Exploring South America

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The cold, long winter months often make us dream about escaping to some warmer destination. Here we would like to share a story as posted on the website of our colleagues from Crohn´s and Colitis Australia asking volunteers to share their experiences about travelling with IBD. Please note that this information is not intended to be used as medical advice and you should speak to your health care provider before planning a trip.

Exploring South America

Where did you go?

South America (Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, Chile).

Were there any language barriers? 

Very basic Spanish (and even more basic Portuguese in Brazil) was enough to get me through in most situations.

What tourist attractions did you visit?

I suppose the main ones were Inca Trail/Machu Picchu, the Amazon region, up the coast of Brazil from Iguassu to Rio.

The Inca Trail is the one that would cause the most problems – isolated, absence of toilets, physically demanding, at altitude etc.

Did your IBD cause you any issues on this trip?

My issues were related to my medication. Being immune-suppressed because of my drugs I was unable to have the yellow fever vaccine (it’s a live vaccine) – which is very highly recommended for the Amazon region. We weighed up the risks, and went ahead with that part of the trip – just needed to ensure that I was lathered in repellent and long clothing. Didn’t have issues – but it certainly needs to be considered. Some countries will not allow you in without the vaccine – but I was never checked – until I returned to Australia, at which point I was essentially quarantined to south of Mackay for 2 weeks. This would obviously affect anybody from far north Queensland who was travelling.

Was there anything out of the ordinary that stressed you out, or could potentially stress out someone with IBD?

Nothing out of the ordinary for me. Passport controls in foreign countries are always have some levels of stress. I’m pretty calm about most things.

Can you recommend how many days/weeks is a good time to visit this location?

We had six weeks throughout South America – we weren’t particularly rushed in any place.

Can you tell us what the food and cuisine is like? 

I loved the food – it’s pretty varied across the continent. Obvious Spanish influence, but it’s always good to try some local, exotic fare.

Toilet advice?

There were a couple of long drops on the Inca Trail.

I always carried my own paper in a backpack just in case.

On a scale of 1-5 how much does your IBD affect you?

(1 being in remission and 5 being in a flare)

2 – some discomfort, but pretty much symptom free due to my medication. I have travelled while symptomatic before – not on this trip.

On a scale of 1-5, how difficult was it to manage your IBD while on this trip?

(1 being no issues and 5 being very difficult to manage)

2 – Only issue was related to the vaccines.

Were there any activities which challenged your IBD management? 

Inca Trail and Amazon.

Would you recommend this place for people who have IBD? 

I’d recommend it for anybody!!

Additional comments?

I love to travel, I’m at the lower end of Crohn’s cases, and I’m pretty stress free generally. With this in mind, the travel never caused me many issues, at least that I didn’t think weren’t outweighed by the great times I’ve had.  I also don’t like “can’t” – although I’m sure that for others it will affect them greatly. I recommend learning a bit of the language (particularly as it relates to IBD), do your research, get insured, and be as comfortable as you can that you’ve crossed every T.

And get out there!