I know that some of you out there are going to attend the Winter Olympics – so I put together the blog post below over the weekend for folks that might be going. Here goes in case you’re interested: Let’s start with the good news first- then the health tips…
Sochi Games to be Smoke Free-
Russians are 4th in the world in cigarette consumption at about 2,800 cigarettes/person/year (the U.S. is 34th at about 1,000 cigarettes/person/year)… so it’s great that the Russian Federation has made the commitment to make the games smoke-free. BTW: here’s a country by country listing of cigarette consumption per capita.
Smoking will be prohibited in all the Olympic and Paralympic venues, including all bars and restaurants in the Olympic park. No tobacco will be sold in any of the venues and the anti-smoking policy will be broadcast during all events on the scoreboards.
Make sure you’re up to date up-to-date on all your routine vaccines- especially this year’s influenza vaccine. Many adults haven’t had their Hepatitis A and B vaccine- both of which will come in handy- especially the Hep A vaccine. There’ll be folks from all over the world there, bringing all sorts of viruses with them in a cold climate- so make a sure you don’t leave any protective vaccines on the table.
Measles is still fairly common in that part of the world, so everyone under 55 years old should make sure they’re fully vaccinated for the measles. People over 55 years old probably had the measles as a kid, so they’re at low risk. More information on recommended vaccines is on CDC’s Russia destination page. Also, DTaP or TDaP (depending on your age) is a good idea since diphtheria is still circulating in the region.
Be sure to pack a travel health kit, including all your medications. Pack them in your carry-on luggage and take extra in case of travel delays. Be sure to pack plenty of warm clothes and sensible shoes with traction so you avoid falls. The climate in Sochi is about like Prescott in February… but the competitions held uphill on snow and ice and any competition at night will be downright cold. The right waterproof and windproof clothing will help too because it can rain there in February.
It’s a lot easier than you think to get dehydrated in cold weather because cold air holds so little moisture. Make sure you drink at least a couple of liters of water every day- more is better. From what I’ve read, the water that leaves the Sochi treatment plant is OK to drink- but some of the underground pipes pre-date the revolution and the water can get contaminated on the way to the tap- so it’s best to seek bottled water or bring your own micro-filter.
Traffic & Crowds-
Traffic will probably be heavy- so be careful when you’re a pedestrian. Russian drivers don’t necessarily yield to pedestrians- and cars almost always have the right-of-way there. Keep your thinking cap on while you’re walking around- not just looking out for cars but watching the ground for ice and stuff. You don’t want to end up in a Russian hospital instead of enjoying the games!
Spectator crowds are sometimes tricky. Choose a place to meet if you get separated from your group (you probably won’t have your cell service to find each other), and pay attention to where emergency exits are when indoors at large events. Above all- stay clear headed and don’t over-indulge on alcohol when in crowds or where the footing is slippery.
Check Your Health Insurance-
Russia requires you to show proof that you have health insurance that’s valid in the Russian Federation in order to get a visa ($50). Many domestic insurance plans won’t cover you if you need medical care overseas, so check with your insurance provider to find out the extent of your coverage outside the US. You might want to buy supplemental travel health insurance that will cover any unexpected emergencies while you’re in Russia.
Safety and Security-For more information about safety and security travel you can check out the State Department’s guidance for travel to the Sochi 2014 Olympic Games.