Contracting Dengue fever when travelling: What’s it like?


I was unfortunate enough to contract an infectious tropical disease during my travels, dengue fever.

Dengue fever is a viral infection transmitted by mosquitoes  If you keep up to date with me on Facebook or Twitter you will know that I’m in Thailand now. I contracted dengue fever on the beautiful island of Koh Chang, not far from the Cambodian border.

I was staying in a charming little bungalow right next to trees and the beach. The bungalows were so ‘rustic’ that there were little holes in the huts (because they were made from wood), the door didn’t shut properly and the bathroom was a squat toilet and shower…..outside! No sinks, no mirrors and no modern amenities. That’s what I liked about my stay in Ice beach bungalows. It felt like I was back to nature and I could hear the animals in the jungle at night. Just like camping!



Little did I know that getting back to nature would cause me to get the dreaded Dengue fever!

The bungalows were heaven for mosquitoes  There was stagnant pools of water around the bungalows and in the bathrooms. I would very often get a shower after the beach, here I would get bitten by mosquitoes every time! Once I even shared my shower with a massive spider!

It was kind of worth it to shower in the sun or under the stars….

All of this stagnant water was the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes  Mosquitoes seem to love me anyway so I got bitten more than any of my friends.

I never dream’t that I would catch a tropical disease by getting back to nature for a few nights!

One day I woke up and my whole body ached. It felt like I had been in a fight or something.  I put this pain down to lying in a funny position and I tried to go about my day as normal. I even had a massage on the beach which made me feel even worse. I went back to my bungalow early and had a nap.

Needless to say when I woke up I was raring to go! I got dressed and went to the bar with my friends, dancing in to the early hours.

This cycle of feeling ill, aching and then feeling a little better continued for days. I had diarrhoea so I just thought that it was the effects of that.

On my friends second to last night I felt REALLY ILL. I felt dizzy, I had a temperature and I was aching everywhere. Still I went and partied for a few hours because it was my friends last big night out. I just took a few paracetamols and tried my best to have fun.

The next day I was really ill. I am normally quite a motivated person but it took me hours to even get dressed. I would attempt to put an item of clothing on and just lie down for a bit.

This was not like me!

I managed to meet my friends for breakfast and then I slept all day until dinner. At dinner I could barely eat my pizza, I had no appetite. This is extremely unusual for me. I felt dizzy and confused, like I was not fully participating in what was going on. I went to bed after dinner and vowed to go the hospital the next day. I could not live like this. 

Part of me was terrified that I had malaria and I just wanted to be at home.

The next day I woke up with a horrible red rash covering my whole body. This scared me immensely so I made my way to the international hospital.

Once there they took my blood pressure, temperature and a blood sample to see what the problem was. I tested positive for dengue fever and my platelets were dangerously low. I was also diagnosed with food poisoning because I had had diarrhoea for over 5 days now.

Dengue AND food poisoning? Just my luck!

It cost me £178 to be told this too, as If I wasn’t feeling faint enough!

At least I didn’t have malaria though, that was my greatest fear!

For the next 5 days I moved to a more luxurious bungalow with en-suite, a nice big comfy bed and no mosquitoes . I was ordered to take paracetamol every 4 hours and drink as much water as I could. I just slept for the first 2 days, even going for a fruit shake seemed like a big effort and I would take hours to prepare. Every bone in my body was aching, even lying on my bed was painful.



I felt so alone and just wanted someone to  Every bone in my body was aching, even lying on my bed was by getting me some food or something. It’s at times like this that solo travel sucks.

I went back to the hospital for a blood test and was told that my condition has worsened and that I would have to be admitted to hospital if they went any lower.


I continued to nurse myself back to health. I felt so nauseous and had no appetite so it was hard to eat. I was prescribed anti sickness tablets to take before meals. They didn’t work. I forced myself to eat ‘English’ style food like scrambled egg and beans on toast and fruit shakes.


Eventually I started to feel a little better. I would spend the days outside reading instead of just sleeping. I was so pleased when the Doctor said that my bloods were back to normal again! Yay! He said that I would feel weak for a while but that I was now free of Dengue.

