Aruba - Traveling to a Caribbean paradise is a dream come true. But what happens if travelers become ill on their trip and that dream quickly becomes a nightmare? Before traveling, especially out of the country, there are some important things to remember.
"We have good medical care in Aruba," says Matthew Smillie, owner of Aruba Villa Vacation Homes, a company that rents luxury and beach accommodations in Aruba. "We have one hospital and a smaller medical center that is located on San Nicholas. But we do advise visitors to be sure they are healthy before any kind of travel, especially some place far from home."
The most important thing to do when traveling abroad is to check to make sure your health insurance will cover you wherever you are traveling. Ask your insurance company not only if it follows you outside of the U.S., but also if it covers emergencies, such as a trip to a foreign hospital or an emergency evacuation. If your policy does not include overseas coverage, consider purchasing additional coverage before going on your trip.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has a few recommendations before visitors set foot in their villas in Aruba. It's important to visit your physician four to six weeks before travel. At that time, the doctor can provide any vaccinations you may need before travel. The CDC encourages travelers to see a physician who specializes in travel medicine, because he or she will be more familiar with what conditions may face you in your travel.
Before traveling, always be sure your vaccinations are up to date. Let your physician know if you will be traveling to more than one country during your travel. This is important because you may be required to have different vaccinations in each country. For instance, while yellow fever is currently not a disease risk in Aruba, the government does require travelers coming from certain countries that have a risk of the virus transmission to present proof of vaccination. If you travel into Aruba from a country other than the U.S., this could affect you.
"Although we do have good medical care and pharmacies that can fill prescriptions, it's important to bring any medicine you regularly take with you," says Smillie, who prides himself on helping visitors to Aruba find their perfect beach villa. "Our pharmacies may not have the exact medications you have available in the U.S., so to prevent an emergency, always bring the medicines you take every day."
Be sure you bring a supply of your prescriptions to last for your entire trip. It's a good idea to pack a little extra, in the event of an emergency. To avoid confusion, it's best to keep them in their original prescription bottles and keep them in your carry-on luggage. That way, even if your luggage is lost, you will never be without the medication you need. If your medications are liquids, be sure to read and follow all guidelines as set forth by the Transportation Security Administration. Also, please remember that some prescriptions available in the U.S. are actually illegal in other countries. If your medication is deemed illegal in another country, your physician can write you a letter detailing why the medicine has been prescribed.
When packing, it's important to remember a few essentials, in addition to your bathing suits and sunglasses. Purchase iodine tablets or portable water filters to purify water if needed. Pack plenty of sunblock to prevent damage from dangerous UV rays. Pack plenty of antibacterial hand wipes or hand sanitizer. Also pack long-sleeved shirts made from a lightweight material and long pants to wear outside to avoid mosquito and other insect bites.
Once you're safely in the country and enjoying your rental villa, there are a few things to remember. The leading cause of illness in travelers is diseases from food and drink. Travelers should always thoroughly wash their hands with soap and water, especially before eating. Travelers are encouraged to drink only bottled or boiled water or drinks in cans or bottles. Avoid eating food from food vendors and always be sure food is fully cooked. Also, be sure any dairy products have been pasteurized.
If you happen to become ill while in Aruba, healthcare on the island is considered to be on par with that of a smaller U.S. city. Dr. Horacio Oduber Hospital is a 280 bed facility with modern equipment and is walking distance from the hotel district. It has established ties to U.S. and Dutch hospitals for specialized treatment and care.
In the case of an emergency, many of the hotels will have a consulting physician available. The Emergency Department also has physicians on site 24 hours a day and specialists are on call.
The medical center offers services in internal medicine, obstetrics, urology, orthopedics and much more. The physicians are licensed and certified in the U.S. or Holland, while a few are from South American.
In the case of a dental emergency, there are also excellent dental services available on the island.
Traveling abroad, no matter where the destination, takes some planning and preparation on the part of the traveler to ensure good health during their visit. But when visiting a country like Aruba, visitors can rest easy knowing that should an emergency occur, there are well-trained and compassionate physicians available to help.