Several vaccinations are advised before travelling to Indochina; consult your GP or travel clinic six to eight weeks before departure to ensure you have time to complete all the series of injections.
Malaria is also present, so you will need to bring anti-malarial medication. Be aware that some malaria strains here resistant to some forms of medication, so be sure to bring the appropriate type. Wearing long sleeves and trousers is also advised, as well as insect repellent – which also serve to protect against other insect-borne illnesses such as dengue fever. Remember, malaria can develop up to a year after exposure, so keep an eye on any symptoms.
The quality of hospitals varies greatly from region to region – ensure you have comprehensive travel insurance which covers emergency medical evacuation as you may not be able be treated locally. In general, Thailand’s private hospitals are excellent, while Vietnam’s cities provide decent basic healthcare. If travelling in Cambodia or Laos, or in any rural area, health services are extremely limited.
Bring any prescription medicines with you, along with a basic medical kit, particularly if you are visiting rural areas. As well as first aid items, consider bringing medicines for stomach upsets, rehydration sachets and painkillers.
Tap water is unsafe to drink - also be wary of ice in drinks and unpeeled fruit and vegetables.
Schistosomiasis – also known as bilharzia – is a disease which can be caught in freshwater. It is present in Cambodia, so avoid swimming or bathing in lakes and rivers. Symptoms may not occur until after you return home; be sure to visit your GP if you are unwell.
The most common health hazard in Indochina is water borne stomach infections and diarrhea, usually in a mild form, but uncomfortable given the lack of developed bathroom facilities. In both instances, get plenty of rest, drink lots of water, and replace lost salts with rehydration sachets.
Rice wine is part of the culture in Vietnam – but avoid the homebrew, and opt for recognised brand names. Super-strength rice wine can contain lethal levels of methanol.
Don’t underestimate the strength of the sun across Indochina, especially when travelling on the water. Temperature and humidity can take time to adjust to, so apply sunscreen regularly, wear loose clothing and drink lots of water.