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hey everyone!


My boyfriend and I are going to be taking on a challenge! Backpacking for 1 yr with diabetes through SE Asia and South America!!! We are starting in Indonesia and plan on travelling/relaxing in Bali for 1 month. Then we will fly to Singapore for a week, then head to Cambodia where the real roughing it begins. We will travel over land from Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand over the next 4 months 3 weeks.   From Thailand we will fly to Rio De Janiero Brazil and backpack through Argentina, Bolivia, Uraguay, Puaraguay, Venezeula, Columbia ( in no specific order) and end in Panama City (Central America).

My only concern is taking a years worth of pump supplies/insulin/blood sensors etc. Since i'll only have a backpack to store EVERYTHING its going to be a rather tight fit.


I've talked with my diabetes educator and they've suggested looking in to buying supplies over seas. Only issue is, i dont know where to start, and who to ask in Thailand. I've contacted Minmed and the only distribution centre i can find is in Brazil South America. But the Minimed lady on the phone said that ordering supplies is different in every country. In Canada you can go to any pharmacy and order it. In the US you need a perscription from a US doctor......


So my solution right now is having my brother meet me 5 months into the trip and bring me some supplies. Now the issue comes up, will he be allowed to carry supplies in my name over seas... even if i get doctors notes etc.


I know that I'm going to be carrying my insulin in frio packs... ( i used them on my 3 week trip last Feb and they work great)  and I already have ample blood sensors.


So if anyone has any tips on how to get supplies etc please please please let me know!!!!!!!!!!!

Or any travel tips of where to go what to see in


Also I will be blogging about this trip as I go, and what its like living with diabetes and travelling. So if you'd like to read along message me and i'll let you know the website addy!!!!

Tags: america, asia, frio, insulin, minimed, pump, supplies, travel

Views: 930

Replies to This Discussion

sounds awesome! you might have to consider the idea of purchasing pens or vials in some of these countries. that's probably much more easy to come across than pump supplies in some of the places you're going, simply because there are probably very few people pumping in these locations. If you can get the pump supplies, that's great, but I'd consider learning the words for diabetes, fast acting and basal insulin, and having them written out in the local language. that way as a backup plan you can probably walk into a local hospital and get some supplies. the western branded stuff may have a localized name. I know humalog and levemir have chinese character names for the china market, so showing someone the word levemir in english letters may not get you what you want. you should probably contact the insulin manufacturers (for basal insulin too, just in case you need to go without your pump for a few days) about the local names of their products, and what countries/cities/pharmacies/cities stock their products. the brand you use at home may not be available in 100% of these countries, but they should at least have some type of fast and basal insulins available.

I was lucky enough to do 5 weeks backpacking in asia before i was diagnosed. I did southern china, vietnam, cambodia, and thailand. it was the most epic trip of my life :). I'm sure you'll have a blast.

as for the good stuff - where to go, what to see -

angkor wat is a can't miss destination. highly recommended. one of the coolest places in the world.

singapore is really boring, it's one city, and it's really expensive compared to the surrounding areas (like 5x more for everything). there are a few interesting places, like the arabian quarter, but mostly when i was there i just marveled at how clean it was and how nice the airport was, haha. a better use of time might be to go to malaysia, which borders it. Kuala Lumpur has more character, and malaysia is a pretty big country with lots to do and see (though when i was there i just split my time between one little island and KL, so I couldn't give you too many other recommendations)

thailand - definitely spend some time on the islands. i stayed on koh tao for a few days and loved it. there are a bunch of islands ranging in size, amount of tourism, amount of activities, and night life. you can definitely enjoy yourself on any of them, but you might want to read up and see which ones best fit what you're looking for. another thing i did there that i loved was going to khao sok national park. we found a local guide and had a great time roaming the jungles and caves, fending off monkeys and staring down whip scorpions :) we stayed away from the big cities, bangkok and chiang mai, but i had friends who went to those places and loved them too.

for vietnam, it's a very long and narrow country. one of the things you can do is get a "hop on, hop off" bus pass that takes you from hanoi in the north to ho chi min in the south. hanoi and ho chi min are the big cultural centers, so you're definitely going to want to spend a few days in each. as for stuff in between, we stopped in a few places and liked hoi an the best. it's a nice small costal town filled with markets and good food. you can rent a motor bike and drive down to the beach yourself in just a few minutes. Other places that i haven't been to but heard good things about were na trang (if you're looking for a bit of night life) and halong bay, in the northeast, which is known for its beautiful karsts (aka dr. suess mountains). you'd have to go there before getting on the bus if you're starting from the north, or could leave it till the end if you're starting from the south.

so much to write, but i have to leave it off here. let me know if you have more specific questions about transportation, bargaining, customs, etc...
This is AWESOME !! Best of luck in your trip, when you come to Colombia please let me know, I live in Bogota and am friends with the people from Minimed so I can hook you up with them. Also I can recommend some amazing places to go in this country ... as we say .... the only risk you run when coming here is not wanting to leave !!

All the best !


Hi Santiago

This is FABULOUS!!!!!! I hear Columbia is beautiful!!!!!!!!! We will be there closer to the end leg of our trip, probably in December. What is Christmas like in Columbia?

Thanks so much for the response. I'm really looking forward to visiting your country.

I am a T1 and I just got back in Feb from a 6 month backpacking trip- on almost an identical route. (Except S. America- did that already) I was in Australia, Indonesia, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, and Thailand. I have more advice, tips and tricks on this topic than you’ll want to know!! This was my first big trip post Dx- AND I was traveling alone!! So needless to say- I planned planned and planned some more.

