Home Myanmar Travel GuideSecurity and Health When Traveling to SE Asia

Security and Health When Traveling to SE Asia

With the exercise of common-sense rules and caution, Indochina is generally safe for traveling, in all the areas open to foreigners. Most countries in the region retain generally law-abiding societies, with friendly and helpful citizens, and only few violent crimes; though petty crime is on the rise.

Health is more of a concern, due to relatively low sanitation standards and more limited healthcare services, but serious illnesses are rare. That said, a bout of illness can’t be ruled out, but probably won’t be a big problem. Just make sure your travel insurance includes good medical cover.

Insurance

Though most visitors, with the application of common-sense, will have a safe and healthy stay in Indochina, it is always a good idea to buy travel insurance.

Make sure your insurance covers all activities planned on your trip along with emergency medical evacuation, as travel inevitably involves some risks.

General Precautions

Traveling in Indochina is generally considered safe. There have, however, been incidents of petty crime, such as pick-pocketing, bag-snatching and scams, in larger cities such as Ho Chi Minh City, Phnom Penh and Yangon.

Some locals grab bags or money and run away. Some motorbike thieves follow foreigners and wait for a chance to snatch items or cash, before driving on. So be cautious when out walking.

It’s advisable not to carry large sums of money and not to wear too much jewelry. Take care to leave valuable items in the hotel safe and follow the basic tip of keeping scanned copies of your passport and other important documents in a safe place, in case you lose the originals.

To avoid scams, don’t accept invitations to strangers’ homes or go for a drink with strangers. Don’t allow vendors to take your credit card out of sight. Don’t stay out late at night, especially if you are in a remote area.

Health Issues

Travelers tend to worry about contracting infectious disease when visiting the tropics, where healthcare facilities may be below par and sanitation is relatively poor. Actually, infections are rare and rarely cause serious illness, just some ailments which can be prevented or are easily treated.

Before traveling, consult your doctor early for suggestions on vaccinations, as most vaccines do not produce immunity until at least two weeks after they’re given. Vaccines recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) for travelling to Indochina are as follows: diphtheria and tetanus, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, measles and typhoid.

Pack medications in clearly labeled containers and bring a description of any medical conditions. If you take medication, bring a full supply of prescribed medicine. It might be difficult to find the exact pills you are taking in local pharmacies in Laos or Myanmar, as medication there is often in short supply.

Medical Facilities

The quality of medical services varies enormously from city to city. The most up-to-date facilities and best treatment are to be found in major cities such as Bangkok, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Vientiane and Yangon.

In these cities, hospitals and clinics are sufficient for daily needs and pharmacies are well stocked. For serious conditions, it may be best to seek treatment in Bangkok or Singapore.

Elsewhere, in smaller towns, facilities are more basic with lower healthcare standards.

Heat Exhaustion

The Indochinese countries have a tropical monsoon climate with average temperatures over 30°C throughout the year. Most westerners will find it hot and humid, although the dry season from November to February is much cooler, with very little rainfall.

Dehydration sometimes causes heat exhaustion, with symptoms like weakness, dizziness and perspiration. Avoid excessive activity in the heat, or long periods of exposure to high temperatures. Drink plenty of water often and eat salty food. Wear light clothes and sun hats.

Food and Drink

Ailments such as stomach problems, diarrhea and allergies, often afflict travelers. Such ailments are usually caused by local bacteria in food and can be avoided by taking routine precautions.

Vegetables and fruit should be washed with purified water or peeled before eating. Wash hands before meals and eat only well-cooked food. Eat only at clean places and ask your guide for advice.

Avoid food that is prone to cause allergies, such as shellfish, or food that is not quite fresh anymore. Stick to bottled water and never drink tap water.

Insect Bites and Infections

A mosquito bite causes itching and discomfort, and may lead to dengue fever or malaria. Disease-carrying mosquitoes are active at dusk or night. To avoid being bitten, spray repellent and sleep in air-conditioned rooms.

Seek medical advice before you travel, especially if planning to visit jungle areas or rural places. Most western-operated medical institutions in the main cities in Indochina have strains of disease-resistant vaccinations.

Narcotics and HIV-AIDS

All the countries in Indochina have a problem with heroin and methamphetamine; especially Myanmar, which is the second largest producer of opium in the world and suffers high levels of drug addiction.

The golden triangle stretching across the mountains of three countries – Myanmar, Laos and Thailand – is where opium is grown and crystal meth is made. Most of the finished drugs are sent to northern Thailand and then down to Bangkok for international distribution.

Asia Highlights kindly urges customers to cherish life and abstain from drugs.

Indochina suffers a high rate of HIV-AIDS and the number of people carrying the disease is on the rise. The official line is that the infection is mainly limited to sex workers and drug addicts.

Female Travelers

All the countries in Indochina are good and relaxing destinations for female travelers.

Most women travel with at least one companion, since traveling alone in some remote areas or walking alone late at night may be risky, like in many other places. Having a companion makes the whole journey safer and more fun.

Still, thousands of women do travel alone and enjoy the experience. Just be cautious if you’re wandering off the beaten track. Normally, dressing modestly will help to avoid unwanted attention.

Out of respect, keep your shoulders and knees covered when visiting temples. In some temples it’s not permitted for female visitors to enter the upper terraces or touch the deities.

Traveling with Children

Children tend to have a good time in most Indochinese countries, as they are often the centre of attention and local people like playing with them.

There are plenty of things to keep kids interested and they will find it fun to join in many activities, such as boat trips, cooking classes and beach time.

Children also enjoy the local cuisine and variety of fresh fruit. Most Indochinese countries have a low level of public sanitation, however, so parents may need to pay more attention to maintaining the health of their kids.

For example, set some ground rules, such as washing hands regularly, and abstaining from cold foods and drinks.

Toilets

In most Indochinese countries, toilets are generally of the sit-down variety. Public toilets are rare and charge small fees. Travelers usually rely on washrooms in restaurants, which will be more or less clean. Since toilet paper and hand soap are seldom provided, carry some of your own.

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