Traveling cool without air conditioning

Let’s face it – Americans love air conditioning. We are so accustomed to it – at home, at work, in stores and restaurants – that we expect it to be air conditioned wherever we go. But in many other countries, air conditioning may be the exception rather than the rule.

When traveling to a country where it’s local summer or where the temperature is always high, these tips can help you keep your cool.

Know what’s available at your choice of lodging

Before booking a room, apartment, or villa, check the list of amenities. Is air conditioning expressly stated as an available feature? If not, there probably is none. If that’s important to you, keep looking and book elsewhere.

Don't assume a hotel has air conditioning just because it’s a hotel, because even in Europe, many don't. Some hotels that offer air conditioning do so only during the height of summer. Further, sometimes the power in the room works only when you insert the room key into a slot inside the room. This keeps the air conditioning from operating when you’re not in the room.

Ask for a portable fan

Learn a few phrases in the local language so you can ask for a fan once you check in. In many places, your source for cool may be an open window and an electric fan. Sleeping with the windows open can give you a real flavor of the local environment. You’ll wake to the sounds of birdsong and smell the scents of nearby vegetation.

But you should also be prepared with earplugs. If you’re in a city, don’t be surprised if you hear revelers skylarking at night and garbage trucks dumping bottles out of a dumpster at dawn.

Stay cool on the tour bus

An open-air tourist bus is often a great way to get an overview of a destination city. Recorded tours offer interesting historical facts and you can get a visual fix on sites you may decide to visit later during your stay.

But riding around for an hour or two on the top level of an open-air bus in Barcelona can really cook you. On tour bus day, wear light-colored, light-weight clothing and a packable sun hat. Don’t be embarrassed to use your tour program as a sun shade or fan. Another option is to take the tour from the lower level. It may not be as much fun as sitting up top, but you'll be happier if the heat and sun really bother you, and there is often air conditioning on the lower level.

Eat like the locals do

Often, locals eat al fresco at restaurants and cafes because it's cooler outside than it is in a non-air-conditioned restaurant. Some restaurants will offer to turn on the air conditioning as soon as they recognize you as an American. But it's more fun to sit outside and watch the people and the action. Just pick a shady spot.

Pack hot-weather clothing

You've always dreamed of visiting those ancient Greek or Mayan ruins, but remember that you'll be traveling in a warm climate where the sun beats down on you all day. And, you'll be working up a sweat as you hike up and down crumbling steps.

To stay cool, wear light, loose clothing. Natural fibers, like linen, are best. Clothing with built-in sunscreen also can help, but it's best to avoid jeans. More important, wear a wide-brimmed hat, and choose footwear that works with sweaty feet. To cool off while touring, soak a cotton scarf in cold water, wring it out, and tie it around your neck.

Make your own breeze

An inexpensive Spanish or Japanese folding fan from the souvenir shop can be worth its weight in gold. Traveling with a tiny battery-operated fan in your purse or daypack also can save the day. But if you use your fan in a museum, don't be surprised if a guard thinks you look suspicious and asks you to step away from the artwork.

What you need to know about heatstroke

Heatstroke is a serious condition in which your body overheats because of prolonged exposure to high temperatures or physical exertion in excessive heat.

Heatstroke symptoms include high body temperature, headache, flushed skin, confusion, and racing heart rate. To help prevent heatstroke, time your touring for the coolest part of the day, stay hydrated, and step into the shade whenever possible.

If you think you or a travel partner are suffering from heatstroke, call the local emergency services number immediately or find the nearest hospital. If you have a SafeTrip Travel Protection plan from UnitedHealthcare Global, call the 24/7 emergency response center, and we’ll help you find the nearest appropriate medical care.

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