How to travel in extreme heat without dying (too much)

Travel in extreme heat isn’t just unpleasant–it can also be dangerous! Here are some safety tips for when you travel in extreme heat without ending up in the emergency room.

troglodyte

ˈtrɒɡlədʌɪt/

noun

1. (especially in prehistoric times) a person who lived in a cave.

2. Sebastiaan’s favorite word

 

During our time in toasty Iran and Pakistan, we devolved into certifiable troglodytes. Large portions of our day were spent lurking inside our caves rooms, worshipping The Almighty Air Conditioner and going through more plastic bottles of water than there are in the Pacific ocean (sorry Earth).  Temperatures soared well above 40°C (104°F) every day, Pakistan has frequent power outages and thus no regular A/C, and because Pakistan and Iran are Islamic countries, it’s long sleeves or bust. Things we dreamed of regularly: iced drinks that wouldn’t give us diarrhea, cool swimming pools, and shorts.

Of course, we did periodically emerge from the temperate safety of our air conditioned hidey holes to enter the scorching hell of The Outdoors. Our bodies were in no way accustomed to these temperatures–fun fact, 3 days of 28°C+ in the Netherlands is considered a state of emergency–and so we usually found ourselves soaked with sweat within seconds. It’s foul enough by itself, especially given laundry day is not a regular occurrence in our lives, but it’s the dehydration that follows that’s the serious concern.

Right after being released from the most intense border crossing process in the world, I fell seriously ill from dehydration. It began as food poisoning from a dirty glass of cane juice, then we spent hours traveling on a sickly hot bus without air conditioning, and walking up and down a street with heavy backpacks in the middle of the day. Not the best idea.

My body couldn’t take the strain. I was sick when I stood, I hardly had the energy to walk for more than a minute, and I couldn’t stomach food for days. Our travels skidded to a halt for days–I was too weak to visit sights, and too sickly to ride in bumpy rickshaws. We were stranded.

Traveling in extreme heat is no fun, sometimes. Dying in Thatta, Pakistan.

Trying to hold it together long enough for a picture-perfect shot for our Instagram… to no avail.

Luckily, I was saved by Pakistani hospitality, and was nursed back to health over a few days. A dazzling phoenix reborn from sweaty, soggy ashes, I now take my health–and the heat–much more seriously. So should you!

 

Safety tips for travel in extreme heat

Iran was a hot and sweaty struggle. Final tally: heat – 104839204, us – 0.

Safety tips for travel in extreme heat

Stay hydrated

“Well… duh.” you might say. Fair enough. But there’s more to staying hydrated than just drinking a river’s worth of water.

When we sweat/vomit/have diarrhea/exude foul substances from our bodies, in addition to water, our bodies lose something called electrolytes. Electrolytes are charged substances that help to regulate a lot of important bodily functions. It’s essential that you replenish these electrolytes as well as the water lost if you want to stay in tip top shape. Some great ways to stock up on electrolytes are:

  • Oral rehydration salts. Also known as ORS, also known as our greatest discovery in our past months of travel. They come in powder form that you mix into water for a dee-licious and oh-so-hydrating bombdiggity beverage. Well, actually, it mostly tastes like watered-down sports drink, but it’ll hydrate you like nothing else can. We owe the fact that we haven’t yet been hospitalized to ORSs, and we can’t recommend them enough. (Fun fact: they also come in pill form.)
  • Fruit juices and sports drinks. Sports drinks are particularly packed with electrolytes/are made for sweaty situations, and fruit juices are a nice cocktail of nutrients for your decaying body. If there’s none to be found, clear sodas will work in a pinch. Drink away!

Going to a hot place? Make sure to read our tips against sweating profusely!

Drinking wine in Kazbegi, Georgia

Things that do NOT hydrate: wine. Things that DO make you feel better in heat: wine. We assume no responsibility for our unprofessional medical recommendations.

Stay cool

There are a variety of ways you can stay cool when you travel in extreme heat. Locking yourself in a walk-in fridge is one, chaining yourself to the air con unit is another. But alas, neither of those are very conducive to travel, so to the plan Bs we must go!

An important part of staying cool when you travel in extreme heat is keeping your body’s internal temperature low. The higher it gets, the more you sweat. Fanning yourself will only do so much–it’s about keeping your temple cool.

