Travel in the Developing World

Whether you’re bringing kids along or not, there are certain uncomfortable aspects of travel in the developing world. It’s obviously tougher with very young kids in tow because they always manage to find the dirtiest corner! But even as an adult, you need to know certain key rules.

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Workers at a Sri Lanka tea plantation

You cannot drink the tap water.

  • Keep a bottle of water next to the sink for brushing your teeth, and close your mouth in the shower.
  • Refuse ice cubes in all of your drinks. This also means you cannot have smoothies, milkshakes, juice from concentrate, or any drinks blended with water/ ice.
  • Never eat salad or unpeeled fruit, as they are washed in tap water. If it can’t be peeled and hasn’t been cooked at high temperatures, you can’t eat it.

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Do not eat street meat. This isn’t about how “tough” your stomach is or whether you grew up in a developing country. It’s not about ditching the tourist vibe and going local. The bacteria in your gut are different than the locals’, and you will get sick if your food isn’t both stored and prepared to a “tourist standard”. If you want that authentic local spice level, just ask for it!

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Bring toilet paper and hand sanitiser. Don’t ever count on finding a clean and well-stocked bathroom, or even a sink. Also, don’t count on finding a toilet to sit on. Which brings me to my next point…

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Get ready for toilet gymnastics! Sure, we’re all used to squatting over dirty toilets. But you know who can’t do that? Small children. You’ve probably already explained to your kids that public bathrooms are disgusting, and that they shouldn’t touch ANYTHING. You’ve probably had some level of practice in airplanes and gas stations. Now, get ready for the next level: holes in the ground.

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Here’s what I like to call the Kid Taco Routine: fold your child in half like a human hardshell taco, pick them up with one forearm under their thighs and the other around their back, and hold them over the toilet (or hole in the ground). This one takes practice, coordination and a cooperative child. Key tips for success:

  • Don’t pull their trousers or skirts down too far, because they’ll end up on the disgusting floor. Try to keep it all around their knees.
  • Give your child several squares of toilet paper before you pick them up. It’s much harder to grab the toilet paper after you’re already holding them up.
  • If they need you to wipe them, you’ll need to have the toilet paper squares ready to go in one hand. When it’s time, keep one arm under their thighs and have them hold onto your neck or shoulders, thus freeing your other hand to wipe their bum.
  • Make sure their clothes haven’t slipped around their shoes before you put them down. Have them hold their clothes or start pulling them up while you lower them to the floor.
  • Even if there is a sink, apply hand sanitiser after you leave the bathroom. This one’s universal… doorknobs are gross.

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Always carry snacks, bottled water, Imodium, tissues, hand sanitiser, baby wipes, infant Tylenol, Advil, band-aids/plasters, Neosporin, toilet paper, a change of clothes for the children, sunscreen, insect repellent, and any regular medication. 

What are your other tips for travel in developing countries? We’d love to hear how you keep your crew healthy and happy!

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