Most people from temperate and sub-tropical regions of the world have a dream to visit or live in tropical countries. People are attracted by the warm year round temperature; fresh fruit, vegetables and fish every day; beautiful sandy beaches, palm trees and warm sea water; slower pace of life and more relaxing atmosphere; and wearing clothes that are different in fashion and with lighter fabrics that keep you as cool as possible. Living, travelling and surviving in tropical climates presents a number of challenges that can be overcome.
Challenges to Surviving in Tropical Climates
Most people from non-tropical countries find it difficult to cope with the heat and humidity. Visitors and expats tend to sweat much more, while local people do not seem to sweat much at all. However, expats that have lived in the country for a long time, do not sweat as much because their bodies have acclimatized to the tropical climate. Acclimatizing to a new climate may take from 2 to 3 weeks. Some people acclimatize quickly while others have a hard time with it.
I have lived in Indonesia for 28 years and have some quick tips that I would like to share with you:
- Notice what clothing the local population are wearing. This will give you a good clue as to what to wear yourself. Clothing worn by the locals hangs loose on the body to allow for maximum air flow under the garment. The most common material used is cotton, which is light in weight and reduces sweat build-up. The color of the garments is more often of a lighter shade, thus not holding in the heat of the sun.
- Much of the footwear worn by locals is sandals, which keeps their feet cool and does not allow sweat to build up which can cause foot fungus.
- Wear hats of some sort to conserve energy and reduce the possibility of headaches or a heat stroke.
- Stay in places of accommodation and eat in restaurants that have air conditioning.
- Carry a small collapsible hand fan if you have to sit outside, these can be bought quite cheaply in many places.
- Be prepared to sweat a lot when outside. Everybody sweats, it’s normal and nobody thinks much of it. Get used to it.
- Drink plenty of water. The Mayo Clinic recommends that men drink 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) of fluids per day and women drink 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) per day for temperate climates, so you should add another 2 cups (0.5 liters) if you are in tropical countries.
- The hottest time of the day is from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. It’s best to stay indoors at this time (if it can be avoided) and do your shopping, visits and eating out before or after this period.
- Take a cool shower whenever you feel low in energy, hot and sweaty. It makes a world of difference.
- Night time temperatures do not drop that much, at most by 5-10 degrees, but it still feels much cooler that day time temperatures. If you don’t have air conditioning, then you best friend will be a fan.
- Tropical countries come with mosquitoes that cause malaria, dengue fever and other nasty illnesses. Be sure to cover yourself with a skin sensitive repellent during the day and especially at night. If you do not like to use repellents, then you should wear thick socks, long pants and long sleeved shirts, especially in the evening.
- Sleep under a mosquito net and use a fan during the night. Mosquitoes have a hard time fighting the wind.
Your plan to travel to tropical areas or to even vacation at home during a hot summer still requires planning, ways to avoid and relieve heat exhaustion, and in tropical countries to get the right vaccinations before you leave: more on this in the post Tips on Preparing for Travel in the Tropics. Tips are also available on selecting appropriate hot weather clothing found at this post, Tropical Island Clothing – the clothes you choose for your vacation, and if you are adventure minded, give a try at using the local language. Indonesian is the easiest language to learn in the world. Please check out this post Indonesian Basics.
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