Travel health

Parents and young children playing in sand at beach. © Steve Mason/Getty ImagesTravelling to different climates and environments abroad can expose you to disease and health risks. You should be aware of the dangers and how to stay healthy.

Diseases which aren’t present in the UK such as yellow fever, malaria, rabies and dengue fever are common in some areas of the world.

Vaccinations and immunisations

Visit your GP as soon as possible to check if you need any vaccinations or other preventive measures (such as malaria tablets).

Remember, these treatments aren’t usually available as NHS prescriptions.

General travel health tips

You should also make extra preparations if you have an existing medical condition.

  • take out adequate Travel Insurance or you could face a huge medical bill if you fall ill and need treatment
  • get a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) to entitle you to free or discounted healthcare in European countries
  • check the health section of our country travel advice before you travel
  • drink plenty of water in hot climates to avoid dehydration
  • be safe in the sun - use a high-factor sunscreen and avoid excessive sunbathing between 11am - 3pm
  • find out the local emergency services numbers and the number of the local hospital
  • practice safe sex - take condoms with you as quality varies in different countries. HIV and Aids, and other sexually transmitted diseases can be caught worldwide.

Long-distance journeys

  • don’t wear tight clothing on long-distance journeys
  • do regular stretching exercises such as flexing and extending your ankles to avoid circulation problems
  • walk round at regular intervals on long flights
  • drink plenty of water on flights and avoid drinking too much alcohol.

Consult your doctor before long-distance travel if you:

  • are pregnant or have given birth in the last 6 months
  • have a history of blood disorders, deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism
  • are taking hormonal medication (including the contraceptive pill)
  • have cancer, heart problems or have recently had surgery.

If you have a pre-existing medical condition

  • tell your travel insurer about your condition
  • ask your doctor how the trip might affect you
  • check local conditions such as climate and pollution levels and consider how you might be affected
  • carry a doctor’s letter and a copy of any prescriptions
  • ensure your medication is legal in the country you are visiting – the British Embassy can advise you
  • learn key words and phrases in the local language for your condition, medication and emergency help
  • take the same precautions you normally would in the UK if you weren’t going to be at home for a while
  • if you suffer from a mental illness you should be aware that facilities and local attitudes to mental health problems may differ from those in the UK. Do some research before you go.

The Department of Health and National Health Service websites have more info about travel health.



HIV and AIDs

Advice on how to protect yourself against HIV and AIDs when travelling abroad.


Advice on what precautions to take against malaria when visiting tropical and sub-tropical parts of the world.

Avian & Pandemic Influenza

Advice and information on avian / bird flu including what to do in the event of a pandemic.

Useful contacts

NHS Direct - 0845 46 47

See Also

European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)

Medical health insurance

Sick or injured abroad

Travelling abroad for medical treatment

Useful Links

Department for Health

EHIC - the Department of Health's pages on the European Health insurance card 

Fit for Travel - travel health advice from NHS Scotland

NHS Direct website

NaTHNaC - travel health advice

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