How easy is it to find tampons outside North America and Europe?

Do I need to bring all the tampons I need with me? I've heard you can't buy them outside Europe and North America but I can't believe I'd have to cart boxes around in my backpack.

Answer:

It depends. You'll usually find tampons in major cities, although in some countries even that is a stretch. Even when they are available, they can be quite expensive.

In many countries women use sanitary pads rather than tampons, which you can find pretty much everywhere. If you can stand it, get used to wearing these once in awhile.

Get the word 'tampon' translated and write down the word (or photocopy it) in the local language. At least you won't have to act it out at the drugstore and can just slide the piece of paper discreetly across the counter. And just so you know, the brand name Tampax is often more familiar than the generic word 'tampon'.

Once you do use a tampon, there's a disposal issue. Don't expect to find garbage cans on every street corner, and certainly not in every bathroom. You can't dispose of them in the toilet because most plumbing systems aren't as efficient as the ones you're used to. You don't want to block someone's toilet for weeks just because you had to throw out a used tampon!

For many women, the solution to tampons is a re-usable and washable menstrual cup. Have a look at the The Keeper or the Diva Cup.

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Dec 09, 2009
The solution for disposing of feminine care products while traveling
by: Anonymous

I discovered great little pink disposal bags called Scensibles when I was getting ready for a trip abroad. I knew that flushing stuff down the toilet would cause big problems with the poor plumbing systems so I looked on-line for sanitary bags. Found Scensibles on Amazon. Really clean and easy to use.
Smell good too.

Dec 16, 2009
One good thing about ageing!
by: gwen@algarveexperiences.com

I must say that I had forgotten all about these kinds of issues. As a woman 'of a certain age', monthly feminine hygiene is no longer something I have to think about.

While I can empathize with the challenges, I also want to thank you for reminding me of one of the joys of getting older!

Gwen McCauley

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How long should I buy travel insurance for?

by Anna
(Australia)

Hi Leyla!

Firstly I want to thank you for your website- I subscribed to your newsletters a couple of months ago and have found it so helpful and inspiring. I am a young Australian woman who is about to move to Paris to teach English, and your stories and advice about travelling solo have got me so excited and I feel prepared and confident.

My question is about travel insurance- I am going to use World Nomads, but I’m wondering if you have advice about long-term insurance. Basically, I’m going to buy 6 months now and top up as I need, but I don’t expect I’ll be home for at least 18 months (at the very least). I aim to stay in different countries for 6-12 months at a time. Obviously I want to be insured the whole time I'm away. When you have done your long trips, how have you decided when to buy local insurance? And when do companies like World Nomads decide you aren’t really ‘traveling’, but ‘living’ in a country? Does this matter?

Thanks in advance!
Anna

Answer: Anna, thanks for your great words about my website - it means a lot to me because that's exactly what I'm trying to do with it!

First, if you haven't done it yet, go read my page on World Nomads. Most travel insurance (and I believe World Nomads) are good for a maximum of 12 months. Also they're designed to help you if you have an accident but if you need 'regular' medical care then they won't be much help.

If I were you I'd call World Nomads and write to them and explain the situation. There's no point in trying to get around their rules. Insurance companies are notoriously strict and if they suspect any hiccup at all they could simply invalidate your insurance.

I would also check with your own insurance to see if they have any coverage at all.

Ultimately if you stay somewhere for a year you will have to get local insurance - and that means being there legally. If you are, then you won't have a problem. If you aren't, it won't be as easy.

You could also be covered while you're on the road, then end your coverage for a bit while you're staying in a city, and pick it up again, to fall within the one-year rule. Thinking about it, I would definitely get in touch with the insurance company. Try a few different ones as well because some may well cover you for more than 12 months.

Do come back and post if you get information - I suspect others would be interested as well. I'm sorry I can't do more of the research for you - I'm on the road myself with limited Internet access but I'll help again if I can. Just let me know!

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Aug 27, 2011
There is cheap travel insurance out there...
by: Ar Colin

Travel insurance is overlooked or viewed as something that is unnecessary for a person's trip. Focused on the impending excitement and adventure or even the business dealings that lay ahead, many people perceive travel insurance as an optional extra or an unwanted expense. The good news is that cheap travel insurance is available and when appropriate cover is in place, every traveller can feel secure and safe in the knowledge that they are protected should things go wrong.



