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Personal hygiene

Infections are usually caused by poor hygiene. The main rule of thumb is the simplest: always wash your hands after using the toilet and also before preparing or eating food. Ensure you have antibacterial soap and/or hand gel and clean, dry towels. Your body will also be exposed to external factors. So never walk barefoot or through long grass. We also recommend that you wear close-fitting clothing and do not swim in stagnant or slow-flowing water.

Food and drinks - Boil it, cook it, peel it, or forget it!

The most common health problems suffered by travelers are intestinal infections and diarrhea. In most cases, contaminated food, drinking water, and beverages are the cause. The most important tips to prevent infection are:

  • avoid eating cooked food that has been kept at room temperature for a long time
  • only eat food that has been cooked thoroughly and is still hot
  • avoid raw foods, with the exception of unpeeled fruit and vegetables
  • avoid damaged fruit or fruit that has already been peeled
  • do not buy food from street vendors
  • do not eat ice cream if you do not know where it is from
  • ask locals which fish are toxic
  • boil raw, unpasteurized milk before use
  • boil drinking water if you are unsure about its quality
  • do not use ice cubes as these are usually made from unclean water
  • brush your teeth with safe, preferably bottled water
  • only use bottled water that is still sealed (with a crown cap)

The way in which locals in an area prepare food will determine whether or not it is safe to eat and drink there. The likelihood of travelers getting diarrhea is much higher in countries with poor food hygiene standards. Poor infrastructure and poor-quality drinking water play an important role in this risk. In countries where such conditions exist, it is always advisable to take extra precautions when it comes to hygiene - even in more expensive hotels and restaurants. The general rule of thumb is: Cook it, peel it, boil it, or forget it!

Hepatitis A and E, cholera, giardia, and typhoid are diseases spread by contaminated drinking water. Various viruses, bacteria, and parasites can also cause traveler’s diarrhea. Up to 80 percent of people traveling to areas with unclean drinking water will contract diarrhea. Toxins in seafood and fish are also known pathogens.

Swimming and showering

Keep in mind that swimming and showering water will not always be safe. Bacteria and viruses that can cause intestinal infections can be spread through water.  We therefore always recommend that you find out about how clean the water is before you go swimming, and avoid locations where sewage is discharged nearby. You should also avoid swallowing water while swimming.

Infectious diseases

There are a number of infectious diseases that are common among travelers to distant places. It is important that you are aware that you could contract one of these diseases while traveling overseas. Additional information on the various diseases that are common overseas can be found under the heading ‘Travel and Health’.

Insects and other animals

If you are traveling in a tropical or subtropical country, you run the risk of contracting diseases transmitted by mosquitoes. These include diseases such as malaria, dengue, Japanese encephalitis, and yellow fever. In many areas ticks also pose a risk; they can carry diseases such as tick-borne encephalitis. Some of these diseases can progress rapidly and be very serious. It is therefore important that people traveling to tropical and subtropical regions take precautions to avoid being bitten by insects and ticks:

  • Wear clothing that covers the entire body (long pants, long sleeves, shoes, and socks). Especially in the evenings and at night.
  • Apply insect repellent containing DEET to all exposed skin. Pregnant women and children may also use products containing DEET. A concentration of 30% DEET is usually effective enough. Do not apply this to children’s hands as they are likely to put their hands in their mouths.
  • Make sure you sleep in a mosquito-free room or under an undamaged, impregnated mosquito net. This is particularly important for children and pregnant women. If there is air conditioning, turn this on.
  • We advise you to take malaria pills during and after your stay in areas with a high risk of malaria; if necessary, these can be prescribed by our travel clinic nurse.

Other animals can also transmit diseases, be poisonous, or cause allergic reactions. In many countries, rabies is common in wild animals and sometimes also in domestic animals. Mammal bites or scratches can transmit the virus. To prevent this happening we recommend that you:

  • Avoid any unnecessary contact with animals. Do not encourage them to come near or provoke them;
  • Contact a physician immediately (within 24 hours) after being bitten or scratched by an animal;
  • Remember: a course of vaccines against rabies is available.

Poisonous animals include certain types of jellyfish, spiders, scorpions, and snakes. You cannot be vaccinated against these toxins, but antidotes are often available. It is important that you go to the nearest physician or hospital immediately.


  • Listen to the advice of experienced people.
  • Avoid places where dangerous animals have been spotted.
  • Wear boots or high shoes in areas with snakes.
  • Put your shoes indoors at night in areas where snakes and scorpions are common; check your shoes before putting them on.
  • Seek immediate medical assistance after a suspected sting or bite.