Atovaquone-proguanil, Doxycycline or Mefloquine. By the way, Chloroquine is NOT an effective antimalarial drug in India and should not be taken. Also, CDC recommends that you NOT use halofantrine because of serious heart-related side effects.
Here's the CDC list of Country Specific Vaccinations.
2) Enroll in Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) of the U.S. State Dept. Enrollment in STEP will provide you health and security related alerts from the American Embassy or Consulate in the country you are visiting. Set aside a couple of minutes to enroll in the Free STEP a few weeks before your departure date.
3) Monitor U.S. State Department Travel Warnings before traveling. The State Department provides regular travel warnings that are easily accessible via its web site. For instance, on July 5 the State Department put out a warning alerting Americans to the risks of traveling to Kenya citing continuing and recently heightened threats from terrorism and the high rate of violent crime in some parts of the country. Be sure to check the country specific travel warnings so that you are well prepared. Read the State Department Travel Warnings.
4) Check your Health Insurance benefits. Given the variety of health insurance policies, you'd be well advised to check what your insurance policy covers should you fall sick in a foreign country. If you think you're inadequately covered, get travel insurance. Besides covering medical emergencies, travel insurance may also cover trip cancellation and delays and baggage loss. Check with your travel agent for details on the coverage.
5) Use common sense. Unfortunately, common sense is in short supply with most people. Refrain from staying out late into the night, steer clear of political meetings/processions and avoid traveling with strangers and visiting their homes. Drink boiled and/or bottled water. Where boiled and/or bottled water is not available, keep Iodine tablets and portable water filters handy to purify the water. The best way to avoid Delhi Belly (travelers diarrhea) is by staying away from street food however appealing and tempting it may look. Contaminated food and water are the main reasons travelers fall sick and ruin their business and pleasure trips.
Ultimately, smart travelers rely on solid preparation and caution for their security and health rather than heedlessly leaving things to chance or luck.