Request Info
A Projects Abroad volunteer is washing her hands while volunteering abroad.

A Guide on How to Stay Healthy when Traveling Abroad

We share our travel wellness tips for anyone interested in pursuing meaningful experiences overseas

By Ashwin September | 18th May, 2020
Updated on 20th July, 2023

If we've learned anything in the last few years, it’s that good hygiene is critical in keeping harmful germs and illnesses at bay, especially when traveling. No one can avoid being sick completely, but there are ways that you can keep your body healthy and lower your chances of becoming sick while on the move. To start with, make sure you practice the basics:

  • Wash your hands regularly with soap and warm water, or use hand sanitizer with an alcohol content of at least 70%;
  • Only drink tap water if you’re 100% sure it’s safe, otherwise drink bottled water;
  • In order to prevent food contamination, make sure your food is prepared hygienically;
  • Get the relevant vaccinations before you leave and make sure you have medical insurance for travel.

Besides good hygiene and regular sanitizing, we have other tips on how not to get sick while travelling. Read on to find out how you can stay healthy when traveling abroad.

Eat Healthy & Natural Foods

Projects Abroad volunteers looking for fresh fruit to stay healthy during travelling to Costa Rica.

One of the best ways to make sure you stay healthy is to eat healthy. We’re sure you’ve heard the saying: “You are what you eat.” Meaning, if you eat lots of sugary treats and fast foods, your body will only have those available to fight off any germs and viruses. And we all know sugar and fast food don’t help boost our immune systems.

We’re not saying to go cold turkey and cut out treats and junk food completely. We all need to indulge in our favorite snacks from time to time, or try new ones abroad. The key for how to eat healthy while traveling is moderation. Along with that, drink lots of water and eat healthy fruits and veggies.

Our host families on our volunteer projects prepare home-cooked meals. Many of them use fresh, local produce as well, so your body will have the vitamins and minerals it needs to fight off harmful germs. 

If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, you may be concerned with how you can maintain your diet and stay healthy abroad.

Check out our blog on our best destinations for vegetarians and vegans.

Get Enough Sleep So You Have Energy For Your Adventures

You’re in a new country and want to explore and see as many places as possible. That doesn’t mean we should sacrifice our sleep. We all know someone who gets cranky if they don’t get enough sleep. That someone may even be you! But the effects can go a lot further than being moody.

A drastic lack of sleep can cause things like:

  • Drowsiness
  • Tremors
  • Memory deficits
  • A decrease in hand-eye coordination

None of which are fun to have when you want to be adventuring and making a positive impact for local communities.

Tips on how to sleep well while travelling 

It’s important to remember that when you enter a different time zone your body may take a while to adjust. In preparation for this, spend a couple of days simulating your new schedule before you leave. This will make it easier to move into the new time zone and you’ll be fit as a fiddle in no time. 

In addition, pace yourself. You don’t need to see or do everything in one day! Take time to rest when you can, and avoid exhausting yourself. Plan your schedule, and speak to our Destination Experts for recommendations on balancing volunteer work or your internship with sightseeing.

Keep Active & Exercise Abroad

Projects Abroad volunteers go on a hike during their free time in Argentina.

Keeping active is another great way to stay healthy while traveling abroad... and this doesn’t mean you need to go to a local gym, unless you really want to! Make use of the natural and simple elements that are already there in destination.

Many of our destinations, like Cambodia, Costa Rica, South Africa, and Peru have plenty of hiking trails that you can explore. Hiking in nature is the perfect break away from modern life combined with physical activity. Your lungs will appreciate the fresh air and you’ll keep your muscles on their toes.

Another way to keep active is to do a couple of stretches throughout the day, or even some yoga with your fellow volunteers. It’s a peaceful way to keep your body agile. You don’t need a yoga mat specifically because any soft surface will do the trick.

Protect Your Skin

There are few things better than spending a day off at the beach when it’s sunny outside. But even fantastic days splashing around in the water can have a bad side: sunburn.

When you’re travelling abroad, you’ll be exposed to different weather. If you’re like us, you like to go where the sun is out, which is always a good idea. Just be mindful to take extra care so you don’t get burnt. Get the appropriate sunscreen so you can enjoy your time out.

This doesn’t have to be limited to the beach. Some countries have temperatures upwards of 28 degrees celsius, which can be pretty harsh. If you’re rocking shorts, it’s a good idea to keep your sunscreen handy.

The opposite in temperature is just as important. If you’re heading to a destination with colder weather, make sure you pack an extra coat or a few extra layers. We know what it’s like to get off a plane in shorts and find it’s less than 10 degrees outside!

If you’re not sure about what weather to expect on one of our projects, speak to our Destination Experts and they’ll help you prepare for your trip.

Have A Healthy Mindset

An international group of Projects Abroad volunteers take a break during their high school special project.

One of the key things to enjoying your trip abroad is to have a positive and healthy mindset. A lot of how we experience the world is based on our own perspective. So if we have a positive outlook, our experience will be positive.

Sometimes traveling abroad can be tricky when we are exposed to completely new landscapes, cultures, and ways of life. But that’s the beauty of taking a trip across the world. You get to experience just how different people and places are. Check out our Cultural Awareness Training if you’re looking to get a better understanding before you go to your destination.

Opening yourself up to new experiences, people, and cultures will help you grow as a person and cultivate a strong sense of self.

Sometimes it can be a challenge when things are different from what we’re used to back home. But when things are hard, that’s when we can grow and become better versions of ourselves. That’s how we transform ourselves through travel.

Share this article:

Don't forget to spread the word and let us know what you think on Facebook and Twitter!

Want to know more about healthy traveling?

Get in touch with our Project Experts:

(+1) 917 810 4744

Our accreditations