Travel, Unpleasant Neighbours and So On
An excellent guide to coping with all the practical problems of adventurous travel is "Bugs, bites and bowels" by Jane Wilson Howarth, published by Cadogan Books (ISBN 1-860110-45-2). The Lonely Planet or Rough Guide guidebooks to different countries are also usually good on coping with day to day problems. You should get advice on medical matters from Occupational Health in UCL or your local/family doctor.
You will probably need to get some vaccinations before you go as they generally only last a few years. Make sure that you check which immunisations you require for the area you are going to and some vaccinations need to be administered at least 3 months before you travel. All countries where there is a possibility of Malaria require a course of tablets to be taken before leaving home. Archaeology generally takes place out in the 'wilderness' so you will probably need different vaccinations than a person going on a package holiday.
These can be a real pest and make trying to sleep unbearable. I always take a lightweight mosquito net on my travels. Get one that tucks in all around the bed - they sneak in through tiny spaces. Also, you can treat it with permethrin spray before you go so that, if any land, they die before they can bite you through the holes in the net. Take an extra length of string and a couple of small nails as well, as it can be quite difficult to fix the net up, although you can tell if the place has got a problem because there will already be nails in strategic places on the ceiling. I also take the strongest mosquito repellent I can find. The best have DEET (diethytoluamide) in them. You can get 100% DEET! Test it before you go, however, because some people react badly to it (you may need a weaker one, or something else). Also, note that it etches plastic in sunglass lenses, is not kind to any synthetic fabric and watch faces. DEET doesn't actually stop mosquitoes landing on you. Instead it makes it more difficult for them to find you by cunningly blocking the heat sensors in the antennae. If you are really being pestered, then the best thing is to dress in long trousers and a long sleeved shirt. Do up all the shirt buttons to the neck and tuck the trousers into the socks (mosquitoes hunt at ankle level). Then you'll only have to put DEET on your hands, neck and head. Mosquitoes are at their worst in the evening, however, so this doesn't last forever.
It's very common on projects in the more archaeologically exciting parts of the world for visitors to acquire an unpleasant infection of the digestive tract, leading to diarrhoea, vomiting and so on. Usually it doesn't last for more than a few days although, if it does ever go on and on, then you really should see a doctor. Some seasoned travellers just treat it as inevitable, but it can be avoided and there are other much more serious infections that are passed on in the same way. The cause is that, in some way, traces of other people's faeces are getting into you. The main problem is usually uncooked food, and particularly vegetables/fruit/salad (but watch out for milk and icecream). In many parts of the world, these are fertilised with human faeces as well as animal, and this is the source of the problem. It's impossible, even with the greatest care, to wash something crinkly like a lettuce so thoroughly that the last traces of this are removed. And the washing water may be contaminated anyway (below). So I tend to avoid eating any salad or fruit that I can't peel. In my experience, hot cooked foods are usually OK. Quickly cooked fresh food from a roadside stall is usually better than meals from large hotel kitchens, in which practically anything might happen and you won't be able to see it. Excavations where everyone takes it in turns to cook can also be a problem. Some otherwise clever people really don't have the first idea about anything to do with cooking, or hygiene, so you need to keep an eye on things and be prepared to speak out if necessary. Make sure everyone really washes their hands properly before cooking. Drinking water may be contaminated, although it is less often the cause of the problem than food is. Most bought bottled water is alright, and you may end up drinking only canned/bottled soft drinks (though watch out for ice which is usually made with tap water). You can purify your own water. The best way is to boil the water for a good minute, before cooling it and bottling it. Another is to use iodine tablets. They make the water taste pretty strange and it looks dark, but you can improve both these things by adding vitamin C tablets (outdoor shops sell special little bottles of both tablets). Good drinking water, however, is the responsibility of the project organiser. In a lot of hot countries you will be offered huge quantities of hot tea. This is one way out of the difficulty and sweet hot tea is strangely refreshing. You might want to clean your teeth with bottled water. Wash your own hands before you eat, and otherwise keep them away from your face (nail biters beware). But you can't travel and worry too much about such things. Absolute cleanliness is impossible so, whilst taking reasonable precautions, everyone just gets on with life. If you do get into a situation where you can't avoid eating salad (would be horribly impolite to refuse generous offer of a meal for example), just eat less of it and avoid the lettuce or similar leafy stuff. And if you do get the bug, the main thing is to keep your fluids up. Most travel health books suggest you take sachets of oral rehydration mixture (Dioralyte or similar) which is largely sugar and salt, because they improve absorption of water by the gut. It tastes unbelievably foul, however, and can be very hard to hold down when you are in that state. In my experience, flat Coke/Pepsi seems to do just as well (add a pinch of salt if you can stand it), and you know it's clean out of a can. Just keep sipping it, if you can't take a big gulp. Most people don't feel like eating much, but that's not so much of a worry if it doesn't go on too long. Heavy diarrhoea can make people very dehydrated, which in turn makes them feel really ill, and the inexperienced can find it a bit frightening. If you can keep drinking, it usually makes you feel better. Most of the time, it clears up in a few days but, if it goes on longer, your stomach hurts, the diarrhoea gets bloody or you become feverish, it's time to see a doctor (see the Jane Howarth book above). If in doubt, get medical advice.
Take out travel insurance. Shop around because there are huge variations in premium (adverts on the tube, websites, telephone sales etc.). If you are staying away for any length of time, the chances are that it will be cheaper for you to take out an annual policy for worldwide travel, rather than a single trip policy. In that case, check on the maximum length of any one trip that is covered. Also check that archaeology is covered, and not regarded as some dangerous sport. The question they always ask is "will you be working alongside excavating machinery". Nobody should ever actually be working right next to a mechanical digger when it's running but, if such machinery is going to be on site at all, it's worth saying so. Have a good read of the small print, because there are always lots of slippery clauses, and make sure the policy really does cover the costs of getting medical treatment, or getting you home from the situations that you will be in.
The EHIC form (This section updated in April 2006)
A European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) entitles EU citizens to reduced-cost, sometimes free, medical treatment in the countries of the European Union (EU) plus Switzerland, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. (The EHIS replaced the obsolete E111 form in early 2006). If you are travelling to any of these countries you must get an EHIC before you travel). Most travel insurance policies require you to have an EHIC anyway, otherwise you can't claim. For full details see the Department of Health website.
Make 2 sets of photocopies of: the main page of your passport, your flight tickets, the EHIC form, your insurance policy document / instructions, a list of travellers' cheque numbers and the telephone contact numbers for if you lose them. Travellers' cheques are still a useful supplement to plastic because you may well be able to use them (especially if in US$) when you can't use your card. Also, if stolen, they can usually be replaced pretty quickly. Put one set of photocopies in your luggage, separate to the real documents. Give the other copies to someone at home to keep - you can phone them if you lose everything. All these things can be replaced, but it's a lot easier and quicker if you have a record of all the details.