Fiji and your health
With tropical sandy beaches, warm weather and crystal clear waters, it’s no wonder Fiji is a popular holiday destination. Despite this, it’s important to keep in mind that beyond the beautiful resorts, Fiji isn’t a first world country and some basic things like food and drinking water might not be up to the standards you’d expect.
We have compiled some handy tips for travellers so that you get the best healthcare, or even better, avoid any medical issues in the first place.
There are no mandatory vaccinations for Fiji, but the World Health Organisation recommends Tetanus, Hepatitis A and B, Typhoid, and Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR). It’s important to see your doctor 6-8 weeks in advance of your trip to make sure you’ve got all the recommended vaccinations before you go. You may be required to take extra precautions depending on what activities you’re doing and what regions you’re visiting.
Zika virus, as well as Dengue fever, is considered a high risk in Fiji and as a result, pregnant women are advised not to travel to Fiji. There is no yellow fever in Fiji, however if you’ve been to another country where it is considered a risk you’ll need to prove you’ve been vaccinated against it when you enter Fiji.
The tap water in Fiji isn’t recommended for drinking, so stick to sealed bottled water. Avoiding tap water includes more than you might think, such as brushing your teeth with tap water, ice in drinks, ingesting water in the shower, and food that has been washed in tap water.
You’ll need to drink plenty of bottled water to stay hydrated in Fiji’s hot and tropical climate, especially if you’re directly exposed to the sun.
Diarrhoea can be a problem in Fiji, but ensuring you wash your hands regularly and following these food guidelines can help you stay healthy:
- If you’re buying food from markets, stick with fruit that can be peeled or washed with bottled water.
- Check any meat to ensure it’s well cooked and still warm through, especially chicken.
- If you’re at a buffet restaurant, avoid food that looks as though it’s been sitting out for a while or has insects on it.
- Finally, try to avoid too much spicy or rich food if you’re not used to eating it regularly at home.
There’s no guarantee you’ll avoid stomach upsets completely, but having some common sense and practicing good hygiene is your best bet. Trust your gut!
You may see some stray animals around the towns and villages of Fiji. Even though they may look cute, don’t approach them or touch them. They can be unfriendly or aggressive, and many carry rabies. If you do touch one of these critters, wash your hands immediately and don’t touch your face or food until your hands are clean.
Washing your hands regularly and using hand sanitizer will help to prevent you catching any bugs. If you do get sick, however, make sure you seek medical attention, especially if symptoms persist or if you have a temperature that continues to rise. That includes any sickness that develops upon your arrival back home.
There are medical clinics and hospitals in the main centres and on the larger islands of Fiji. However, if you’re on an island it won’t be possible to see a doctor urgently without emergency transfers. Keep in mind that Fiji is not a first-world country, so the standard of care may not be what you’re used to at home and medical evacuation to New Zealand is likely if you have a medical emergency.
If you’re in Fiji during busy periods, such as school holidays, the waiting times for clinics and hospitals can be very long, so be prepared for this if you’re visiting the doctor.
What to do in an emergency
If you need an ambulance, call 911 and clearly say your name and location to the operator. You will need to explain the problem as clearly and concisely as possible.
Once you reach the hospital, you may be required to provide proof that you have travel insurance before you are treated. Keep a copy of your policy number on your phone or in your day bag, in case of an emergency.
Keep a list of all prescribed medications and your known medical conditions in a convenient spot - in case of an emergency, this will be one of the first questions you will be asked by a medical professional.
How we can help
If you need to be admitted into a hospital, require a surgical procedure or treatment, or think your medical expenses are likely to exceed $2,000, you or someone acting on your behalf will need to contact Southern Cross Emergency Assistance for prior approval as soon as possible on +61 2 9191 1180.
If you’re covered, we can:
- Instruct you on where to find the nearest qualified medical practitioner
- Confirm payment for a qualifying hospitalisation claim
- Advise your immediate family of your situation
- Co-ordinate emergency medical evacuation if necessary
In some cases, a deposit will be required from the health provider before you receive any care. When you’re discharged, always ask for a medical report and any receipts to help with making an insurance claim.
If you’re unsure about the standards of care or where to go for treatment, contact us and we can help you out.
If you are taking medication with you, make sure you have enough for your entire journey. You should also take a prescription or doctor’s note with you to prove that the medication has been prescribed to you, otherwise it might be confiscated by customs. Fiji has strict laws around drugs and it’s worth being very careful around your prescription medication and documentation.
It’s also important that you make sure your medication is in its original packaging so that the authorities can confirm it matches your prescription.
Before you go
If you are feeling unwell before you leave home, make sure you see a doctor. They can give you a professional recommendation on whether or not you should be travelling.
If there are any changes to your medical conditions, or a new illness or injury arises before you depart for your trip (or in between journeys if you have an Annual Multi-Trip Policy), you must email us so we can let you know if we are still able to offer cover and if so, whether an additional premium applies.
From cyclones to coral cuts, it pays to be in the know. You can keep up-to-date on any global health warnings through the World Health Organisation (WHO). A large section of their website is dedicated to the precautions you should take when travelling.
Safe Travel also provide advice on medical care in Fiji, and allow you to register your travel and contact details in the event of an emergency.
We get quite a few claims for gastro problems from travellers to Fiji. The commonality of this is due mostly to the exotic nature and sometimes questionable sanitation of the Fijian food – even if you’re staying in a resort.
We recommend taking certain precautions with food, always washing hands before eating, and sticking to resort or commercial restaurants where possible. If you have any doubts about a certain restaurant, check TripAdvisor and read reviews from fellow travellers before you go there.
Fiji has a large Indian population and curries are common, so if you are new to this type of cuisine take it in little steps and don’t go overboard on spicy food if it’s not something you would eat often normally. Remember: boil it, cook it, peel it – or forget it!
Although Fijian resort food is generally of an acceptable standard, we do see claims for food poisoning. Fiji is a developing nation and, as a result, their sanitary practices can be of a different standard to what we’re used to at home. If you’re eating at a resort buffet, try to get in as early as possible to avoid eating food that’s been sitting out for a while.
It’s also a good idea to avoid fruit that has been washed in tap water unless you can peel it, or any food that has insects on or around it. Most importantly, always check that all meat is thoroughly cooked and warm through, especially chicken or fish.
Fiji is a popular destination for surfers, divers and beachgoers, so it’s no surprise that we receive a lot of claims for water sports injuries like coral cuts, ear infections and surfboard knocks. If you’re planning on doing a lot of swimming or surfing, it’s also worth taking some ear drops with you as a precaution, and rinsing your ears and face with clean water after swimming.
Keep an eye out when you’re in the water and whenever possible, stay well clear of potential hazards like abrasive surfaces or strong tides. It can be a great idea to use wet-shoes if you’re swimming near rocks or coral, especially for the kids.
The sun in Fiji is very strong, so make sure you wear sun protection in the water, and stay in the shade whenever possible to avoid heatstroke and sunburn.
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