Aug 28, 2011
You are correct!
by: Leyla

I agree, Ar, it's one of those thing's that is often overlooked and that can be really bad news. In all honesty I'd rather leave my entire backpack behind but still have travel insurance with me. I recently managed to break an elbow and let me tell you, without insurance that would have been an unbearable expense. What a difference that made!

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What do you mean, bring a health insurance card?

by Terry
(Minneapolis, MN USA)

I have health insurance in my home state, but what do I need, and how much should I spend, for a 6-week excursion abroad?

Answer: The first thing you need to find out is whether your state health insurance covers you when you're traveling, and if so, what exactly it covers. Once you know that, you'll have to do some research online to find out what supplementary insurance you need, if any. For example, if you have an accident abroad, will your medical bills be taken care of? What about repatriation? What if it's just an illness, like malaria or stomach problems? Can you just walk in to a doctor's office and have it seen to - and get reimbursed?

One of the key things to do for yourself when you travel is make sure you're well covered medically. I have great health insurance at home, but it won't cover everything while I travel so I've looked around for cheap worldwide travel insurance to top up what I needed.

There's no cookie-cutter insurance scheme - every policy has its advantages and disadvantages and you'll have to sort those out because they cater to different markets broken down by age, state of health, destination or activity, to name a few. An 80-year-old headed for the sandy beaches of the Caribbean won't need the same insurance as a 20-year-old base jumper or paraglider.

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Nov 30, 2011
Travel Insurance
by: Gwen McCauley

One other thing to consider when shopping for travel medical insurance is whether you have to pay first and then get reimbursed or if payments are made directly. This is critical if you are traveling and have a major accident or health care incident. Hospital costs and flying home can become enormously expensive and if you have to come up with $10 thousand or more dollars you may have a huge problem on your hands.Better to pay a few more dollars for travel insurance that provides a premium offering than saving a few bucks on insurance that can leave you in the lurch. My insurance broker is fond of saying "It isn't what insurance costs so much as what insurers pay."

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Combatting Jet Lag with Melatonin and Light + a note on DVT

by Meg Gawler
(Gex, France)

The following is from my own experience plus an article by Jane Brody of the New York Times Service and the work of circadian rhythm specialist, Dr Alfred Lewy of the Oregon Health Sciences University. This is my personal battle plan – what works for you may be different.

Melatonin is a hormone released at night by the pineal gland, which, together with bright light, sets body rhythms – making you feel sleepy at bedtime and awake during the day. Bright daylight suppresses the release of melatonin. These body rhythms are tenacious, and without help, it generally takes one day to adjust to each time zone you cross. One problem with using melatonin to combat jet lag, is that adjusting our internal clock is complicated. Body rhythms can be adjusted either by advancing or delaying them. The basic recommendations are as follows:

1) Use doses of no more than half a milligram: tablets of 200 micrograms are quite sufficient. If you can only find 500 microgram tablets, I suggest you cut them in half.

2) You must start the day before your departure. Two days of pre-programming your body clock before you arrive in your new time zone is the key to success.

3) Don’t forget to take along a visor and dark sunglasses to protect you from bright light at the wrong time of day.

4) When crossing ten time zones or more travelling east, all the rules change because it is easier to delay the body clock by 14 hours, than it is to advance it by 10.

5) Even micro-doses of melatonin can cause extreme drowsiness, so be careful after taking it: avoid driving, operating machinery, etc.

6) On the plane, drink lots of water and arrange to sleep. If you have a night flight, eat a solid meal before boarding so that you can go to sleep right away. Take a “sleep kit” for the flight (ear plugs, neck pillow, eye mask). However, to avoid deep vein thrombosis, it is better to take only short periods of sleep, and move around in between, unless you can get into a normal sleeping position (i.e., business or first class seats/beds).

7) When you arrive in your new time zone, plunge headlong into the local time, and avoid taking naps. Drink lots of water; get exercise (a walk is great). If you are not sleepy at bedtime, Passiflora may help; this is an herbal sedative that enhances sleep with no known side effects.

Going EAST to WEST:

1 - 6 time zones:
When to take melatonin the day before and the day of departure: On awakening, regardless of the time.
When to take melatonin upon arrival: Day 1: On awakening. Days 2-3: 1-2 hours later than the previous day.
Light exposure: Get light late in the day.

7 - 9 time zones:
When to take melatonin the day before and the day of departure: On awakening, regardless of the time.
When to take melatonin upon arrival: Day 1: On awakening. Days 2-4: 1-2 hours later than on the previous day.
Light exposure: Get midday light. Avoid late-day light.

