For the new traveller packing is never easy. Not what to take, but what to leave out! We hope this list gives you a few ideas – but remember that extra pair of shoes, the thick jumper that your Gran made and Aunt Bessie’s jar of jam will weigh a lot at three in the morning after hiking 3 miles into town. If in doubt leave it out.
The Essentials – Try to keep all these together
- Passport, tickets and visas: You make it far without these – get photocopies
- Money: Debit/Credit cards, travellers checks and cash
- Driving license
- Insurance details: E-mail the number to yourself
- Vaccination details
- Details of bookings
- Student card, diving license, etc.
- Medical prescriptions: You don’t know when those glasses are going to break
The Basics – General backpacking and travelling read options
- Large pack and daypack: Buy the best you can afford – it’s a fact that baggage handlers do try to break them
- Travel towel: Takes up a lot less room and dries quickly
- Pen knife: The cheap ones won’t cut it
- Torch: LEDs are tougher than standard bulbs
- Camera and film: ASA200 covers most uses – but digital cameras are more fun.
- Guide book: Make sure it wasn’t printed in the fifties – things change
- Universal basin plug: For some reason there is never one when you need it!
- First aid kit: Do not use the “if in doubt..” rule – take one
- Sewing needles: Put in the first aid kit – dental floss is great for running repairs and tough!
- Hat: Wide brim is best
- Sun cream
- Sun glasses
- Sandals: In hot places you will live in them – buy comfortable ones. I’ve yet to find a person trekking in trekking sandals.
- Boots/shoes: Light boots or hiking shoes will do for most uses – but if you are doing some serious hiking get boots.
- Clothing: Very much depends on climatic region
Option A – Camping
- Tent or Bivi Bag
- Sleeping Bag: Bags that zip all the way around give you a better temperature range. Synthetics are machine washable.
- Stove: Gas is easy to use but check availability.
- Pots/cutlery/plates etc. Aluminium is not as easy to clean as non-stick or steel,
- Mat: Self inflating are generally best but pack a repair kit.
- Light: hmmm…what to do when the sun sets?
- Cleaning: Those pots don’t wash themselves!
Option B – Mosquito country
- Mosquito Net: Single or double – must be treated. Wedge if you are on the move – box if you are staying in one place.
- Hanging kit: Cup hooks, string and gaffa tape.
- Repellent: Deet 100 – repels insects and members of the opposite sex.
- Anti Malarial tablets: Check with a doctor what brand to take.
First Aid – Basic Kit
- Sticking Plaster
- Latex Gloves
- Eye drops
- Safety Pins
- Burn dressings
- Sterile Gauze swab
Which vaccinations do I need?
These depend on which part of the world you are travelling to. You can find out which vaccinations you need on this website. You may need a certificate to prove your vaccine status in some countries. Some of the common vaccines recommended include:
Hepatitis B is a viral disease of the liver that is endemic in many tropical countries. It is transmitted by sexual activity and through contaminated needles and syringes. Long stay travellers and those at particular risk should consider being in date for this immunization.
A course of three vaccinations is required, normally two injections are separated by one month and a further injection is given at six months. However, an accelerated schedule is often required for travellers. The three vaccinations can be given 1 month apart when time is short, a booster dose is recommended at 1 year if further protection is required. For last minute adults travellers, vaccinations can be given on day 0,7 and 21. Again, a booster dose is recommended at 1 year if further protection is required.
Vaccines are available which provide long lasting protection when a booster dose is given in 6-12 months. Immunization is usually advised for those going to areas where the standards of food and water hygiene are lower than the UK.
Most travellers from the UK, Australia and other developed countries will have been immunized against diphtheria in childhood. A booster of low-dose vaccine would be advised every 10 years for those intending to make long-stay trips to developing countries. Travelers to the old USSR should also be in date for diphtheria. In the UK, diphtheria vaccine is now given in combination with tetanus.
Polio vaccine is usually given orally, sometimes on a lump of sugar, it provides simple and safe protection against poliomyelitis which is still prevalent in a small number of tropical and developing countries. A booster is recommended every 10 years for travellers going into risk areas.
