Health & insurance
Travel Health Websites
Before travelling to the region, you can get up-to-date health advice from your government's website:
New Zealand (www.safetravel.govt.nz/beforeugo/health.shtml)
Another useful resource is www.mdtravelhealth.com, a US website with detailed destination advice.
Tap water is safe to drink in most of the countries listed in this book. However, in Albania, BiH, Montenegro and Turkey, it's best to stick to bottled or purified water.
Don't drink water from rivers or lakes, as it may contain bacteria or viruses that can cause diarrhoea or vomiting.
No vaccinations are mandatory for any of the countries in this book.
- The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that all travellers, regardless of their destination, should be covered for diphtheria, tetanus, measles, mumps, rubella and polio.
- Vaccinations against typhoid and hepatitis A and B are recommended for Turkey.
- Since most vaccines don't produce immunity until at least two weeks after they're given, visit a physician at least six weeks before departure.
- With a European Health Insurance Card EU nationals are entitled to free or reduced-cost public health care in EU countries. The card, which is available from your national health provider, does not cover private treatment, nonemergency treatment or emergency repatriation.
- Non-EU citizens should find out if there is a reciprocal arrangement for free or reduced-cost medical care between their country and the country visited. For example, Australian residents are entitled to subsidised medical treatment in Italy and Slovenia.
- US citizens should check whether their health-insurance plan covers medical care abroad – many don't.
- As a rule, non-EU nationals should take out health insurance.
- If you do need health insurance, consider a policy that covers you for the worst possible scenario, such as an accident requiring an emergency flight home.
- Find out in advance if your insurance plan will make payments directly to providers, or will reimburse you later for overseas health expenditures. The former option is generally preferable, as it doesn't require you to be out of pocket in a foreign country.
Availability of Health Care
Good health care is readily available throughout the region.
- For minor illnesses pharmacists can give valuable advice and sell over-the-counter medication. They can also advise when more specialised help is required and point you in the right direction.
- The standard of dental care is usually good; however, it is sensible to have a dental check-up before a long trip.
Heat Exhaustion & Heatstroke
Heat exhaustion Occurs when excessive fluid loss is combined with inadequate replacement of fluids and salt. Symptoms include headache, dizziness and tiredness. Dehydration is already happening by the time you feel thirsty – aim to drink sufficient water to produce pale, diluted urine. Replace lost fluids by drinking water and/or fruit juice, and cool the body with cold water and fans. Treat salt loss with salty fluids such as soup, or add a little more table salt to foods than usual.
Heatstroke This is much more serious, resulting in irrational and hyperactive behaviour, and eventually loss of consciousness and death. Rapid cooling by spraying the body with water and fanning is ideal. Emergency fluid and electrolyte replacement by intravenous drip is recommended.
Insect Bites & Stings
Mosquitoes These are found in most parts of Mediterranean Europe. They may not carry malaria, but they can cause irritation and infected bites. Use a DEET-based insect repellent.
Sandflies These are found around Mediterranean beaches. They usually cause only a nasty, itchy bite, but can carry a rare skin disorder called cutaneous leishmaniasis.
If you develop diarrhoea, be sure to drink plenty of fluids, preferably an oral rehydration solution such as Dioralyte. You should seek medical attention if diarrhoea is bloody, persists for more than 72 hours, or is accompanied by a fever, shaking, chills or severe abdominal pain.