10 or more time zones:
When to take melatonin the day before and the day of departure: On awakening, regardless of the time.
When to take melatonin upon arrival: Day 1: When it is the same time that you took it yesterday at your point of departure. Days 2-4: 1-2 hours later than on the previous day.
Light exposure: Get morning light. Avoid light the rest of the day.

Going WEST to EAST:
1 - 6 time zones:
When to take melatonin the day before and the day of departure: About 3:00 p.m.
When to take melatonin upon arrival: Day 1: When it is the same time that you took it yesterday at your point of departure. Days 2-3: 1-2 hours earlier than the previous day.
Light exposure: Get morning light.

7 - 9 time zones:
When to take melatonin the day before and the day of departure: About 3:00 p.m.
When to take melatonin upon arrival: Day 1: When it is the same time that you took it yesterday at your point of departure. Days 2-4: 1-2 hours earlier than the previous day.
Light exposure: Avoid morning light. Get midday light.

10 or more time zones:
When to take melatonin the day before and the day of departure: On awakening, regardless of the time.
When to take melatonin upon arrival: Day 1: When it is the same time that you took it yesterday at your point of departure. Days 2-4: 1-2 hours earlier than the previous day.
Light exposure: Get morning light. Avoid light the rest of the day.

Happy body rhythms!


A Note on DEEP VEIN THROMBOSIS

DVT – deep vein thrombosis – from an article by Roger Collis of the International Herald Tribune: DVT is a condition in which blood clots form in the legs as a result of prolonged immobility, especially in cramped seats on long-haul flights. Then a week or so later, they either dissolve, or they break off and travel to the lungs, causing serious injury or death. Often there are no symptoms at all. First signs may be sudden swelling, tenderness, redness or pain, often in one leg, especially at the back of the leg below the knee (this is different from the typical ankle swelling on long-haul flights). The pain may be made worse by flexing the foot towards the knee. Symptoms typically develop a week to ten days after the flight. Sharp pains in the chest and shortness of breath may be signs of a pulmonary embolism that can lead to sudden collapse.

Preventive measures include the following:
1. Take a low-dose aspirin before the flight (unless contra-indicated).
2. Wear compression stockings and loose clothing.
3. Avoid leg discomfort during the flight.
4. Avoid clogging up the space under the seat in front of you with lots of carry-on baggage.
5. Unless you can stretch out fully, take only short periods of sleep and do not use sleeping pills during the flight.
6. Move around in your seat and in the cabin as much as possible.
7. Exercise your calf muscles for a few minutes every half hour by flexing and rotating your feet.
8. Drink lots of water, and avoid excess alcohol and caffeine.


For a good site on the various health risks of travel, go to: http://www.travel-medicine.info.

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Dec 16, 2009
Excellent advice!
by: Trisha Miller

Really good advice, but I was surprised to read the low dosage recommendation on Melatonin. I use it every night to help me get to sleep (and stay asleep) but I take 9 or 10 milligrams, not micrograms - nearly 5 times what you recommend. Less than that and I have trouble sleeping, but for me Melatonin is a godsend. I'm wondering why you recommend the low dose?

Thanks though for the tip on Pasiflora - I'll look into that!

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Can you take herbal remedies across borders?

by Albatros
(London UK)

I will be traveling for 7 months around SEA, AU, NZ and US. I intend to take with me my beloved medical remedies, herbal tablets, like Milk thistle, Q10, vitamins and minerals. Will I have problems with customs??

Answer:

It depends on the country. You should breeze through most borders in Southeast Asia (with the possible exception of Myanmar). The US can be quite strict about what you bring in. Australia and New Zealand are the most rigorous - always declare everything, just in case. Products allowed in your country might be restricted there and therefore subject to examination by Customs officials.

I would suggest that you bring the minimum - you should be able to find everything you need in the US, Australia and NZ, as well as in major Southeast Asian cities. The less you bring, the less you'll lose if anything gets confiscated.

Whatever you do, don't try to save space by removing the herbals from their original packaging! Make sure you keep the original bottle. A jumble of pills in a plastic bag may be lighter, but it also calls attention to border officials. They don't know you're carrying herbal remedies - for all they know you may be carrying drugs. In some parts of SEA, remember there's a death penalty for drug trafficking, so this is no laughing matter.

So - declare everything in the stricter countries; keep all pills in their original containers; and bring small quantities - you can buy more along the way. Have a great trip!

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