I stayed put in my bungalow for 2 days and tried to get back to normal. I started eating Thai food again and I went to the beach on my last day.

Overall having dengue fever was horrible and I was fully prepared to go home if my condition hadn’t got better. I felt so weak that I couldn’t cope on my own and I would have loved to have someone to help me with things. I did it all on my own though.

If I can look after myself during dengue fever I can look after myself during anything now! It was so hard but I did it!

Now i just need to try and avoid contracting malaria…..

Have you ever had dengue fever? If so was your experience similar to mine? Do you think you could have nursed yourself back to help alone like I did?

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I’m a twenty something podiatrist with new found wanderlust. Follow me as I prepare for my trip of a lifetime to Dubai, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand and wherever else the world takes me.

29 thoughts on “Contracting Dengue fever when travelling: What’s it like?”

  1. You was very brave!!! Because being ill alone it is very tough, Fortunately, you are ok, I am very happy for you

    1. Aww thanks Ana, It was very hard being ill and alone. The bad thing was was that the people at the hostel I was staying in didn’t offer to help me carry my bag or anything to the next bungalow. It was hard carrying my heavy bag when all of my bones were aching 🙁

  2. how awful for you, bet you just wished you had your mum with you, sounds like you have had a terrible experience, mosquitos pesky little mites that cause so much havoc. glad your on the mend steph, onwards and upwards, take care of yourself

    1. Yeah, I was really ill for quite a few days and I really wanted to go home. It was hard coping with normal activities of daily life when I was ill, but I did it! I’m back travelling through Thailand and I’m in Northern Thailand now, Chiang Mai.

  3. aww steph. that sounds so aweful. I was starting to get scared.
    I’m glad your better again.
    those bungalows are beautiful, especially that pink one!

    x x

  4. That sounds absolutely awful! The one thing that I really worry about, since I usually travel alone, is what would happen if I was too sick to take care of myself.

    On the bright side, now if anyone ever tries to complain when they have a cold or the flu you can totally outdo them.

  5. Hi!

    Great post. I am in Chiang Mai now, straight from Laos and have suddenly developed a fever and some stomach stuff. My body hurt this morning and I am fatigued. I am really worried I have Dengue fever. I bought paracetamol and will drink water. Is there anything I can do to prevent this from Worsening! In supposed to ride an elephant tomorrow! I don’t want to cancel but I want to get better! Any advice appreciated. I am also a solo female traveler. Thanks…

    1. Hey Christina, The only way to really know whether you have dengue fever is to get a blood test at a doctors. Until then control the fever by taking paracetamol every 4 hours and drinking plenty of water. Rest as much as possible too!
      Fingers crossed that you don’t have dengue, it’s horrible 🙁 xx

  6. Hey Stephanie, I just read your story and wanted to tell you that I had a very similar experience. I am currently travelling Asia long term and whilst in Cambodia on Koh Rong Island I got Dengue (very near where you contracted it) I was staying in a rickety bungalow exactly as you described.

    For me the first symptom was intense exhaustion, wanting to sleep all day needing to rest intermittently while trying to get dressed, dragging myself to a cafe to eat something even though I never got hungry and then sitting there for five or six hours simply because I didnt want to walk 50 metres back to my room!!

    I could really relate when you spoke about carrying your bag! I recall this seeming overwhelming and near impossible but I was too confused and hazy to ask anyone for help and I reasoned that it was ridiculous to think I couldnt carry it a short distance!

    I am also travelling alone and as you know the disease makes you very vague, tired and confused, fortunately I realised something was very wrong and got myself on a boat to the mainland where I literally “just” made it before no longer being able to walk, having a 40 degree temperature and being in agony with muscle and bone pain, I was rushed to hospital where I stayed for four days.

    I’ts nice to be able to relate to your experience, though I am sorry that you also had to endure this awful disease! It takes a tough person to get better snd keep going, so good for you!! Xx

    1. Thanks for your comment Donna, I’m sorry that you had to endure the horrible Dengue virus too!
      I was very ill when I had Dengue. I was also completely alone like you and spent obscene amounts of time half dressed on my bed because I didn’t have the energy to get dressed or just sipping tea in cafes.

