RTW Health

Our RTW Trip » RTW Health

When we started our planning, we had pretty much zero knowledge of what we would need to stay healthy while traveling. Honestly, we are so lucky to live in Canada and so naive.

To start, we split our research into two parts: BEFORE and DURING.


We had a vague idea that we would need some kind of protection from diseases enroute, but that’s about it. We started asking around and found out that there is such a thing as a Travel Clinic (in Canada, anyway). One goes to such a clinic and they provide advice on what vaccinations to get, based on destinations, and then the administration of those vaccinations. We liked our clinic.

As children, both of us had received all the standard vaccinations at the appropriate ages. This helped, but it wasn’t enough. Three appointments and twelve needles later, we’re ready to go. We are lucky that we started this process early as several vaccinations must be administered in two or three doses over a period of weeks.


In a nutshell, here is a list of what we needed to travel (roughly) everywhere but Africa and the South Pacific:

  • Japanese Encephalitis
  • Rabies*
  • Yellow Fever – got a special card as proof of this one
  • Typhoid**
  • Polio
  • Hep A & Hep B (Twinrix)
  • Tetanus & Diptheria

It was expensive, yet priceless. I can’t imagine how much more it would’ve been if we planned to go to Africa, too. Currently, we are radioactive and cannot go near small children.

* Initially, we hadn’t planned on getting rabies shots but were convinced to do so by the doctor at the clinic and the fact that we could split the dosage (and cost) if we got the shots intra-dermally and at the same time as each other.
** This one hurt the most.

Also, there is malaria. We were given a prescription for Doxycycline before we left but didn’t think to fill it. Four days before we left for India, we decided to make a decision about whether or not to take anti-malarials. ln the end, we found some cheap pills in Istanbul without the need for a prescription and decided to give them try. If we got sick from taking them, then we’d stop. Luckily, we didn’t suffer from excessive nausea or terrible sun sensitivity so have kept on them.

Update: 05.08.07: We’re back in Canada and suffered neither from Malaria or from the pills designed to prevent its contraction.


Again, much naivete on our part here. We further divided our research into Professionally-Medicated and Self-Medicated.

Professionally-Medicated: Insurance

I hope we don’t have the need to seek professional medical help while travelling. However, I’ve heard the horror stories of people travelling (mostly to America), encountering medical difficulties, and coming back to Canada with $500,000 USD worth of debt and a disability to overcome. I briefly flirted with the idea of “self-insuring” because insurance seems so expensive (i.e. setting aside some emergency money to pay for medical expenses). Then I started imagining worse case scenarios and that quickly ended the flirtation. So, I plunged into the interweb to research travel medical insurance.

There is an endless abyss of information and variations on coverage for travel medical insurance. It was actually a pretty frustrating thing to research; if I ever go down that road again, I’m going to physically write down some criteria before doing any searching.

Finally, I stumbled across a Canadian insurance company based in Vancouver: TIC Travel Insurance Center Inc. They offer a good coverage plan for about $2.50CAD/day for both of us, not including the cost of the Alberta Health Care that we must continue to maintain while away. (We had to call to arrange for our provincial health care to be extended for the time we will spend out of province). There is no deductible, which is good, but the claim process could prove to be tricky as we must make claims to both AHC and the insurance company. I am crossing my fingers.

The following links were helpful to us:

Alberta Health Care Information for Albertans regarding extending AHC while out of province, the importance of health insurance while travelling and how to submit an out-of-province AHC claim.

Public Health Canada Health advice for Canadian travellers.

2006 Canadian Immunization Guide Every scary detail you never wanted to know about diseases still active around the world and the slough of needles you can get to help protect you.

Center for Disease Control Advice from a Republican government on current health hazards by region.

TIC Travel Insurance Coordinators Ltd. The insurance company through which we obtained travel medical insurance. The research was exhausting, the cost was high and the payoff is priceless. (Our broker)

Traveller’s Diarrhea An entire online book on this one subject.

Update: 10.23.06: We have had to access medical help twice so far in six months of travel. Once was in Hong Kong, where Marc had a fever of nearly 40C for a few days, and once was in Turkey where he noticed what appeared to be a crack in his tooth and we needed to visit a dentist.

The clinic in Hong Kong was in the IAMAT booklet and accepted him without an appointment on a Saturday evening. The consultation and prescriptions (filled immediately at the clinic) cost less than $100CAD so we didn’t even bother filing a claim. With the medication, the fever broke and all was well.

In Marmaris, Marc walked into a dentist’s office with no appointment, explained his tooth-related concerns in English, received an examination plus x-ray, and was not charged a dime for the service. They were just friendly about it and waved off our offers to pay; I think this was because it turned out that nothing was wrong. In any case, if something had been wrong, we heard from other people that the ease, speed, quality and cost of services was a bargain. The office was impeccable and technologically the same as what we’d expect at home in Canada.

Self-Medicated: Travel Kit of Medicines

This category covers everything that we will carry with us in order to stay as healthy as possible. The contents of our little kit are as follows:

  • a PILE of Immodium, in caplet and chewable form;
  • one package of Gravol, the drowsy version
  • a medium bottle of ibuprofen (Advil);
  • a small bottle of Aspirin;
  • a medium bottle of Pepto-Bismol chewables;
  • a filled prescription of antibiotic (Cipro).

We picked up some Tami-flu, among other things, in Hong Kong when Marc was ill.