Monday, March 13, 2006

Visas and Malaria -- not a problem?

I am sorting out the details for my trip to Sabah. I phoned the Malaysian Consulate in Canada to confirm the website visa information was up to date, and yes, I am assured, I do not need a visa to enter the country.

I also checked with
Hong Kong SAR, and no, a visa is not required for Hong Kong, either. That saves a few dollars. If I were going to mainland China, as I did on my other trips through Hong Kong, then a visa would be necessary.

Then I checked to see what I could find on the current malaria situation on Sabah. (The trouble with large health sites is the lack of specific information; it tends to be 'broad brush', or out of date. I've showed up in Colombo and Nanning, and asked about the malaria risk, and had the locals look at me much as I imagine a New Yorker would, had you asked the same question in Manhattan: Sort of a 'What? Are you nuts?'

So these days, I look for current information from someone on the ground. I've emailed Wildlife Expeditions, the destination company in KK (as I understand how they refer to Kota Kinabalu), and await a response. According to what I found online from WHO (World Health Org) sites and the like, the incidence is low, and greatly reduced over the past decade. As well, I will be there outside the rainy season, when risk increases.

Either way, dengue fever is always a threat in the tropics, so lots of DEET content in the insect repellent, and long sleeves and pants should help a lot. And mosquito netting is used in the hotels and lodges.

So the paperwork/groundwork seems mostly sorted. I still have to get a new pair of travel pants, but that's not critical, and I'd like a sarong or two, but apparently they are cheap in Sabah, so I will wait till I get there. I can't find a guidebook just for Sabah, and I don't really need one for all of Malaysia (heavy and $$$), so maybe I will rely on brochures etc that I can get when I arrive.

Five weeks till I go!