Let me start by saying that I haven’t actually travelled to Malaysia yet, although it’s on my bucket list of places to visit in the next few years. Malaysia is a destination of thriving cities, beautiful beaches, unbelievably idyllic islands, amazing national parks, and wildlife-filled rainforests, in addition to being a place of culinary genius.
The culture here is a mismatch of Asian cultures; Hindu, Muslim Indians, Muslim Malays, and the more religiously diverse Chinese, who all muddle along together, along with a range of aboriginal groups, indigenous people, and tribes. There’s a real mix of cultures here, with each group having its own culture, language, and religious practices, which is why Malaysia has such a packed schedule of festivals and occasions throughout the year. It’s easy to see why this is such a popular travel destination.
While an incredible travel destination, for someone like me who lives with a life-threatening allergy, travelling abroad, particularly to countries in Asia where the food is very unique, can be risky. However, just because there’s an element of risk, that doesn’t mean that you should miss out, it’s just a case of taking smart steps to ensure that when it comes to your diet while you’re travelling, that you’re smart about what you eat.
So, what can you do to make exploring Malaysia with an allergy as safe as possible?
Understand where the risks lay
For me, I am allergic to wasps, peanuts and nuts, which means that the risk lays in food and exploring. One sting could send me into an anaphylactic shock. One plate of food containing nuts could land me in hospital and ruin my entire trip. I could let these things stop me, but I don’t. Instead, I outline where the risks lay – this can be done for every allergy – and I put a plan of action in place for minimising them.
For example, if I were to go on one of the walking tours of the amazing rainforest that Malaysia boasts, I would wear long-sleeved clothing, which would reduce the risk of insect stings. I would also ensure that help was within reach at all times by talking to the tour company in advance and discussing my allergy.
Choose reputable hotels
When it comes to travel anywhere, the key to reducing allergic reactions is choosing reputable hotels near the places where I would be exploring. For instance, if I wanted to trek the famous Mid Valley I would search for Mid Valley Hotels that are well-known as being reputable, clean and able to cater to the varying needs of their guests.
One hotel that I’ve been told is very good is the Cititel Mid Valley hotel; it’s got a 4.5 out of 5 rating on Trip Advisor, and most of the guests that have visited it have found it to be a great place to stay that is clean, quiet, and friendly. This sounds like my kind of place – especially as cleanliness is clean when you have a food allergy of any kind.
A word to the wise, wherever I am going, be it somewhere in the UK or abroad, I always email my accommodation in advance to make them aware of my allergies. This puts my mind at ease and gives them the heads up that they may need.
Invest in allergy translation cards
Whenever you are heading somewhere that you don’t speak the language of, it’s important that you have a way to effectively translate. This is crucial when ordering food or telling people about your allergy, so buying specialist allergy translation cards is important. For instance, a large amount of Malaysian cuisine is cooked in peanut oil and includes peanut or nut as an ingredient. This means that anyone with a nut allergy would need to be super careful when eating in a restaurant here.
What I normally do, wherever I am going is have translation cards printed that say things like ‘I am allergic to peanuts and nuts. If I eat these, I could die.’, ‘Please ensure that my food is free of any nut ingredients, including nut oils as I have a life-threatening allergy to nuts and peanuts.’, and ‘I need a doctor, I am having a life-threatening allergic reaction.’. I find that carrying these cards helps me to feel calmer and more in control, plus they are extremely helpful too.