If you want to talk live or have specific questions- I’m happy to help. It’s a FANTASTIC trip- and you’ll be fine with a little (OK a LOT of pre trip planning).

In SE Asia- The only real hope you have of buying supplies will be in Bangkok-but you’ll need to do your homework to find a reputable pharmacy- how? That’s hard to know. While it’s true that you can’t throw a rock in Bangkok (or anywhere in Thailand for that matter) and not hit a pharmacy- many have counterfeit drugs- and I would not trust my life to them. Other big cities are a possibility-In Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh and maybe maybe Phnom Penh in Cambodia... but beware the counterfeit drug market. In Singapore- you’ll have no problems getting insulin- but pump supplies…dono.
As someone mentioned- make laminated cards in the various languages with the names of your drugs- photos of all the pieces and parts of your pump – so you don’t have try to pantomime “infusion set”.

I decided to do MDI with pens as they last a long time and are more durable than vials. I was too worried about all the things that could go wrong with a pump; (however I think ALL pump companies will give you a loaner back up pump for international travel.) Plus, what do I do with it when I got snorkeling?? etc. There are a lot of places to be in the water and I didn’t want to deal with it.

I was Very happy with my choice. If you plan to pump I would pack my supplies in advance, leave them at home with someone reliable who will FED EX them to you in big city destinations along your way. It's expensive- but the peace of mind is worth it!! Fed Ex is everywhere. Better still, maybe you can advance order them and have them shipped by your pump company- that way they will have proper documentation if needed.

Whatever supplies you take- divide them up between your bag and your partners- as it’s likely that you may encounter a bag theft or loss along the way - if the worst does happen, one of you will have enough supplies in their bag to get you thru. (do this for your money and pass port copies as well) Never never never be without supplies and food on your person- in your day pack..make no exception to this rule. ..trains are late, delays are constant and accidents happen- be a girl scout and be prepared! (I even slept with mine on overnight trains- no joke!)

• Take waterproof bags for all your supplies- (and electronics) like it rains .. A LOT and your backpack will get wet- get a good pack cover.

• Take a glucagon kit or two and make sure your boyfriend knows how and when to use it.
• Do not pass go without travelers insurance that has a trip cancellation policy AND a med-evac rider in case you need medical evacuation.
• Get a global cell phone with SIN cards that you can replace country to country and program your insurance phone number and policy number into your phone.
• Get a pre- paid debit card- WORKS JUST LIKE A CREDIT CARD- but has a pre paid account balance. If it get’s stolen it’s not tied to your bank account. THE BEST PART is that someone back home can add money too it 24/7 - at any Western Union (any big grocery store in the states will have a western union in it) it take 15 minutes for the money to be transferred to your card- and you can use it at ATM’s or for purchases worldwide.

• Take fanatical care of your feet- liquid skin liquid bandageis a God send. I am a “bad diabetic” I wore flip-flops 95% of the time- not the closed toe army boots my Doc would have preferred! I cleaned and inspected my feet 2x daily- used liquid skin to prevent blisters (not after) and everything was just fine. (except the 53 mosquito bites I got on my right foot in Ko Samui)

• Download the FREE pod casts from iTunes for learning Thai, Indonesian, Vietnamese- super super super good and fun to have on your ipod as you travel from place to place you can learn a few words.
• Of your itinerary- Cambodia is really the only place with some malaria danger- depending on where you’re going-the time of the year and how long you’ll be there will determine if you need prophylaxes- if you can avoid taking the drugs to prevent malaria DO IT. They are horrible and EXPENSIVE!
• Drink twice as much water as you do at home- ask your CDE how to calculate for the fact that in Asia food is carbs, carbs and more carbs. You’ll eat your weight in noodles and rice. But you’ll be getting a lot more exercise too.
• You’ll have a harder time finding tampons than insulin!
• I took a med size carry on bag-pack LIGHT. You will be more sick of packing and unpacking than I can tell you- my strong advice is NOT to take a top loading backpack! Get one that has a “U” shaped zipper with 2 zippers you can lock together- you’ll laugh as you fly by other travelers desperately digging deep into the bottomless pits that those bags become in middle of a train station looking for their tickets. I had a pack with wheels AND hide away backpack straps- wheels are a blessing 95% of the time. Straps are great fro schlepping your bag when you need too. Make sure your bag is a MAX of 15 kilos so you can always carry on board- AND it will fit under train seats in that tiny space.
• I am an organizational freak and love love love packing cubes. A huge time saver- keeps you organized and the clean stuff from the dirty stuff. I used red cubes for all my “D” supplies so that even my hypo brain could find my emergency gear.

I stayed in very cheap guest houses everywhere in Asia- and I have to tell you I rarely "roughed it"- it's not 5 star- but it super cheap ($6 in Indonesia) very clean and comfortable. (almost all my rooms had a mini fridge). I traveled with a metal mesh lined bag (slash proof) that I could lock with a pad lock- so the times I did choose to leave some supplies in the fridge in my room I could lock it all up. Asia is hot and on some day trips it just wouldn’t have been good to carry all my insulin with me.

OK now that all the warnings are all out of the way- RELAX and enjoy yourself. I wish I could tell you that you’re going to the moon…but even while taking a 3 day trip down the Mekong river in the middle of nowhere…we’d stop in a village and everyone would queue up at the village ATM and whip out their cell phones to text or call home while they waited. Fortunately for diabetics, the world is smaller and safer than you think.





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