Staying cool with clothing

Wearing the right clothes can be the difference between one bucket’s worth of sweat and twelve buckets’ worth of sweat. Very important! When prepping yourself to enter the flaming abyss travel to warm places, look for:

  • Clothes made out of rayon, cotton, or linen. Scrap the synthetic stuff–it’s all about fabrics that are light, allow heat to pass through, and absorb your sweat. Yum.
  • Light colored clothes. Black clothes absorb more sun, and thus more heat. Unless you’re really set on rocking that goth/punk/emo/Satanist look during your upcoming trip, seek out the light.
  • Loose clothes. They give your body space to breathe, and your sweat space to evaporate. Plus, they’re comfy and hide the inevitable rolls that come with eating everything in sight while on holiday. What more could you ask for?
Walking in shalwaar kameez in the Deosai Plains of Pakistan

The light and loose shalwar kameez of Pakistan was a perfect clothing solution for the insane heat. Pakistanis be doin’ it right!

Staying cool when you travel in extreme heat

  • Get wet! A good cold shower or dunk under the faucet can help lower your body’s core temperature, and wet hair will make breezes feel like a gift from God. You can also get a spray fan, another one of God’s gifts to mankind.
  • Eat/drink cold things. It’ll help lower your body’s internal temperature much faster than fanning yourself. My very un-official medical opinion: copious amounts of ice cream is an excellent way to do this. But smoothies are an acceptable alternative remedy.
  • Use an umbrella. You may have thought umbrella usage was restricted only to Asians trying to preserve creamy white skin. WRONG! (Well, sort of.) They’re 110% effective at keeping the sun off of you, and colorful ones will add a nice pop to all of your travel photos.
  • Go sightseeing super early or in the evening/night. Not only will this save you from dying a slimy, sweaty death, it will also help you to avoid the crowds!
Saffron ice cream in Iran: the perfect solution to deathly heat.

Saffron ice cream: the perfect solution to deathly heat.

 

Stay alert

Traveling is exciting, we know. You’re in a shiny new place seeing shiny new (or dusty old) things, and you’re constantly encountering things that scream for your attention. It’s easy to be too distracted by all of the Awesome to realize that not all is well, but when it’s a billion and one degrees outside, you kind of have to!

  • Pay attention to your travel companions. It’s important to regularly check in and ensure that your companions are doing okay. Otherwise, you might turn around from ogling the Coliseum only to find out that your friend is making deals with the Grim Reaper on the ground behind you. Spending a day in a foreign emergency room is not much fun–we know from experience.
  • Pay attention to your body. Mouth getting dry? Find some water and dose up with some of those salts. Feeling faint or dizzy? Find a place to sit and have a drink in the shade. Don’t drive yourself too hard in heat–you may be able to squeeze in more sightseeing for a bit, but all of that will be negated if you get seriously dehydrated or suffer from heat stroke. And don’t worry… the Coliseum isn’t going anywhere any time soon. I think.
  • Don’t be afraid to see a doctor. Sometimes your body just can’t take the strain, and it will struggle to absorb the fluids you need even if you drink enough water to fill a pool. Doctors can hook you up to an IV drip to help you stay hydrated the medical way.
Dehydrating in the Kaluts of Iran

I wanted to scramble up every mountain in sight when we visited the Kaluts in Iran, but Sebastiaan was on more of a please-leave-me-here-to-die kind of level. We kept the wandering to a minimum, and stuck to the shade between rocks until the sun set. TL;DR no one died, great success!

 

Time to hit the road!

You’re officially armed ready with the knowledge you need to jet off and travel in extreme heat. Don’t die, stay cool, and don’t forget to pack some sunglasses. Bon voyage!

 

Traveling in extreme heat is more than just uncomfortable–it's dangerous! But sometimes it's your only option, and you've gotta do what you've gotta do. Here are some tips for ensuring that you survive your toasty travels without ending up in the emergency room!

 

Yay transparency: there are affiliate links in this post. Basically, how it works is that if you buy the product that’s linked, we get a small commission at no extra cost to you. We promise we only link products we actually like (trust us, we’ve downed several kilos of ORS by now), and it helps us to cover the costs of running the blog! Plus, we’ll love you forever and ever.

 

Alex

American by birth, British by passport, Filipina by appearance. Addicted to ice cream. Enjoys climbing trees, dislikes falling out. Has great fondness for goats which is usually not reciprocated.

More about Alex

5 thoughts on “How to travel in extreme heat without dying (too much)

    I feel ya….I had my first heat stroke in Myanmar. I was in bed for 5 days with fever on and off not being able to eat (yay I lost even more weight!). I thought heat strokes were reserved for “other people” turned out I was one of them. My boyfriend is from Africa and keeps telling me only white people go in the sun when it’s at its peak (afternoon)…..lol! I, for one, have learned my lesson! (Very important to keep your head covered when the heat is at dangerously high temperatures).

    That’s so unfortunate. We know what you with the middle of the day thing. We tend to be lazy in the morning and leave too late. Damn those bloody hot hours. You’d think we learn, but it keeps happening. Thanks for sharing ☺

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