Briana Cranmer, is a medical student at the University of Arizona. During the summer of 2012, Briana worked in Nepal, providing direct health services in small villages as part of the Village Volunteer Program. Briana received a $1500 scholarship from Sara’s Wish Foundation.
Here are Briana’s travel safety tips:
Preparation to leave:
- Register with the U.S. Embassy
- Schedule an appointment with your local travel health clinic to determine appropriate immunizations and necessary medications. Malaria coverage is a necessity. I recommend a few doses of ciprofloxacin to cover any episodes of severe diarrhea. The travel health clinic will likely give you azithromycin instead of ciprofloxacin, claiming the ciprofloxacin does not have good coverage. This is not completely accurate and I suggest taking both medications with you.
- Obtain international health insurance. I used STA Travel Insurance.
- Make multiple copies of your passport, credit cards and all other important information. Give a copy to someone at home that you trust. Also, take a couple copies with you.
- Book your flight. I highly recommend Suraj at Zen Travels (he is a local Nepali with U.S. training). He speaks English, is easily accessible by phone and email, and I personally met him while in Kathmandu. No extra charges for commission and he can book domestic flights.
- If you have a smart phone, bring it. Otherwise I recommend buying a cheap phone while in country. For 100 rupees (a little over $1 U.S. dollar), you get 30 minutes of talking time.
- If you are unsure about water safety bring a water filter and water purifying tablets.
- Shower shoes!
- Have a back up plan for all situations. Have a hotel name, address and number to go to in case you are lost or your ride does not show up. Have all contact information for U.S. and international program directors you are working with.
In-transit and in country:
- If you fly through Doha Qatar and have a layover >8 hours you will receive a free hotel voucher. I was skeptical, but I met four other people with the same layover so we all went together. You have to pass through customs/immigration to leave the airport and immigration on the way back into the airport, but there is plenty of time. If you are still concerned about leaving the airport or your layover is <8 hours, the Oryx lounge costs $40 and offers showers, clean bathrooms, coffee and drinks, food and internet. Highly recommended.
- Domestic flights only allow 20kg or 44lbs per bag, so pack appropriately.
- Domestic flights require payment of an airport tax +/- 200 rupees.
- Don’t ride motorcycles, head trauma is severe! Also, passengers rarely have helmets.
- Always be aware of your surroundings and actively participate in your safety. I actually felt very safe in the city and villages, but I still wore a money belt and only carried part of my money. I spent most of my time in the village so I cannot comment on other forms of travel throughout the country. When I did travel it was with a group and we used a local taxi driver.
- Be friendly and make friends with the local people.
- DO NOT EAT food from local people. They do not know how to prepare food for the American belly.
- Avoid going out at night. If you do go out at night, always take a local person with you and go in groups.
- Dress appropriately. Nothing revealing ladies.