Are you Worried About Cleanliness in South East Asia? Here are Some Practical Tips to Help you get Through the Holiday!
Are you heading to South East Asia with the family and you’re worried about hygiene and cleanliness? This can be quite distressing for those who are self-professed clean freaks or germophobic by nature. Having grown up in Malaysia, I can completely understand how this can be off-putting and it’s important to note that even the locals execute daily cleanliness practises because they know how dirty things can be. So, if the natives have measures in place it only makes sense that travellers be aware of some of these tips and tricks. Here is a general list of ideas for the mildly affected to those who may feel it could be a deal breaker:
CLEANING TRAVEL TIP #1
Squat Toilets. OK. Let’s deal with this head on! Squat toilets in SE Asia range from proper ceramic cubicles to literally a hole in the floor. Contrary to popular belief, squat toilets are so much more hygienic than sit down toilets. With squat toilets, you don’t have to touch anything. No lifting of the lid or sitting on the seat. You’ll actually find that the locals actually prefer it. Some cubicles even come with a hose if you really wish to wash yourself but I never quite worked out how to do that without getting all my clothes wet! Make sure you bring your own tissues though! Can’t guarantee they will have any.
CLEANING TRAVEL TIP #2
Hand Sanitiser & Antibacterial Wipes. This is a no brainer and a must! They are also super useful and easy to carry around. When we travel, we all tend to carry a small bag or backpack each so I buy them in small packages and everyone has their own. That way, they’re not overly cumbersome or heavy and you always have them when you need them.
CLEANING TRAVEL TIP #3
Premium Silk Travel Liner. This product from Sea to Summit is fantastic for anyone using a sleeping bag or even just wants to sleep in it if you’re worried about the cleanliness of the bed. These premium silk travelling sheets are made from the strongest, finest ripstop silk and have added Polyester/Lycra stretch panels along the length of the seams. These stretch panels allow the liner to move with you when you turn, roll and curl up in the night. They are also compact when rolled up and a great investment!
CLEANING TRAVEL TIP #4
Nappy Bags. Even if you have passed the diaper stage, always carry some disposable nappy bags with you. They are so cheap and light and very useful for rubbish on the go and in case someone is sick. The handles are handy as you can always find somewhere to hang it. Especially when travel from point A to point B. Those wet wipes need to go somewhere!
CLEANING TRAVEL TIP #5
Portable Toilet Seat. I must admit that whilst we may have the thigh muscles to hover over a toilet, it’s hard for the kids. LOL! So a great option is to invest in a portable toilet seat. Not only is this is a great help for toddlers just out of nappies, it’s light and can be folded into quarters. They can easily fit into a small backpack. Yes you do still need to touch it and place it on the toilet but that’s what parents are for! I rather deal with having to clean it than let my daughter sit on a dirty toilet! Gosh, it’s so unpleasant talking about this!
CLEANING TRAVEL TIP #6
Cleaning Tableware. It is perfectly acceptable to clean your cutlery before you eat. My grandmother had a routine she would follow which started with wiping the table top followed by cleaning all the cutlery, plastic side plates and teacups. Some restaurants will even give you a small container of boiling hot water or Chinese tea so you can run all the tableware through it. If they didn’t provide it, she would simply ask. And she lived in South East Asia for 80 years of her life so it’s ok to do it!
CLEANING TRAVEL TIP #7
Face Masks. It is very acceptable to wear face masks in Asia. Some wear it because they don’t want to get sick, some because they are considerate and don’t want to make other sicks as they are contagious whilst others use it to combat horrendous air quality and pollution. This may help with pungent smells that can sometimes be unbearable.
CLEANING TRAVEL TIP #8
Tap Water. Do not drink the tap water. Do not even brush your teeth with it! Always use bottled water.
CLEANING TRAVEL TIP #9
Disposable Sheets. Yes, you can buy disposable sheets! If you have a natural phobia against hotel mattresses, this is a great solution for you. If you happen to be bunking in less savoury accommodation I would definitely invest in these. You can also cut them up and place them underneath your nappy change mat too.
