Preparing for Third World Travel


In many respects traveling to a third world country is much like traveling to anywhere else. With a few precautionary measures and some standard safety procedures you can confidently travel to just about anywhere and have an amazing, life changing trip. As I am prepping to leave for Ethiopia in just a few short weeks I thought I would jot down some pointers for those of you who are interested.


Naturally, when traveling to any new destination it is pertinent that you make plans well in advance. This means before purchasing your tickets, making any room reservations AND definitely before purchasing that cute safari suit. Do your homework. For me this trip is my second trip to Ethiopia. However, I have not visited in over 5 years and I had previously traveled in April/ May which is a different season. So, I still had plenty of planning to do.

Always check with the Travel State Department here to read through recent advisories (


Unfortunately, do to the lack of modern healthcare in many third world countries diseases that are long gone in the US can still be widespread there . Ideally, you will want to visit a healthcare professional at least 8 weeks prior to departure. This way you have plenty of time to catch up on any routine immunizations you are due for (polio, rabies, tetanus etc…) and make plans for immunizations and medications the healthcare professional may recommend.

Some immunizations like Hep A are a series and so you will need a few weeks to complete it. Some medications like my malaria and oral typhoid for example need to be started several weeks before leaving. So, do NOT procrastinate on this one.  In my opinion we are way to lackadaisical about immunizations in the U.S. Trust me after meeting men, women and children with these diseases you will have a new found respect for our ability to protect ourselves.

You may also want to talk to your healthcare professional about medications like z-pack and cipro in case you are to become ill while in country. Obviously, take care to pack enough prescription medication for your trip plus extra in case you had to stay longer.

Always pack insect repellent, take care to close windows and keep lights off at night. Pack mosquito nets when necessary and pack benadryl and anti-itch cream in case you do get bit. If you are traveling way out to distant villages things like clean syringes, sterile needles, and re-hydration tablets may be a good idea.

And, remember you can donate many unused medical items to local hospitals and healthcare facilities before you leave.


Once you arrive make sure to use “street smarts” that you would in any large city/ unfamiliar location. Stay away from large public gatherings, unlit streets at night, trust your instincts, dress modestly and if you find yourself feeling uncomfortable walk into a nearby store or cafe and kindly ask that they call you a taxi.

Make sure that you negotiate price with the driver and check the condition of the vehicle before getting inside. Many cars are in poor shape in these countries and you do not want to get stranded. Note that many vehicles may not be equipped with seat-belts and if traveling with children you should bring your own carseat as they are nearly non-existent in these countries.

Petty theft and pick pocketing are common in many destinations. Be smart and limit the amount of cash you carry. Leave valuables like jewelry, passports, airline tickets etc… in the hotel safe or other secure place. Keep wallets where they will be less susceptible to pick pocketing. Women carry your purse across the front of your body and keep it zipped up.

It is wise to leave copies of your passport with a loved one at home, carry copies with you at all times just in case your passport is stolen. Even, a picture on your phone is a good move.

I always register with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program ( before leaving on any trip abroad. I recommend you do as well. You should also follow the Travel State Department on Twitter ( and Facebook (


Always check with your provider to see if you can receive service at your destination. If not available you can purchase a SIM card or a cheap mobile phone while in country fairly easily. Many areas do receive wifi or an internet cafe is usually accessible and so checking in with loved ones is becoming easier than it used to be.

It is good practice to leave an itinerary with someone back home and to check in with them when you can so they know you are safe and they know where you were last should something happen to you.


Check with the Travel State Department or the Embassy to see how much money you are allowed to carry when traveling abroad. Leave some money in your hotel safe when available, where a money belt and spread out your money in other safe spots to protect yourself from petty theft.

Banks and atm machines may be difficult to find. Make sure to exchange some currency so you are carrying local money especially when traveling to remote areas. Credit cards are not often accepted in smaller restaurants, cafe and shops. Check with your hotel to see if they accept credit card before departing and contact your credit card companies so they can make note of your upcoming travels.

Food & Drink

There are quite a few diseases you can get from contaminated food and water. Take precaution and drink bottled water and only eat food that has been cooked. Even in cities where the water is clean it may have additives that simply do not agree with your stomach so better to be safe than sorry. This also means no ice, no raw veggies and no fruit (unless it has a thick rind like a banana or mango that you personally removed). It is also good practice to ask the bottle of soda, beer etc… be unopened so you can ensure it has not been tampered with.

