When you start planning a long-term trip you’d think that the blogs you’d be interested in are ones that have pictures of all the fantastic and exotic places you will visit and all the amazing food you will eat. That’s certainly true, but more than that (for me at least) the blogs that get me most excited are the ones that detail the travelers’ logistics and planning. How will they access their money? How will they travel from place to place? Where do they have to get visas and how do they get them? WHAT DID THEY PACK (the packing porn post is de rigeur for any self-respecting travel blogger. Ours is coming….once we figure out what we’re packing!)
This blog is primarily for our friends and family to follow our adventures, but a secondary goal is that other people planning a similar trip will be able to use it as a resource. This past week, Mrs. Banh Mi and I took several big steps towards living The Dream.
When we traveled to Asia in 2009 we didn’t give any thought to immunizations. We probably should have. We thought “We’ll only be there for a few weeks, what could happen?” The truth is, it only takes one infected mosquito bite to contract malaria or one unwashed hand handling your food to give you Hepatitis A. As we’re going to be gone a long time, we figured that we should do some research about vaccinations.
The first step was to determine what immunizations we had already had. This was harder than it should have been requiring my father to go to the safe deposit box in his bank, a phone call to my high school nurse, a fax to my university as well as a dozen phone calls to former doctors.
It quickly became clear that we should strongly consider getting shots for: Hep A&B, Typhoid, Japanese Encephalitis, What wasn’t clear was how much these would cost. Most insurance does not cover immunizations. Researching around the web didn’t yield much information, so Mrs. Banh Mi called around several travel clinics in the DC area to get a handle on prices. The best prices seemed to be at Passport Health. We made an appointment for later in the week.
We had a fantastic experience at Passport Health. The office was staffed by a registered nurse who went through our itinerary country by country and told us about all the possible diseases we could encounter. He suggested that we get vaccinated for Hep A (we’d both already gotten Hep B shots years before), a tetanus booster, and typhoid vaccine (which is taken orally). He also suggested that we get vaccinated for Japanese Encephalitis (or “JE”), but we declined that.
JE is a rare but incredibly dangerous disease. Most people who contract it never show symptoms, but those who do have a high likelihood of death. So why wouldn’t we get the shot? JE is a two shot series and it cost $285. Per shot. We were advised that rabies is quite common in Bali and we should consider getting shots for that. At $299 per shot (3-4 shots) we decided to risk it and just not pet any dogs in Indonesia. The frustrating thing is that many of these shots are MUCH cheaper in Thailand (Like, $10-20 per shot).
Many vaccinations are a series of shots you take over several months. For example, Hep A is a 2 shot series where after your initial shot (which will protect you for about a year) you wait at least six months and then you get a second shot which provides you with lifetime immunization (so it’s believed). As we leave in less than 5 months Mrs. Banh mi and I have decided to do some of our shots here and do others in Bangkok. We’ll receive our Hep A booster in Bangkok and we also plan on getting our JE shots there (which is a two shot series over 28 days).
The shots really didn’t hurt at all and had no side effects other than a mildly sore arm for a few days. Mrs. Banh Mi and I had a hilarious conversation on the way our of the office about how EXCITED we were to have gotten the shots because it made our trip feel so real. I don’t think anyone has been so jazzed about getting a shot before. Now that we’re immunized, we can take on anything. I personally look forward to stepping on a rusty nail or eating some fecal matter. I’M INVINCIBLE NOW.
For anyone considering traveling long term you should research vaccinations WELL BEFORE WE STARTED because many vaccines require several months to complete. Below is a list of prices for shots at Passport Health that I hope you find useful:
Hep A: $95 per shot (2 shot series)
Hep B: $84 per shot (3 shot series)
Typhoid: ($98 for 4 pill oral vaccine)
The office visit fee for the two of us combined was $95.
Apologies to Lil Jon and LMFAO for jacking their swagger with the blog post title.