The Consummate Traveler: Altitude Awareness

February 1, 2014 Updated: February 1, 2014

I am headed to Bogota, Colombia, in a few weeks for a business trip. It is a very lush location right at the foothills of the Andes Mountains. However, since it is located 8,600 feet above sea level (2,625 meters), it is likely my fellow colleagues and I will have some symptoms of altitude sickness in the first few days. In this article I would like to share tips on how to handle visiting a high altitude location.

Research your location

Before heading out the door for your trip, I would suggest doing Internet research about your destination to be aware of its altitude. There are some obvious locations we all know are extremely high, such as Machu Picchu in Peru or visiting Mount Everest in Nepal. However, there are other cities you don’t automatically equate to having a moderately higher altitude like Mexico City (7,943 feet or roughly 2,421 meters). It is better to know and be prepared than to be caught by surprise.

Take it easy

If you are planning to hike, sightsee on foot, or get in a workout at the hotel in a high altitude location, make sure you give yourself a few days to adjust before taking on too much strenuous activity. It typically takes about 24 – 36 hours to adjust, but everyone is different. Listen to your body and don’t push yourself too hard.

Limit alcohol, caffeine, and salt

Common symptoms of altitude sickness are shortness of breath, fast heartbeat, headache, nausea, and feeling easily exhausted. The last time I went to Bogota, the only thing I experienced was a bad headache for about two days, which slightly affected my ability to concentrate at work. Most websites I’ve read discussing this subject suggest limiting or totally eliminating alcohol, caffeine, and salt from your diet in the first few days to limit further dehydration. Consuming twice the amount of water you normally drink is also advised. If you still feel sick after three days, you should consider seeking medical assistance.

As always, I wish you all the happiest of travels.