Also, make sure not to swallow water while bathing/ showering and use bottled water to brush your teeth.

Street food vendors can be delicious but use extreme caution as their health and sanitation practices may not be the best.

This post is part of several link up series. If you love reading about travel click on the links below and have some fun. Don’t forget to comment and share. Us bloggers LOVE getting to know you and each other 😉



  • Claire says:

    Great trips – my only real third/fourth world country experience was a trip to Haiti with my husband a few years ago. I didn’t even realize how thankful I would be for us hiring a security officer until I was there and realized what we had just walked into. And NEVER drink the water haha!

  • Natalie says:

    These are great tips! I’ve only been a few places that are considered third world (Haiti being one of them), and it really is a unique experience. Safety is always a concern while traveling, and it’s sometimes difficult to balance the desire to sightsee like a local with personal safety.

  • Great tips! My sister and brother-in-law live in Haiti so most of my third-world travel experience comes from traveling there…and I fortunately have them to be a guide/security/translator!

  • This is really really helpful!!! We don’t have plans set to visit a third world country as of now… but I know we will here in the next few years, probably for volunteer work . This is a great post!!!!
    Danielle Greco

  • We’ve been toying with the idea of going down to Latin America to visit some family later this year, but as excited as I am to see them, all these scenarios and things to consider keep running through my mind, and I keep going back and forth. Thanks for sharing and reminding me that it is possible to travel to developing countries with our kiddos!

  • Meagan says:

    Great tips! We haven’t traveled to a third world country yet with kids. We may be doing that in the next few years. It looks like fun! I hope you had a great time.

  • Diana says:

    Good list, I’ve never visited a third world country, but I would definitely do what you mentioned here. Our old Landlord used to visit Ethiopia on work trips, and he also did this!

  • Great tips! I’m a big fan of STEP as well (thanks for the reminder, still have a draft post that’s been sitting in my queue for the past two. Probably should update it and finish it off. 🙂

  • scrapmun says:

    Excellent list! Hope to be well prepared for one day we will be going to these places that may required protective vaccines and extra precautions and what not.

    Wishing you a great trip to Ethiopia:).

  • This is such a great post! I’ve been to several countries that are considered third-world…some much more so than others! It is always a bit of a shock when you first arrive. I remember when I arrived in Thailand and the very first thing I saw were signs and posters against the child sex trade (in the airport!) and that is when it really hit me that I was not in a country like any I had been to before. I think it is definitely important to do your homework prior to traveling, and keeping an open mind at all times!

  • Tonya says:

    Great tips! I was surprised by how long it took my family to get our immunizations for our last international trip. Our public health nurse’s office is crazy busy. Luckily, we made it in time, but you’re right- it’s not something to procrastinate about.

  • Anna says:

    I haven’t traveled to any 3rd world country but I’ve read about these cautions more or less, especially the immunization and eating/drinking ones. As for picking safe streets the same goes for every country. When I visited Chicago 7 years ago, a colleague asked me if I felt safe and I said I had no problem!!

  • Although certain things like precautions with drinking water and vaccinations are definitely necessary for traveling in a Third World country, these are precautions to take traveling anywhere. Just about anywhere you have to be aware and use street smarts, but certainly don’t be overwrought with fear or paranoia!

  • Really, really useful tips. Sometimes common sense ones tend to be forgotten! Wow, Ethiopia – I am looking forward to reading all about it. Now that is travelling with kids! My best friend used to do Dragoman tours there and said it is such a beautiful country. Thanks for linking up with #MondayEscapes

    • Mama Munchkin says:

      Thank you… Yes, please follow along I am really looking forward to sharing one of my favorite countries with everyone 😉

  • Sharon says:

    I did a few short blog posts about our trip to Ethiopia in 2012 (just 4 kids at that time!). I haven’t blogged about our most recent trip, but I’ll try to link to what I did write.

  • Bree says:

    You sound like you are well prepared to visit Ethiopia, which is such a beautiful country.
    I want to say that I always wonder why people refer to under developed countries as “third world.” We all live on this planet together, the term “developing” country doesn’t sound like labelling a country in a negative way.
    I wish you many wonderful memories on your trip!

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