13 Hygiene Tips You Should Know If You’re Travelling Soon


Atiqah Mokhtar •  Feb 20, 2020

With the recent outbreak of a novel coronavirus (known as COVID-19), many people have been left with concerns on how it would impact their travel plans. With cases now reported across 26 countries around the world, many of our readers have shared that they are worried about travelling, especially to countries or territories where a relatively higher number of cases have been reported, such as Singapore, Japan and Hong Kong.

Whether you choose to travel or not boils down to personal circumstances and making sure you have all the right info before making your decision (our writer Ili experienced this firsthand when she recently travelled from KL to Singapore!). Having said that, the outbreak has been a good reminder to be more diligent with our hygiene while travelling. 

Credit: Giphy

So to help you out, we’ve rounded up a list of hygiene tips to help prevent you from getting infected with the coronavirus during your travels (and are just good to practice in general too!).

Standard precautions and tips when travelling 

Note: These tips are sourced from the World Health Organization (WHO) the Singapore government and Singapore’s Ministry Of Health and the US government’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) )

1. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water

This is the number one recommendation from most health experts. Washing your hands helps get rid of germs we touch on contaminated surfaces and prevents it from being spread to other places. Wash your hands before handling food or eating, after going to the washroom, or when your hands become dirty or come in contact with respiratory secretions after coughing or sneezing. 

#HHWT Tip: It’s also good practice to wash your hands as soon as you enter your home, place of work, your hotel room or other places where you spend a significant amount of time. It minimises the risk of touching surfaces within it with contaminated hands.

Credit: Giphy

It’s also worth noting that for travellers, while it may sometimes definitely feel more convenient to rely on hand sanitizers when you’re out and about, nothing beats washing your hands thoroughly with soap and water in terms getting rid of germs. So if there’s a sink nearby, do opt for washing your hands!

The Malaysian Ministry of Health has a handy infographic on the proper technique to wash your hands thoroughly, or you can also refer to this step-by-step guide by Singapore’s Ministry of Health.

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2. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth

Germs can enter your body through your eyes, nose and mouth, hence it’s super important to avoid touching them with unwashed hands! Avoiding touching your face in general can also be helpful to reduce the overall risk of getting infected.

3. Practice good hygiene when sneezing or coughing

Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing and dispose of the tissue into the rubbish immediately, followed by washing your hands (or rubbing your hands with an alcohol-based hand sanitiser). This will help prevent the spreading of germs through the droplets you emit when you sneeze or cough that can get on surfaces or be inhaled by others. If you can’t get a tissue in time before sneezing (we’ve all been there! ?), the WHO also advises coughing or sneezing into your flexed elbow.

4. Wear a mask if you have respiratory symptoms such as a cough or runny nose 

Wearing a mask is advisable for those that have symptoms like a fever, cough or runny nose in order to prevent the spreading of germs. Ideally, those who are unwell should seek medical attention early in addition to practising respiratory hygiene and staying home until recovered, if possible.

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5. Avoid consumption of raw or undercooked meats

Make sure that your food is fully-cooked, and be careful when handling raw meat or similar food products to avoid cross-contamination with uncooked foods.

6. Practice general hygiene measures when visiting wet markets, animal product markets or when encountering with live animals

As a general precaution, ensure regular handwashing with soap and water after touching animal products and avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with your hands. The WHO also advises washing your hands after touching live animals and to avoid contact with sick animals or spoiled animal products. Strictly avoid any contact with other animals in the market (e.g., stray cats and dogs, rodents, birds, bats). 

To note, the government of Singapore advises those travelling overseas to avoid going near live animals, including poultry and birds, altogether.

When travelling through airports and on planes

7. Bring anti-bacterial wipes to wipe down your seat area

While many airlines have now stepped up their disinfection processes, it’s a good idea to bring along anti-bacterial wipes during your flight and wipe down your tray table, armrests and entertainment screen when you board your plane. Bring along a plastic bag so you can easily dispose of the wipes you use and not re-touch them accidentally (nor stuff them down the front pocket!).

