Surviving the Heatwave: What Tourists Must Know

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Daniel is a copywriter who has well and truly been bitten alive by the 'travel bug'. After ticking off several North American National Parks and exploring Europe by train, his sights are now set on South East Asia. Usually with at least one camera locked and loaded, you'll find Daniel wherever there are mountains, lakes or beaches.

With heatwaves and temperatures scorching across the globe, it might be time to reconsider your summer travel plans.

Let’s take a look at some of the most common questions travelers are facing as the heat continues to wreak havoc across our planet.

Where To Avoid

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At the moment, it is the United States, Europe, and Asia, that are facing the worst temperatures.

Here in the US, Death Valley recently hit 128 F, with one hiker falling victim to the soaring temperatures. Those looking to travel or visit family in Texas, Florida, and Arizona can also expect stifling weather. Phoenix saw temperatures climb to 114 F, with 21 consecutive days of over 110 F now recorded.

In Europe, many nations have been issued with severe health warnings as the heat continues to beat down on the continent. France and Italy are so far the worst affected, with the latter’s health ministry issuing red weather alerts across at least 23 cities. Sardinia saw highs of 112 F recorded whilst tourists in Rome have collapsed due to heat stroke.

The Canary Islands are now considered a dangerous tourist spot with wildfires burning in La Palma, where up to 4,000 people have been forced to evacuate their homes.

How Bad Is This?

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Although temperatures have been increasing steadily, these levels are higher than usual.

According to the World Meteorological Organization, June was the warmest global average temperature ever recorded, and this has continued into July.

“The extreme weather – an increasingly frequent occurrence in our warming climate – is having a major impact on human health, ecosystems, economies, agriculture, energy and water supplies,” stated WMO Secretary-General Professor Petteri Taalas.

“This underlines the increasing urgency of cutting greenhouse gas emissions as quickly and as deeply as possible.”

Places across the world are set to smash their hottest-ever logged temperatures, with Sicily expected to hit 120 F in the coming week, beating the previous record held in Europe of 119.8 F.

Is it Safe to Travel to These Places?

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You would need to check the guidance outlined by both your government and the nations you were visiting. However, if you do visit one of the worst-hit countries, you will almost definitely have to change your travel plans.

It won’t be safe to do extensive sightseeing in areas with heat warnings in place. Tourist attractions may be forced to shut or reduce their capacities in order to keep everyone safe.

Those who are elderly or traveling with young children may wish to seriously reconsider their options, with the risks for those with chronic health conditions and young far greater.

What Are the Actual Health Risks?

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Although some travelers may just experience the general discomfort that comes with hot temperatures, others may be at severe risk.

During Europe’s 2022 heat wave, close to 62,000 people died from heat-related causes, according to a journal from Nature Medicine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report more than 700 people die from extreme heat each year in the US.

The biggest risks are heat stroke and heat exhaustion, both of which require immediate medical attention. The signs of heat stroke include a body temperature of over 103 F, hot and red skin without sweating, upset stomachs, headaches, and passing out. Whereas heat exhaustion differs slightly, with victims suffering from heavy sweating, muscle cramps, and pale skin.

Whilst waiting for professional medical attention, sufferers of heat stroke should move to a shaded area and cool their bodies by taking a cool bath or shower, fanning, and sponging with cool water. They should not be given fluids to drink.

For heat exhaustion, you should drink cool beverages (nonalcoholic), rest, take a cool bath or shower, and move into an air-conditioned room.

How Do I Cope With the Heat?

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If you have traveled and are still keen to explore your destination, head out first thing in the morning. Temperatures typically pick up after 11 am and can continue to rise until early evening. 

Make sure to plan ahead, too. Many government officials are advising their citizens to ensure they spend several hours a day in air-conditioned areas, so look for museums, galleries, or restaurants that offer AC.

When it comes to clothing, pack loose-fitting clothes that are lightweight and airy. Make sure to carry sunscreen, a small fan, and plenty of bottled water with you at all times.

Stick to water-heavy foods such as salads and fruits like watermelons, blueberries, and grapes. And where possible, avoid drinking alcohol as it will cause further dehydration and make you feel worse.

Also, make sure to purchase travel insurance that covers heat-related illnesses in case you do require medical attention.

What About Travel Refunds?

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Unfortunately, heat waves are not usually covered by travel insurance companies.

If there are official advisories issued, you may have more luck, but you will need to carefully check your insurance provider’s T&Cs, with natural catastrophes not included in cover for many.

If the heat causes flight cancellations or delays, you should receive some assistance, such as airline refunds or rescheduling options.

What’s AC Like Around the World? 

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In the US, we’re used to air conditioning, with almost 90% of households having AC installed, according to the US Energy Information Administration. That number does not translate across the world, however.

Just 10% of households in Europe have any AC, so beware when booking Airbnbs or rental homes. You will be better off paying for a hotel, with larger hotels more likely to have good AC.

South East Asia offers little improvement, with AC found in just 15% of households, according to the International Energy Agency.

In larger cities, you will typically find good AC in museums, cinemas, and big tourist attractions. But don’t expect the level of comfort we’ve become accustomed to here in the US.

Will All This End Soon?

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It’s hard to predict exactly when this global heatwave will die down, but don’t bank on it ending in the immediate future.

In Europe, temperatures look to continue peaking at the levels that have been seen over the last week, with the jet stream causing high pressure over southern Europe. “This is not forecast to change before the end of the month, possibly until mid-August. Temperatures across southern Europe will remain very high until the jet stream pattern changes.” Said Cathryn Birch, a professor of meteorology and climate at the University of Leeds.

The US doesn’t look like it will cool down any time soon either, with predictions of high temperatures lasting up until mid-August. 

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