Travel tips: How to find an open minded health care while travelling abroad

Published: February 3, 2019 4:28:47 AM

For women and LGBTQ people, finding friendly medical care away from home can be a challenge. There are resources they can turn to

When it comes to your health while travelling, knowledge is power.

Lola Méndez is no stranger to new experiences. Méndez, 29, an American freelance travel writer, has explored 56 countries, documenting her adventures on her blog. She has visited ancient tombs in Vietnam and trekked across mountains in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

While working as an English teacher in Spain in 2015, she had to embark on a new kind of undertaking: going to the gynaecologist in a foreign country. Many women don’t look forward to their yearly exam, and language barriers made an awkward situation all the more unnerving for Méndez. Each person’s concerns are unique, but no one should be afraid to go to the doctor if they get sick. Here are some tips for finding better, inclusive healthcare while travelling abroad.

Connect with locals and expats
Travellers can use social media for more than just making their friends envious of their dream vacations. It can also serve as an indispensable resource for finding quality health care while travelling. Social networks can serve as a sort of digitised version of the whisper network that women and LGBTQ people have long used to protect themselves from potential threats.

Do your research in advance
When it comes to your health while travelling, knowledge is power. Travellers should make themselves familiar not only with the specific health risks of any given destination, but with its laws and culture. Dozens of countries around the world have restrictive laws surrounding sexuality, and those can impact the type of medical care you get when you need it. In Qatar and the UAE, for example, being pregnant and unmarried is illegal and can carry a jail sentence. While these laws mostly target migrant workers, they technically can be applied to anyone. In upward of 70 countries, same-sex relationships are a crime.

Balance safety and honesty
We often assume that doctors’ offices are a space safe from judgment, but for many people, complete transparency can attract undue risk. When Lani Fried started Gynopedia, she learned in her research for the site that in dozens of countries, women could put themselves at greater risk if they openly discussed sexuality with a health care practitioner.

“There’s the question of honesty versus safety,” Fried said. “You want to be honest about your needs and be able to communicate them, but in certain environments if you’re completely honest, you might feel like you are exposing yourself to more judgment, or harassment, or kind of creepy behaviour.”

Bring the essentials in your carry-on
Many travellers don’t realise that their insurance usually doesn’t cover them while travelling abroad. Travellers insurance can fill the gaps and provide quality coverage when you’re away from home, but it’s especially important for anyone who might have an added health need. The same goes for medication, as access to birth control and hormones vary greatly around the world. Bring extra medication in your carry-on, and read up on the laws and restrictions of your destination.

(Jess McHugh, NYT)

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