      Nah you weren’t ridiculous for finding carrying your bag hard, I struggled a lot with my 20kg bag and I was surprised that no one offered to help, even though people knew that I had Dengue. I guess the lesson learn’t is that you can’t rely on anyone but yourself in life.

      I’m sad to see that you had to endure an Asian hospital for four days. You must have felt so alone. Did you carry on travelling? I decided that you only regret what you DON’T do, so I carried on with my travels. I felt weak for a while though and kept feeling dizzy and having to have afternoon naps, which was frustrating.

  7. Wow Stephanie that’s a horrible story! I was so glad that I was both not alone when I contracted dengue, and that I managed to avoid Asian hospitals. Good travel insurance aside, I was not ready to face that one at all!

    I’m glad to hear that you’re feeling much better though. My run-in with dengue was only last month and I’m still finding myself feeling very weak on occasion, but I hope that will pass soon too. Not that it matters though, because as I’m sure you can relate, feeling a little weak is NOTHING compared to having dengue fever!

  8. Hey Stephanie! Thanks for taking the time to leave your sory on the Internet. I’m turning 50 this new year coming and I’ve invited my two sons and ones girlfriend to some with to Koh Chang and spend the holidays. Thought I’d just check what kind of trouble could be lurking so we prepare well before we go. Your story did the trick (thanks!) – I’m absolutely stocking up on bugrepellent mosquitonets, repellents, soothers, medicine etc. As good ol’ Baden Powel would have said: Be prepared!

    For your next travels, try checking this website out, so it doesn’t happen again – they’ve got all categories of stuff.

    I hope you haven’t had any long-term effects and that you’re strong and happy again now. Best regards, Carina from a village in Denmark. ‘

    1. Despite the Dengue fever, Koh Chang was one of my Favorite destinations of my visit 🙂

      Just make sure to stay in decent walled accommodation and not a shed near stagnant water like me!

      I’m feeling very healthy now, thank you. Enjoy Koh Chang!

  9. Hello Steffanie,

    I got dengue When I was in Koh Tao 3/2013. That wasn’t nice at all. I spend 3 nights in hospital… i lose about 1/3 my hair for next 3 months.

    I am interested What toctors said to you, is safety to travel again to dengue area? What are risk if you get it for secont time? Our doctors dont know enought for this sickness, so I had got every time A different aswers.

    Some says that I can not travel to Asia anymore, because there is A risk and if i get secont dengue i would die.

    Some says you can travel, but secont time is more terrible than first….

    Have you travel to Asia again?

    1. Hello Anu, It’s interesting to meet someone who also lost their hair. That was one of the hardest parts of having dengue. The only doctors that I talked to were at the clinic in Koh Chang. They didn’t mention anything about travelling to dengue areas in the future. After I had dengue I travelled for another 5 months through areas with dengue.

      I’d probably advise you to take caution when you travel next, use bug spray and stay in good quality accomodation with solid walls. I’ve heard that the second time is worse too but I think it’s better not to live in fear. Yes I went to live in Japan and went back to Thailand after my 2013 travels.

  10. Hi Stephanie,
    found your blog cause was on research how the Dengue situation is nowadays on Koh Chang and I read your story.It happened 22 years ago to on Koh Chang in more or less same style hut resort.We heard later that it was quite a huge outbreak.We were good prepared but at that time the Thai government didn’t gave out the infection numbers as they were afraid that tourism would slow down.I think still now the official data are much lower than the reality.
    At that time were no clinic on Koh Chang and we had to go to Trat to the hospital,were they said that i had the flu and did made the worse mistake and gave me ASS pills.
    I had to fly back(nightmare with stop in Dubai-were i got a valium shot in the airport clinic) new years eve and direct move to the hospital in the infection unit.Stayed there for three days.They already told me to be aware and not to get it a second time or more.The problems than ,could be inner bleedings.But the most dangerous infection would be a cross infection which one of the other 3 types of dengue.

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