An Online Primer for Budget Exploration
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Since your body will be stressed by new foods, new routines, time changes, the physical travel itself and plenty of exercise, do not try to do too much too soon. Pay attention to your body's signals and try to avoid getting others sick, especially in dorm situations.
One way to beat jet lag is to set your watch to the destination's time when you board your flight and mentally put yourself on that time. Try to get as much sleep as possible on the flight (bourbon helps but is not recommended because alcohol can dehydrate you; tough call). Upon arrival avoid long naps the first few days and try to keep up with the local hours. It is a bit grueling but it works in the long run.
Food and water are safe in most of Western Europe, even if the locals tell you otherwise. You may need to be careful the farther south and east you go, and bottled water is always available. In the east, keep abreast of any new problems by listening to the travelers' grapevine.
It is a good idea to bring along a supply of any prescription drugs you need. Pharmacies in Europe are well stocked, but most travelers find it easier to carry their own supply. Make sure to carry a note from your doctor stating that you need these prescriptions; it can help if you get your luggage searched at border crossings. Americans should know that it is much easier to get medications in Europe than at home, as the pharmacists can dispense many drugs without a doctor's prescription.
If you use glasses or contact lenses, it might be wise to pack along an extra pair as well. If you have a fancy pair of sunglasses, prepare to part with them, one way or the other.
Condoms, feminine hygiene products and most similar items are also easily available in most western countries, but again you may want to bring along a supply of a brand with which you are familiar and comfortable. There are also exceptions, such as the difficulty in finding birth control products in Ireland.
Travel insurance, if you decide to use it, is available through many companies. Check the numerous online sites or ontact a local travel agent for information. If you have an International Student ID Card, you automatically receive some basic coverage for accidents and illness. If you charge your ticket on a credit card, you automatically may receive some accident coverage as well.
If you are concerned about AIDS, contact your national or local health department. AIDS is everywhere now and contracting it depends not on where you go but what you do while there.
Especially for travel beyond Europe, you might want to join the International Association of Medical Assistance to Travellers (IAMAT), a non-profit organization with participation in 125 countries. They provide information on health problems worldwide. There is no membership fee but donations are appreciated: http://www.iamat.org/.
One last note: Always carry some toilet paper in your daypack (knapsack), since in many countries the public toilets are not so supplied. The farther south you go, the more the use of the facilities becomes an adventure.
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