Most travel advisories for South East Asian countries suggest having Hepatitis A and Typhoid vaccine in addition to your routine vaccines. Other vaccines can be recommended depending on your itinerary and length of your stay in the region or in the rural areas. Malaria is a low risk in most touristy places, but you need to check, if it is present in the regions you are heading to.
Definitely check with the travel cliniques or your GP and do the vaccines according to your itinerary and medical history. Personally, we didn’t do any additional vaccines (except the routine ones, which we already have), but we were extremely careful with food.
Many diseases can be avoided by preventing mosquito bites. In South East Asia mosquitoes can carry dengue virus, which was what concerned me most. So I have researched travel repellents a lot before going.
Types of Mosquito Repellents
There are three preventive options: the products containing deet, the products with picaridin and the natural options (citronella, lemon eucalyptus, etc). As I understand deet works best, so I bought several options with deet. We also had picaridin based lotions with, but we didn’t use them so far.
The percentage of deet in a mosquito repellent tells you, how long will it work. 7% means that it works 1-1.5 hours. To be on the safe side, count it as 1 hour. So the 25% Off repellent we brought worked up to 4 hours. We also used 50% Jungle formula and 40% Repel repellents, but I found that higher percentages made me itchy. I preferred Off and kept reapplying it every 3-4 hours.
There are spray, lotion and roll-on varieties. Spray just made all around terribly smelly. Roll-on seemed to be much easier to apply and to carry.
Note: Deet based repellents apparently don’t have expiration date. I double checked this with producers. So unless your repellent also contains sunscreen, it can be used over the years. I did use a couple of them after 3 years of first opening and they worked well.
Whatever you choose (deet, picaridin or natural repellents), you will definitely need to bring one with you and make sure to apply it, as often as needed. Keep in mind that most of these repellents will not work after you get into sea, so you need to reapply them.
If you don’t bring any repellent, you can find them in 7-11 stores, however, the easily available ones are the ones with 13-15% deet, which only works for 2 hours.
You also better bring a sunscreen, as around SE Asia they are extremely expensive. A small sunscreen bottle I bought from amazon for 5 USD per two pack cost 15 USD there. The direct tropical sun can be damaging to your skin and health. According to my research, it is best to apply sunscreen first, wait for at least 15 mins and then apply mosquito repellent. If you don’t wait or put them other way round, you may be decreasing their efficiency.