Outside Magazine, January 1997
Be Afraid. Be Ever-So-Slightly Afraid.
Because even the most inveterate can stand to be prudent
By David Noland
Don’t drink the water. A clich‰, sure, but GI distress is the Third World traveler’s most common complaint. Unless a reputable authority tells you otherwise, stick with the bottled stuff–water, fruit juice, soft
drinks, or beer. And hold the ice.
Cook it, peel it, or… go without. On an organized trip, your outfitter will look after kitchen sanitation. But on your own, avoid uncooked food, especially fruit and lettuce that may have been washed in contaminated water.
Drink the water. Lots of it. Above 10,000 feet, the thin air can trigger headaches and nausea–even death. So ascend gradually, no more than 2,000 feet per day, and guzzle four quarts of water a day. Also, ask your doctor about Diamox (acetazolamide), a prescription drug that can help stem acute mountain sickness.
If a stranger points out a stain on your shirt, grab your wallet. Get used to it: There are people everywhere who want to relieve you of your cash. A favorite ploy of pickpocket duos is to unfold a map and ask for directions. Don’t be paranoid, just hyperalert–and wear a money belt against your skin.
Be choosy about public transportation. Ever notice how the New York Times fills space with all those one-sentence “bus-plunge” stories from Third World countries? Check your bus’s tires for worn spots, not to mention your driver’s sobriety. If they don’t measure up, wait for the next ride.