CLEANING TRAVEL TIP #10
aLOKSAK Bag. aLOKSAK bags are large heavy duty ziplock bags that are perfect for doing the laundry. They are well known for their durability and are completely waterproof. It is essentially a makeshift washing machine in the sense that you can dump all your dirty clothes in the bag, pour in some detergent and fill with hot water. Using your hands, mix everything up for about 5 minutes to create that washing motion. To rinse off the detergent you can re-fill the bag with clean water; use the sink or even the shower! Other ingenious laundry ideas include the Scrubba washbag, WashEZE laundry sheets, portable elastic laundry lines and placing garments on a towel and rolling it to get as much moisture out as possible. If available, a salad spinner apparently does wonders too!
CLEANING TRAVEL TIP #11
Food Poisoning. I never had food poisoning in SE Asia until I left SE Asia! I now have an Australian digestive system which means it simply isn’t strong enough to withstand street stalls or warungs. I tried to ask our Villa Manager in Bali last week to take us to some of their local eating hangouts as I wanted to eat real Indonesian cuisine. He politely refused and said there is no way I could avoid Bali belly. Here are some tips:
- When visiting local restaurants or street stalls, select one where they are cooking it right in front of you. This way you’ll know it hasn’t been sitting out somewhere for hours. Anything in boiling hot soup such as a hearty bowl of pho is a winner for me.
- Don’t purchase any food that has been prepared earlier or pre-cooked. You have no idea how long it’s been sitting there. So as an example, if you want some pineapple by the beach in Phuket, get one where they actually cut it up for you.
- Prior to leaving, boost your digestive system by taking probiotics. The live bacteria will set a solid foundation for your culinary adventures. Get some of the capsules for when you are travelling as they don’t need refrigeration.
- Always have bottled water on hand, not just for drinking but it’s good for washing hands or even fruit.
- Carry some medication with you in case you do get food poisoning. You would want them handy when you’re not well as making a trip to the pharmacy in time of need is no fun for anyone!
- Make sure you also have some rehydration tablets or drinking minerals to replenish your salt and vitamin levels.
Avoid Western food! This includes fast food chain. I have had friends getting sick from a chicken sandwich on the train and another being violently ill from a pork burger from MacDonald’s!
CLEANING TRAVEL TIP #12
Ice. Avoid consuming ice in street stalls and local markets as the water may not be hygienic enough. Growing up, we would dine at the local stalls and watch them drag blocks of ice on the ground (sometimes a main road), hack them with an ice pick to break them apart and then just putting it straight into the drink. As hot as I was, I drank hot coffee Hanoi even though that iced coffee looked so enticing!
CLEANING TRAVEL TIP #13
BYO. If space permits and you are physically able to, bring or buy your own supplies/equipment. This way you don’t have to dip into the communal pool of snorkels or sleep on other people’s pillows at an Air BnB apartment. If you don’t want to carry these items home, there are always charity bins you can donate to.
CLEANING TRAVEL TIP #14
Cans and Bottles. If you’re drinking out of a can or a bottle, be sure to wipe the area where your mouth will be on. There was a case some time ago when people got sick from drinking from cans as it was stored in an area where there was rat poison! This is something I still practise today out of habit.
CLEANING TRAVEL TIP #15
Slippers. If you don’t normally wear shoes in the house, a great way to avoid that dirty, grimy feeling at the soles of your feet is to bring along some slippers. If you’re going down the Air BnB or hostel route, they are not provided so this way you’re not picking up dirt everywhere you go. Disposable slippers are also available for purchase so you can just throw them out when you’re at the end of the holiday. Also great to have if you want to take off your shoes on a long haul flight but obviously don’t want to walk around the plane in your socks or bare feet.
I hope some of these cleaning tips for travelling to South East Asia will help you combat some of your worries. These tips aren’t just for the clean freaks but for anyone who may even have small concerns. But no matter how many measures you put in place, you do need to come to terms with the fact that hygiene and cleanliness in this region is going to be out of your comfort zone. Otherwise the entire holiday will just be fraught with stress. Young kids simply wouldn’t understand that what they can normally touch at home is now out of bounds in a different city so constantly running after them would be exhausting. Good luck with your travels and do enjoy South East Asia for what it has to offer.
Do you have any other clean travel tips to add to the list? Tell us in the comments below!
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