What challenges does The Philippines pose to type 1 diabetes?
Time zone changes: (GMT+8)
A change in time zones will mean a change in the time you give your insulin. If you’re on an insulin pump, this is very easy to switch.
Simply change the time on your insulin pump and it will adapt the times to the current time zones. I always recommend that you change the time to your final destination when you’re on the airplane.
Don’t forget to change the times on your CGMs too.
If you are on set doses at specific times of the day with specific foods, then I wouldn’t think about going to The Philippines just yet. That is a very regimented regime and you may find you run into problems.
Talk to your doctor about learning how to carbohydrate count so that you can go on more exciting adventures. Or you can learn to Carb Count online!
Naturally when you are adjusting your insulin and basal rates, you’ll find that you may run into highs or lows more frequently.
Give yourself a few days to adjust, then adjust your basal rate and doses as necessary!
If you are on insulin injections, then there is a little bit of maths and calculations required when it comes to giving insulin, but thankfully, I’ve done a full guide on switching time zones with type 1 diabetes.
If you’re planning on eating local in The Philippines, it’s a very carb heavy diet with beans and rice being one of the main staples.
I like to avoid foods like this when travelling, but you can get Carbohydrates details online from websites like “My Fitness Pal '' and “Calorie King '' that will allow you to count your carbs in The Philippines.
There are many western style restaurants across The Philippines, so if you’re used to a particular food, you should be able to find it, but obviously this will be more expensive.
If you struggle with managing new foods or counting carbs in restaurants etc, then that shouldn’t be a reason to avoid The Philippines.
Instead, just stay in accommodation that has a kitchen, or access to a kitchen and you can cook meals that you would normally eat at home.
I’ve got a guide on counting carbs abroad with type 1 diabetes that you might find useful.
Popular foods in The Philippines
- Filipino BBQ: fish, chicken, meats, rice
- Fresh fruit: Amazing mangos
- Chicken adobo
- Halo Halo
Fruit and fruit juices are cheap and everywhere so perfect for treating hypos.
It gets pretty darn warm in The Philippines and if you’re body isn’t used to that, then you’ll typically find yourself dropping into hypos more frequently.
I use less insulin in warm climates, you might find you do too.
I would typically reduce my basal rate by around 20% if I’m sightseeing in the heat, but as long as you monitor what’s happening with your blood sugars, then you’ll be able to work out the best way to reduce your insulin.
I suggest you keep your insulin cool whilst out and about in the heat, and for me, the best way to do this is with a Frio bag.
Check out my guide on managing your diabetes in the heat for more information.
Water based activities
This only really counts for people who use insulin pumps and CGMs. A lot of the best activities in The Philippines are water-based, so you’ll find yourself submerged in the water a lot.
If your insulin pump isn’t waterproof, or you just don't trust it under water (like me), then you might want to switch to insulin injections for the days you’re going to be in the water a lot.
Check out my guide on switching from insulin pump to pens for an in-depth guide on how to do this.
What injections do I need for The Philippines?
Type 1 diabetes are prone to a lower immune system, so it’s important that you get the right injections for the country you’re visiting. These are the necessary injections for The Philippines.
- Flu jab
- Japanese Encephalitis
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B
Some of these injections are expensive, but can last a long time, such as Yellow Fever. Either way, it’s not worth the risk of catching something if you’re not prepared!
You don't need Malaria tablets for The Philippines
The healthcare system in The Philippines
The Philippines is a fairly poor country and if you’re island hopping lots of the different islands, you can’t guarantee you’ll have access to insulin.
You will find insulin and modern hospitals in the capital of Manila, and in Cebu & Bohol. If you find that you can’t find insulin on an island, make your way to one of the cities.
Remember they may not have your specific brand of insulin, so monitor your bloods as your body adjusts to a new type of insulin.
I would not rely on finding insulin pumps supplies in The Philippines. So if you're insulin pump brakes when you’re away, make sure you know how to switch back to insulin pens.
The emergency services telephone number to be called in the Philippines is 117.
The Philippines uses U-100 syringes (which is the most common in the UK)
If you need information about your t1d whilst in The Philippines, or how to source insulin etc, then you can contact “Diabetes Philippines” via email@example.com or call +63-2-5311278
Arriving into The Philippines with Diabetes supplies
I had no issues arriving into The Philippines with my insulin supplies. I had about 3 months worth of stuff with me and no questions were asked.
I do recommend you bring a doctor's letter with you stating you’ve got type 1 diabetes and you will be carrying supplies with you. It’s helpful to translate a copy into the Filipino language, just in case!
They don’t have 360 body scanners in Cebu International Airport. You will walk through a normal x-ray and a private body search will be conducted if you beep.
So there you have it, my guide to travelling The Philippines with type 1 diabetes. Hopefully you’ve got some useful tips from this post and any questions, just drop a comment below.
Now you can get inspired for your actual trip here...