8. Bring an alcohol-based hand sanitiser to keep your hands clean

Having hand sanitiser is super helpful as you may not always get the chance to go to the washroom to wash your hands. Remember to pack it along in your hand-carry so you have it with you during the flight and that it's in a bottle where the volume doesn't exceed airline restrictions (typically 100ml). It’s also useful to have this on hand when touching common surfaces in the airport (such as fingerprint scanners, touch-screen surfaces at check-in kiosks, etc.). The CDC recommends a sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol, though to note, there are no similar minimum alcohol-level requirements from other major health organisations.

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9. Make sure to clean and sanitise your hands prior to eating

If you’re enjoying an inflight meal, clean your hands prior to eating or handling your food (or before you eat any meal while you’re travelling, for that matter!)

10. Wear a mask if you’re unwell or as an added layer of precaution during your flight

As mentioned earlier, it’s advised to wear a surgical mask if you are feeling unwell or have respiratory symptoms such as a fever, cough or runny nose (though if you’re feeling unwell, it’s best to stay home and recover to avoid infecting others).

Many health organisations (including the WHO and Singapore’s Ministry of Health) have stated that surgical masks aren’t necessary for those who are healthy and that higher priority should be placed on washing your hands and practising good hygiene if you sneeze or cough. In addition, a medical adviser for the International Air Transport Association has gone so far as to say there’s limited benefit to wearing masks to prevent infection while reiterating the more fundamental importance of hand hygiene. 

That said, we understand that many would probably have more peace of mind to wear it during your flight, and it can still be helpful to wear a mask as an added layer of precaution (for your self-protection in the event you are seated next to someone who may cough or sneeze, or also in consideration of others in the event YOU may cough or sneeze). The important thing to note is that if you choose to wear a mask, be aware of the right way to use it, including:

    • Washing or sanitising your hands before putting it on
    • Covering your nose and mouth and ensuring there are no gaps between the mask and your face
    • Avoid touching your mask while using it
    • Removing the mask from behind (using the ear elastics and not touching the mask itself) and disposing of as soon as it becomes damp, followed by cleaning your hands.

When out and about in at public spaces and attractions

11. Minimise physical contact when in crowded spaces

Travellers are generally advised to avoid crowded places. However, we understand this might not always be possible when you’re visiting tourist attractions on your trip or when you’re travelling by public transport, depending on the location you visit. If possible, the WHO recommends keeping a distance of 1 metre (3 feet) between yourself and other people, especially those that are coughing, sneezing or have a fever. In addition, avoid physical contact (such as shaking hands) with others. Again, having alcohol-based sanitisers is handy if you don’t have easy access to a sink to wash your hands with soap and water.

12. Bring your own prayer mat and prayer garments 

If you’re stopping at a mosque or public prayer rooms to perform your prayers while you’re out exploring, having your own prayer garments and prayer mat can help safeguard against coming into contact with surfaces that may be contaminated. There are many travel-friendly options that are compact and light that you can pack along for this purpose.

#HHWT Tip: If you’re thinking of getting a travel prayer mat, we’re fans of Takva! The Takva Pocket Sejadah is compact, durable and waterproof. It’s available for purchase through Amazon.sg - earn up to 6% Cashback if you buy it through ShopBack ?

It’s also worth noting that the Office of the Mufti of Singapore has stated that wearing a mask is permissible while praying, though if you are feeling unwell, it’s good practice to avoid mosques or public spaces to avoid infecting others.

13. Last, but not least...

This isn’t so much a hygiene tip but more of a friendly reminder to keep yourself informed and stay up-to-date with the latest updates from recognised travel and health authorities (such as the WHO, your respective government health and foreign ministries, and other relevant organisations). It’s important to arm ourselves with proper information from trusted sources, and also remember our social duty to take proper precautions and practice good hygiene to help maintain the health and wellbeing of ourselves and the communities that we visit and return to ?

The outbreak of COVID-19 should not stop you from travelling, and if you will be going on a trip you’re now aware of the best hygiene practices to help you avoid getting sick. Be diligent, stay safe, and happy travelling!

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