Alex and Chickpea Do Korea

Traveler Beware: My extremely expensive, and useless, trip to a travel clinic

One shot and I’m out half a month’s rent. The other needle pierced my skin and I lost the other half. Welcome to the world of travel clinics, which exploit your fears just enough to empty your wallet.

Honestly, I partly blame myself. As the weeks until our Korea departure flew by, Chickpea and I started panicking about getting our vaccinations updated. Korea is no disease hotbed, but  we were determined to try as much crazy food as we could while in the country (and a few neighboring Asian countries as well) and a little typhoid sure puts the damper on international traveling. So, I pulled out the ol’ laptop and Googled “Travel Clinic.”

The first entry was for a Maryland-based company called Passport Health. They have an office in Tampa close to my former job, so without looking at any other options, we booked an appointment for the next week. Why would I look anywhere else? We had no health insurance (and even if we did, most insurance companies will not pay for vaccinations related to travel) and I figured most doctor offices would need to order our special vaccines from a place like Passport Health . I knew it was a specialty clinic, and so probably a bit more expensive, but I was woefully unprepared for how much more expensive. Not to mention the infuriating, and factually incorrect, introductory visit.

The day before our appointment, I looked up travel advisories from the Center of Disease Control and my trusty Lonely Planet Korea book. After a talk with Chickpea, we decided on vaccines to protect us from typhoid, hepatitis A & B and meningitis. We would also ask about the need for Japanese encephalitis.

The next day, after work, we walked into the travel clinic office and the receptionist quickly took us back to one of the nurses. We sat down in her office and she pulled out a thick book with “Korea” and our names on the front. She opened the first page.

“So, let’s start with malaria,” she said, and so began our hour of useless health information.