Q. I’m planning to go to Madeira, Portugal, soon. Should I be worried about catching dengue fever, since there have been some cases there recently? And what precautions would I need to take?
Ruth, via email
The latest reports show there have been 1357 reported cases of dengue fever on the Portuguese island of Madeira – of this number, 25 were travellers.
While it’s true there’s a danger, you shouldn’t let this put you off your visit as thousands of people go to countries with a risk of dengue fever every year and don’t contract the disease.
The key point is that you need to take the right preventative measures to stay safe.
Dengue fever is a flu-like illness transmitted by mosquitoes, so precautions such as wearing a strong repellent (those containing DEET are proven to be the most effective) and a light-coloured, long-sleeved top and trousers to cover your skin are a must while you’re there.
Be extra careful during the day because (unlike with malaria), the mosquito which carries dengue fever is about.
If within two weeks of returning home you experience any of the symptoms of the fever (including severe headaches, rashes, nausea or vomiting) you should seek medical advice.
There are no travel restrictions in place for Madeira, but I would continue to check the Fit For Travel website for updates in the weeks leading up to your trip (fitfortravel.nhs.uk).
I am visiting Thailand in April next year, and want to try to experience the country away from Bangkok and the islands. I have been to Thailand a couple of times, and tended to stay in touristy areas, so this time I would like to visit the north. Do you have any recommendations for where to go?
Abbie, via email
Thailand is one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations, with 19 million travellers flocking to this stunning destination last year, but it’s certainly still possible to escape the crowds and get off the beaten track.
Only one per cent of foreign travellers visiting Thailand go to the north-east, which is known as Isan.
This area is the Thailand of yesteryear – rice paddies, pedal rickshaws and incredible history.
Restored Khmer ruins, similar to those found at Angkor Wat in Cambodia, can be found at Phanom Rung and Phimai historical parks.
There are buses to both parks, but you will need to take a motorcycle taxi for the final leg of the journey to Phanom Rung from the bus stops at Ban Tako or Ban Ta Pek.
To really experience rural Thailand, look for accommodation in a homestay.
The village of Ban Prasat in Nakhon Ratchasima province runs a great scheme with some of its residents welcoming visitors.
At a cost of around £10 per night, it really is a terrific, budget-friendly way to get to meet local people. Organise your homestay through the Tourism Authority of Thailand.
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