Healthy Travel in Turkey

Immunizations

Here are the recommendations of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for immunizations for travelers to Turkey.

Here’s what the UK’s National Travel Health Network and Centre recommends.

Here’s what NHS Scotland’s Fit for Travel recommends.

Check your country’s travel health recommendations before consulting your doctor and making your own decision about immunizations.

As for me, unless there is some special epidemic alert (H1N1/Swine Flu, Avian Flu, etc.), or if I’m going to do something unusual (such as go camping in a swampy malaria-endemic district for a long time), I get no special immunizations for a trip to Turkey.

Take It Easy

To stay healthy while you travel in Turkey, don’t overdo it.

Eat and drink in moderation and get plenty of rest. If you’re not feeling well, rest in your hotel room rather than pushing onward. (If you push onward and get sicker you’ll have to rest even longer and you’ll lose even more travel time.)

Sun & Heat

In the warm months, use sunblock lotion regularly and wear a hat to avoid sunburn. Drink liquids regularly (at least every hour) in hot, dry weather—even if you don’t feel thirsty—to avoid dehydration. Surprisingly, mild dehydration can bring on stomach upsets, dizziness and diarrhea which are often mistaken for food ailments. The cure is simple: remember to drink a glass of water or a soft drink every hour!

Food

Consult your doctor concerning Travelers Diarrhea. Changes in food can disturb digestion, so go easy on the spicy food. (Most Turkish food is not spicy.) Be careful not to overeat. In fact, you should “undereat,” especially early in your trip. Once your digestive system becomes familiar with new intestinal flora, you can try new foods.

Here’s information on food allergies.

Drink

Drink bottled spring water, available everywhere. Go easy on tea and coffee, which can contribute to dehydration and sleeplessness, and can aggravate digestive problems. If you use alcoholic beverages, do so sparingly, if at all. Alcohol increases the risk of dehydration and stomach upset.

Pharmacies/Chemists’

 

Look for the big E sign for an Eczane

Every Turkish city and town has pharmacies/chemists (eczane, EDJ-zah-NEH) where you can buy medicines, medical aids and equipment, including such items as soaps, bandages, toothpaste and condoms (prezervatif).

Although a doctor’s prescription is obviously best, it is often not required. In fact, pharmacists/chemists (usually both male and female in attendance) will often recommend specific medicines for simple maladies if you tell them your symptoms.

Prices for medicines are government controlled, and therefore usually low to moderate.

On Sundays and holidays, one or more eczane in a city will open as nöbetçi eczanesi (nur-BET-chee edj-zah-neh-see, duty pharmacy/chemist) because illness knows no holiday. Signs in the windows of closed pharmacies/chemists’ give the addresses of the nöbetçi ezcanesi‘s, but the open shops may be quite a distance from where you are, so you may need help finding one.

Medical Care

All Turkish cities, especially provincial capitals, have hospitals (hastane), and towns have clinics (klinik, sağlık ocağı), often with staff who speak at least some English. Besides government hospitals (devlet hastanesi), there are now many private and specialty hospitals that are often of high quality and up-to-date.

Some specialize in “medical tourism,” that is, travel to obtain elective medical procedures that may be less expensive or available more readily in Turkey than in your home country.

Beware of High Prices at Private Hospitals

However, I’ve received information that in some cases, some private hospitals pay commissions for referrals of foreign patients, and then recoup this cost by charging foreign patients very high prices for services.

For example, you rent an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) or motorbike in Cappadocia, have an accident, and need ankle surgery. The vehicle rental company, hotel or other tourism business may urge you to go to a particular private hospital for treatment. The treatment you receive may be satisfactory, but the price may be very high—as much as US$15,000—and payable in cash immediately.

Locals in Cappadocia tell me that the government hospital (Devlet Hastanesi) provides very good treatment at much lower rates—rates which may be less subject to reimbursement delay or rejection by your home country medical insurance organization.

In an emergency, you may need to go to the nearest hospital, but if you are able, it’s best to ask about prices for treatment before committing to it.

Consulate Referrals

Your country’s consulate may be able to help with reliable references and recommendations for medical services.

—by Tom Brosnahan


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