A friend recently asked me as she was about to jet off to Bali if I had any tips on travelling with kids in South East Asia. Whether you are heading to the region for a holiday in the sun or an extended period of time, there are some things to be aware of to keep your children safe and healthy throughout the journey. Here are my top 11 tips to help you avoid any mishaps or illness along the way.
#1 Ensure the street food is cooked
If your child is going to get ill while travelling to South East Asia it will generally be due to contaminated food or water. We ate plenty of street food throughout our travels and I highly recommend it, but be selective and ensure any meat is freshly cooked and hasn’t been sitting there for a long period. If you are unsure, just put the food back on the grill for a little longer or choose a vendor that has continuous customers. Locals eating there is a good sign that not only the food is tasty, but it is fresh. For more tips on street food click here.
#2 Be selective with the choice of fruit
Avoid any fruit that has been pre-cut and sitting on display. Whilst it might look appealing and is a handy snack for kids to eat, it can be a great source of bacteria. Choose fruits that you can peel yourself.
#3 Always drink bottled water
Most restaurants, cafés and street vendors will have complimentary water on offer in jugs on the table. Don’t drink it! While many do you bottled water, you can’t be sure and it is not worth the risk with little people. Carry with you bottled water at all times and ensure they are totally sealed when you purchase the water. There has been stories of people filling the bottles with tap water and reselling them as bottled water.
#4 Keep an eye on them
Western kids are loved in South East Asia and you will be surprised at how much attention your child receives whilst travelling, especially if you are heading out of the resorts and major tourist areas. While we never felt Jack was in any danger, the locals have no problem about taking him from you to show him to their friends, take photos or offer him treats. We found Jack was much more comfortable with the attention when he could see us and vice versa.
#5 Check the playground before playing
Developing countries don’t have the same safety standards as we do in Australia when it comes to playgrounds. Many of the local play equipment is handmade out of recycled materials and will be probably not as shiny and safe as the playgrounds you are used to. Obviously my suggestion is not to avoid the playgrounds, but maybe have a quick look before you let your child loose. I have found nails sticking out of fortes, bull ants all over the swings and planks missing for the floor of raised cubby houses. They are also usually scorching hot! Just be mindful, that’s all.
#6 Keep your child hydrated
Kids can get dehydrated really easily especially if the humidity is high and by the time you may notice, they are probably well and truly dehydrated. While fresh juices can seem appealing, the best way to keep your child hydrated is by regularly drinking bottled water. It is also worth packing some hydration tablets just in case.
#7 Don’t rely on a hotel cot
Depending on your type of accommodation, many hotels will have cots available for your child. Although we had our own travel cot with us, we have been told a lot of the cots offered can be a little worse for wear and may not totally clean. Regardless of whether you are travelling short or long term, I would suggest you take your own cot with you on your adventure.
#8 Sit with your child between you on a tuk tuk
You won’t be seeing children strapped into a car seat while you are travelling with kids in South East Asia and unless you are hiring a private driver with your own car seat you might want to get used to your child being unrestrained too. Our preferred mode of transport was either tuk tuk, Song Teaws or push bike. While we saw few accidents during our travels which is amazing considering their lack of road rules and crazy driving, we did ensure we held onto Jack and he remained between us most times.
#9 Play safe on the water
If you are planning on going on boat tours with your kids, check when you purchase the tickets whether they have lifejackets available for your child. Most companies will be required by law to provide lifejackets and you will need to wear them particularly as you leave the dock. But we found most didn’t have a life jacket for Jack and he had to wear an adult one. If you are thinking of regularly heading out on the water with your kids whilst on a tour of South East Asia, you might want to consider purchasing a lifejacket that will actually fit!
#10 Pack your own sunscreen or fork out the cash
As Australian’s we are well aware of being sun smart and while I am all for kids getting a bit of colour and a healthy dose of vitamin D, you need to be carefully especially when you are sightseeing all day in heat or hanging out on the beach. In beach side locations such as Na Trang, sunscreen is quite expensive and so as budget travellers we made the mistake of purchasing a cheaper brand. What we got was an oily, thin, useless product that just made a mess, so I would suggest you pack your own or fork out the cash for a more expensive product. It’s worth it.
#11 Hold the little guy’s hand
Traffic can be pretty chaotic with lots of motorbikes and scooters going pretty quickly weaving in and out the streets. Many times you are forced to walk on the road as there are no footpaths or they are unusable with a pram. We had some pretty hairy moments with bikes coming out of lanes, so it may seem obvious that you would hold their hand but it’s one you should be proactive about!
We never felt Jack was in any danger or at risk while we were travelling through South East Asia and would do it all over again in a heartbeat if we could. You don’t need to stay in a child-friendly resort which has been designed to accommodate Westerners to have a great holiday. Experience the culture, spend time with the locals enjoy the street food and we can almost guarantee your will have an amazing holiday with your family. My top 3 tips on travelling with kids in South East Asia were non-negotiable for me and I am sure if you stick with those and be aware of rest throughout your journey, your kids will be safe and healthy for the duration. Happy travels!