Medical ‘Emergencies’ While Traveling
A big question that pops into mind when considering location independence is…
“What will I do if I have a medical emergency in a foreign country?”
You might think that getting sick on the road has much larger consequences than a similar problem would at home.
You might be so worried about medical emergencies that you avoid jumping into location independence all together!
Since being on the road, I’ve had a few ‘horrific medical emergencies’. After each situation, I was always shocked at how quickly I was taken care of.
Typically, a hospital is always close by. (In Thailand, mine was just down the street)
The medical bills (even without travel insurance!) are much less than they would be at home. That was at least my experience in Thailand, Vietnam, and the Philippines.
Here’s a few ’emergencies’ I had quickly taken care of while I was traveling. These stories should help put your Asian-travel medical fears at ease.
1. Snake Attack In Thailand
One rainy afternoon I walked into the bathroom of my Chiang Mai apartment to find myself face-to-face with a snake perched on my towel rack! Arming myself with a large plastic bag, I decided to capture the intruder.
The snake whipped around and bit me in the hand! Eventually, I got the darn thing in the bag but once the creature was contained the blood pouring from my finger sent a flashing ‘danger!’ signal to my brain.
Unknown snake. In Thailand. Poisonous…? I had no idea!
Running to the hospital, bagged snake in hand for identification, I was quickly taken care of. The snake wasn’t venomous, but I received a rabies shot. The doctors were very professional, and within a few hours I was back home and planning which street food stall I would visit for dinner.
The total cost of all medical bills was about $40.
2. Coral Crash In The Philippines
I love sailing. When I arrived in Asia I set ‘sailing in a tropical location’ as one of my big goals.
In Puerto Galera, the Philippines, I realized this dream. You could rent a small ‘Laser’ sailboat right next to the Badladz Resort, and it was an opportunity I took advantage of often.
On one of my many excursions, me and a new Japanese friend tied the boat to some submerged rocks and walked down the beach, only to see the boat on it’s side in the shallow water 10 minutes later!
Swimming back, we fought get the boat upright. The seafloor around us was lined with sharp coral, we both got badly scraped, and I received an infection that had me feeling sick for a few days. (Biodiversity is great, just not when it’s inside your leg!)
Even in this rural community (a half-days journey away from Manila) I was able to quickly get help from a doctor downtown. She helped me clean the scrape and wrote me a prescription for antibiotics I could fill in town.
The doctor’s fees and the cost of the antibiotics combined wasn’t more than $80 and I felt great a few days later!
3. Getting My Regular Dentist Checkup
This wasn’t an ’emergency’ for me, but we all know you’re supposed to see the dentist at least once every six months. I’d been location independent for about that long so I knew it was time to check myself in.
I was in Vietnam at the time, and by chance walked by a building with a massive tooth on the front. Bingo!
The cleaning was rudimentary. They just applied the usual polish and sprayed a water jet between all of my teeth, but the entire visit cost just $7. Back home you never visit a dentist without paying much more!
In most circumstances, medical care in Asia is on par with what we’re used to in Europe or North America.
Yes, they have antibiotics in Asia. Yes, you can buy most vaccines. You can find STD medications if you do something really stupid!
Most of these meds are available within a few minutes notice unless you’re really out in the boonies!
In addition to getting my problems solved quickly, my care also cost pennies on the dollar in comparison to America, Australia, or Europe. This is normal for most medical costs in Thailand! As a young traveler, knowing that I could easily pay for most medical emergencies was huge.
If you’re going to jump into location independence, some unexpected emergencies will occur. They happened to me, and I promise I wasn’t trying to get bitten or scrape myself on coral.
Before you leave home it can feel like you’re stepping onto thin ice where a single slip can lead to horrible consequences.
Don’t let these fears stop you from traveling! Most of the danger is just in your head.
My emergencies weren’t terribly life-threatening. Are there any problems you’re still worried about regarding getting sick abroad?
Shoot me a question in the comments below, on Facebook, or on Twitter @Nico Jannasch.