After having this vaccination, you may excrete live polio virus in your faeces for approximately 6 weeks. You should take extra care with hand washing after going to the toilet to prevent this virus being passed on to other household members. People with immunosuppression (reduced immunity against disease) or household contacts with immunosuppressants, are usually given the inactivated polio injection.
A single injection provides good protection against yellow fever for ten years. An International Certificate of Vaccination against yellow fever is valid ten days after the injection or immediately upon re-vaccination, and is a mandatory requirement for entry into certain countries
Typhoid is a disease contracted from contaminated food and water. There are now a few different vaccines for protection against typhoid. A single injected vaccine will provide protection for 3 years. The live oral vaccine is not currently available in the UK, 3 capsules given on alternate days provides protection for 1 year. Combined typhoid and hepatitis A vaccines are also available. Typhoid immunization is usually advised for those going to areas where the standards of food and water hygiene are poor.
Typhoid vaccines do not provide 100% protection and do not protect against paratyphoid fever and other diseases transmitted by contaminated food and water. Take care to avoid high risk food and water.
All travellers should have had a primary course of tetanus vaccination as this disease is spread throughout the world and is potentially a hazard to life. Five doses of tetanus vaccine are considered to give life long immunity. However, for travellers to areas where medical attention may not be accessible should a tetanus prone injury occur and whose last dose of a tetanus containing vaccine was more than 10 years previously, a booster dose of the combined tetanus and low dose diphtheria (Td) vaccine should be given. A booster dose is given as a single injection and lasts for 10 years. Single antigen tetanus vaccine has now been replaced by the combined Td vaccine.
Pre-immunization against rabies should be considered by travellers going to areas where this disease is endemic. If you are staying for considerable periods of time in a risk area or you are at particular risk as you will be more than 24 hours away from medical help or working with animals, rabies vaccination is recommended.
The immunization should not be considered to provide complete protection and medical advice must be sought if bitten by a potentially rabid animal. If you have had a course of rabies before you travel, you will not need the rabies immunoglobulin vaccine (which is in short supply in many countries) if you are bitten or scratched. Two post exposure boosters will be recommended. Travelers who have not had pre exposure vaccines will need 5-6 post exposure vaccines if they are bitten or scratched plus the immunoglobulin vaccine which may be difficult to obtain.
Japanese encephalitis is a serious viral disease transmitted by mosquitoes in certain rural parts of India, Asia and south east Asia. A vaccine is available which should be reserved for those going to risk areas for periods of a month or more. Travelers who are thought to be at very high risk, perhaps they are working on farms near paddy fields, may be recommended this vaccination for shorter stays. Currently two different vaccines are available, the course may be given in 2 doses on days 0 and 7-14 or in 3 doses on days 0, 7 and 28.
Two single dose vaccines are available for travellers. One protects against the A and C strains of the disease, the other against the ACW and Y strains. As there have been reports of the W135 serogroup spreading throughout a number of African countries, the ACWY vaccine is now preferred for most travellers. However, where cost is an issue, the cheaper A+C vaccination would protect against the most common form of meningitis in many of the countries. Check the latest health news on a MASTA health brief if in doubt – cases of W135 meningitis will be reported here, the ACWY vaccine is always recommended in countries reporting cases of W135.
Meningitis vaccines are advised for travellers to areas where there are outbreaks of these strains of meningococcal meningitis. Long-stay travellers to areas where the disease is endemic (e.g. the “meningitis belt” in northern sub-Saharan Africa in the dry season) should also be offered the vaccine. A booster is required every 3-5 years. Pilgrims and seasonal workers visiting Saudi Arabia are required to be in possession of a certificate of immunization against ACWY strains. A new certificate must be issued every 3 years
Malaria is a serious, sometimes fatal, disease caused by a parasite. Malaria occurs in over 100 countries and territories. More than 40% of the people in the world are at risk. Large areas of Central and South America, Hispaniola (Haiti and the Dominican Republic), Africa, the Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and Oceania are considered malaria-risk area.