Traveling Southeast Asia with Contact Lenses, What You Need to Know

Hoan Kiem Lake Hanoi

I wear contact lenses and so I have a lot of experience in traveling southeast Asia with my contact lenses. I also have learned there are a few things that any contact lens wearer should be aware of, especially when traveling out in the back roads or countryside of Southeast Asia.

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If you have contact lenses and you are planning to travel around Southeast Asia, there are a few important things you need to know such as having extra contact lenses and solutions in your suitcase, bringing some eye drops or prescription glasses just to name a few.

Here are some of my tips about wearing contact lenses and traveling in Southeast Asia.

Have extra contact lenses with you

Contact lenses are lightweight and they do not take up any weight or space in your luggage. So bring more than what you may think you may need on your travels.

For example, if you may think that you will need 7 pairs for your entire trip. then bring with you 12 pairs instead. I remember once I was in a hotel room in Ho Chi Minh and I lost 2 left eye contact lenses right in a row. I am not sure how I did it but they kept slipping out of my hand and I could not find them. Sometimes things slip out of your hands and you cannot find it or the floor is so dirty that you may not want to put it back in your eye.

So I always travel with some extra pairs. They will not add to your luggage weight and if you do happen to lose a few pairs in a row as I did, you will have some backup contact lenses ready to be used.

Have the contact lens solutions you will need as you may not be able to find it

If there is a special contact lens solution you like or you need for your contact lenses then bring it with you. I like the Bio True, Bausch& Lomb solution and I can buy that in very convenient travel sizes. Almost all contact lens solutions now also come in travel size containers. So if you want to save yourself a lot of headaches, bring your contact lens solution with you.

If you are not very picky about what contact lens solution you use, you can buy contact lens solution here in a pharmacy or drug store. When I have run out of my Bio True, Bausch & Lomb contact lens solution I have used some local or other brands and did not have a problem. But if you are spending a lot of time out in the countryside it may be much harder if not almost impossible to find any contact lens solution. So it is much better that you bring it with you.

If you are worried about the weight of your luggage, I would then consider bringing smaller sizes of things like toothpaste, shampoo, and soap as all those things you can usually find anywhere, even out in the countryside or back roads. But, the correct contact lens solution will be much more difficult.

If your eyes are super sensitive to things like pollution, dust or dirt you will need to take that into account in planning for your travels.

Asia can be polluted. Especially in some of the larger cities. Some days there can be a hazy or a cloud hanging over the large Asian cities and this is usually not a gray sky but is more than likely pollution. If you are interested to see what the pollutions levels are, you can go to the World’s Air Quality Pollution Index to see what the air quality or pollution levels are for where you are planning to travel.

Besides the pollution, many places in Southeast Asia also have a lot of construction taking place. Construction on the roads, construction of new buildings. This can also add a lot to the dust levels of where you are traveling or the road you are walking on.

As a contact lens wearer, you need to be aware of this. What I have done is if the pollution is very bad or I have been out on some very dusty, dirt-filled roads, I may just change my contact lenses before I am supposed to. For example, if my doctor tells me to change them every 14 days, instead I may change them every week. That is up to you, but it something you will need to take into account the number of contact lens pairs you may bring with you.

Bring some eye drops on your travels.

Because of the pollution levels, eye drops may help relieve your eyes. I use some over the counter comfort type of eye drops and I have found that they help give me some comfort to my eyes, especially if I had a day with a lot of wind, dust, and pollution getting into my eyes. Sometimes if I am on a bus or in a car most of the day, I can also find that my eyes may dry up, so I have found that eye drops can help give my eyes some added comfort.

You can also talk to your eye doctor before you travel and they may have some suggestions or they may be able to give you a special eye drop for your eyes.

Have prescription glasses for back up

Be sure to have prescription glasses with you in case you need them. I have had to deal with eye infections and pink eye several times. So make sure you have with you a pair of prescription glasses in case you need to totally stop wearing your contact lenses. The last thing you want to happen on your travels is to find that you cannot see anything since you did not bring your prescription glasses with you and you can no longer wear your contact lenses.

Wear Sunglasses

I usually always wear my sunglasses. First of all, I have very sun-sensitive eyes and I also feel like somehow the sunglasses help to some degree to block the dust, dirt, and pollution from going straight into my eye.

If you do not have a good pair of sunglasses already I would consider to get yourself a very good pair. You will find they will come in handy a lot during your travels around southeast Asia.

Consider getting a good eyewash

If your eyes are super sensitive as my eyes are, consider to bring with you some eyewash. Again you can buy some eyewash over the counter. If dust, dirt, and pollution really bother you and your eyes, if you wash out your eyes every evening, you may find this will really help with your level of comfort for your eyes.

Have a copy of your prescription handy

As they say, better to be prepared, as you never know what may happen. You may lose all your contact lenses, or you may lose your prescription glasses. You may need to try to buy some new contact lenses or glasses here in southeast Asia. If you have a current prescription that works for you then bring a copy with you or have a photocopy of it on your phone so you can access it if needed.

I once purchased two pairs of eyeglasses in Hanoi, Vietnam. I bought them both at the same time so I assumed they had the same prescription. I went to my eye doctor in the states and I showed her my glasses and said, “I do not know why, but this pair of glasses I can see out of really well, but this other pair seems to bother me.” She checked them both and they were two different prescriptions. Even though I had purchased the eyeglasses at the exact same time, the Optical shop had given me two different eyeglasses prescriptions. I am not sure if I had my prescription with me if that would have helped, but at least I would have known what was correct and what was not.

What if I lose all my contact lenses?

I have had to purchase contact lenses here in Asia as I did not have any left. My eyes can only use the brand Acuvue Oasys for Astigmatism, and I have a prescription that is not very common. So I had a very hard to find anyone who had any stock of the brand and prescription that I needed. I was able to finally have my staff help me find them through a company in Hong Kong and we then had to courier them in to in Vietnam. All of this was not that quick, I believe it took at least a week. if you have a prescription like mine, you may have a very hard time to find what you need. Others were maybe able to find what they need. It just really depends on what your contact lens brand type and prescription.

Can you take contact lenses on a plane?

You can take your contact lenses on a plane. I bring them on a plane all the time. But if you are also traveling with your contact lens solution you must make sure it is under 3 ounces or they will not allow this to go on the plane with you. Many contact lens solution suppliers now have kits you can buy that have a case and a travel-ready contact lens solution. I buy a travel kit from Bio True, ie Bausch & Lomb. If you are not sure, buy one of those kits to bring on the plane with you.

Anita L Hummel

Hi, I live in Hanoi, Vietnam but spend time traveling the region. I love to share with you things I see and learn through my travels.

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