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In today’s Wanderlust Wednesdays I share a nearly disastrous packing mistake: I forgot to buy tampons before a MAJOR diving trip.
Why Tampons & Komodo Dragons Don’t Mix
Normally, this isn’t a major problem. In fact, out of the 37 countries I’ve traveled to in the past 6 years, I’ve never found a town, city, or village that didn’t have tampons when I needed them – until now.
While I’ve had to resort to the unthinkable during my travels and had to use pads when I spent 5 weeks living in the remote Guatemalan jungle, it was the hefty price difference not convenience that prevailed: 50 cents for 20 pads vs. $10 for a box of 10 tampons.
This particular time, however, pads were not an option.
I spent 3 grueling days traveling to Labuan Bajo – the gateway to the world famous Komodo Island – and was beyond ecstatic at the thought of diving in one of the most spectacular dive sites in the world when Mother Nature decided to rock my world upside down.
My period decided to rear its ugly head two days before my dive and I’m in the one town in the whole entire world where tampons are NOT sold. UGH!!!
I searched far and wide just to find out that this small town only offered pads. How was this possible in a destination built on diving I thought? How did the local female divers deal with it?
This was a stupid mistake on my end and one that was easily preventable. 1) Indonesia is a conservative country and 2) I could’ve bought tampons in Bali before I left. Overpriced or not, they were not worth the pain of not being able to dive.
I was near tears when I was informed that the local dive instructors use reusable feminine cups instead of tampons. What would I do now?
Fortunately for me, this story has a happy ending: a generous traveler graciously offered me enough tampons to get me through my dives and saved the day!
So this doesn’t happen to you, I thought I’d share some insight on traveling and preparing for your period.
- DO NOT BE ALARMED – Tampons are widely available around the world. As I mentioned above, I’ve been traveling for almost 6 years and this is the first time it’s happened. Not a bad average.
- Just because you’re traveling in a conservative or religious country it doesn’t mean you won’t find tampons. Most tourist oriented cities and towns will sell them. However, if you are in a conservative location, buy them when you do see them. Don’t wait until last minute.
- Keep a small box of tampons in your travel bag or suitcase at all times – enough to get you through the first couple of days at least. Depending on your flow, 10 should be a good number to avoid overpacking but also avoid any emergencies. You can buy more along the way. When you’re done with one cycle, add a fresh box for the next month.
- Always carry a few tampons in your daypack or carryon bag on long transportation journeys for easy access.
- OB Tampons makes tampons without applicators which makes them more convenient to carry due to their small size and you also don’t have to worry about disposing of the applicator – environmental plus.
- While tampons may be a bit more expensive than at home, avoid packing 6 month’s worth of tampons just to save a few pennies.
- If you don’t want to deal with the stress or cost of finding tampons abroad, consider investing in a reusable device such as the Moon Cup. I’ve heard mixed reviews but it’s worth taking one for a test drive before a trip. For the women that do use them, they LOVE them.
- And lastly, learn from my reckless planning and BE PREPARED if going on a diving trip or water based activities. Even if you don’t expect your period to fall during your travel time, pack enough tampons to get you through the water activities.
- Worst case scenario; pads can easily be found and are very cheap around the world ranging from 50 cents to $2 in many countries. Even in small towns, most local shops will have the basics no wings, no frills pads that will get the job done.
Please keep in mind these are only guidelines and every trip is unique. If you are moving to a remote location for an extended period of time, it may be worth asking someone that lives there, a work colleague, student counselor, trip organizer, etc.
I can’t stress enough how it is not a common occurrence to find yourself in a place without access to tampons so this article isn’t meant to stress you out just to offer some guidance.
Visit Gynopedia to learn more about the availability of menstrual products worldwide in addition to other subjects such as contraception and sexual health.
What is your Wanderlust Wednesday experience? Share it with us by commenting below!
Did you have any problems going around Komodo while you were on your period? Everyone keeps advising against it but me and my friend are taking a trip and she`s freaking out a bit about the dragons and having her period those days.
I didn’t have an issue with the dragons, I just had an issue with not being able to scuba dive because I couldn’t find tampons 😉
FYI: the only place tampons can be found in Lombok is mataram… apparently. I haven’t searched there, that’s just what the store clerk told me when I asked here in Senggigi.
Fingers crossed they’re sold in the Gilis so I can do the snorkeling and diving I was planning on! Ughhhh… Conservative countries and lady holidays don’t mix.
Hey Lauren. Thanks for sharing this 🙂 Another option which so many female travelers love now is the menstrual cup! – http://bit.ly/2aEqLYo
Using tampons without applicators requires coordination and flexibility. If you’re not used to using them, they are a huge source of annoyance during a time when let’s face it, it doesn’t take much to annoy some of us. I have been unable to find tampons with applicators in Greece, Romania, Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, Kosovo, or Macedonia. It’s possible some place in these countries has them, but I did not find those places. I just can’t comfortably use an applicator-less tampon, so my solution has been to save an applicator and reuse it (after washing it in hot soapy water in between uses, of course). I’m probably going to travel with a Diva cup after this experience.
This is a great tip for others feeling the same way Dominica 🙂 I totally agree about the reusable menstrual cup though! So many travelers love them too!
The Lily-Cup Compact is the BEST reusable cup to have – and it packs up tiny into its little pink carry box. Hooray!
They’re life changing!
I noticed in a blog post you’re thinking of one day visiting Cuba. Definitely bring pads & tampons to Cuba — and anything else you think you might need, like sunscreen. Not only is it almost impossible to find feminine hygiene products, “essentials” like sunscreen, when you do find them, are massively expensive. Anything at all you have left over at the end of your trip, consider leaving in the country. It will be very much appreciated.
Perfect, thanks for this tip!
I need to take this opportunity to preach the word about reusable cups. You won’t like them the first time, that’s for sure, but they will CHANGE YOUR LIFE. They reduce cramps and are super comfortable. Tampons give me bad cramps (little known fact: it’s caused by one of the chemicals in them). Because they don’t absorb and are made of silicone, you can wear cups for far longer than tampons. When I had my (very light) period while on a wilderness horseback trek, I wore mine for 4 days straight! Seems like a terrible idea, I know, but it worked out fine. At my heaviest I empty it twice a day – morning and night, so you can wait between empties for as long as your flow allows. Not sure, about the IUDs, but I can’t see why tampons would be ok and cups not. I use a Diva Cup, by the way.
Thanks for your feedback Lacey, I’ll work on getting more feedback about these reusable cups as I can’t use them myself 🙂
As a fellow cup fan and a healthcare professional I would just like to warn other readers that while the cup is great, you should absolutely still empty (and if possible wash) it at least every 12 hours! 🙂
The reason is that leaving the blood in the cup in the body can give the bacteria an opportunity to cause toxic shock syndrome – which is much more rare with cups than tampons, but can indeed happen!
Your reference that the OB tampons are without applicators is interesting, because in Germany nearly all brands sell them without applicators. Actually I have not noticed some with applicators for a while.
On my next trip I will be on my period, luckily it is not ver heavy, but the first day is painful.
Hi Suki, in the US most tampons have applicators so it the OB ones are a bit new when we travel 😉
I love to learn about those small differences in various countries.
That MIGHT be the best blog post title EVER. Glad everything worked out eventually but how stressful!
haha glad you liked it 🙂
I have been using a reusable period cup for nine years now and haven’t looked back. It is definitely one of the best things that have come my way.
That’s what many travelers say! Unfortunately, I don’t think it can be used with an IUD plus many small dive boats don’t have bathrooms to dispose easily…