Getting the correct vaccinations and taking your medicine abroad


Holidays are meant to be enjoyed to the full, free of any worries about becoming unwell while you’re away from home. While you undoubtedly need luck to be on your side, you also need to take precautions to ensure you don’t get struck down with a serious illness or disease during your travels.
If you’re going abroad, you might need to pay a visit to your healthcare provider before you jet off to get the required vaccines and medicines that will keep you healthy and disease-free.
If possible, see the GP or a private travel clinic at least eight weeks before you're due to travel. Some vaccines need to be given well in advance to allow your body to develop immunity.
If you have a pre-existing medical condition, this may make you more at risk of infection or complications from a travel-related illness.

What travel vaccines do you need?

The travel vaccines that you need will depend on your destination and planned activities. Searching the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website for your destination will bring up the recommended vaccinations. For example, if you’re travelling to Malawi, it recommends that all travellers will need a measles immunisation in addition to ensuring they’re up-to-date with routine vaccines. It also advises immunisations for hepatitis A, malaria and typhoid for most travellers.
Many travel vaccines require multiple shots to become fully effective. However, if you’ve left your vaccinations to the last minute, it’s reassuring to know that some multiple-dose vaccines (like hepatitis A) can still give you partial protection after just one dose. Some can also be given on an ‘accelerated schedule’ meaning doses are given in a shorter period of time.
Depending on which destination you are travelling to, you might be required to provide proof of vaccinations (for example, for polio or yellow fever vaccination), which must be documented on an International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis (ICVP) before you enter or when you leave a country.
It's good practice to take a record of vaccinations with you regardless of whether proof is mandatory or not.
CDC recommends all travellers be up-to-date on routine vaccines, including measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis, varicella (chickenpox), polio, and influenza.
In terms of cost, not all travel vaccinations are available free on the NHS, even if they're recommended for travel to a certain area.

Staying fit and healthy on holiday

If you’ve taken all the recommended vaccines and ensured you’re up-to-date on routine medication, you’ve taken good preventative action to avoid becoming ill whilst on your trip. But not all diseases can be prevented with vaccines or medicine.
Sometimes you will have to take extra precautions to keep yourself fit and healthy for the duration of your holiday. Here are some of the ways you can avoid getting sick abroad:

  • Wear EPA-registered insect repellent to prevent mosquito bites, which can spread serious diseases.


  • Wash your hands often with soap and clean water (if available) or use hand sanitiser (made with at least 60% alcohol) to avoid the spread of germs.


  • Watch what you eat – if in doubt, don’t put it in your mouth. Contaminated food or drinks can cause diarrhoea and other diseases.


  • Avoid contact with animals. In addition to the risk of rabies, all animal bites carry a risk of bacterial infection.


  • Pack a travel health kit with your health items and supplies, including your prescription and over-the-counter medicines.

Can you take your medicine abroad?

Again, what medicine you can take on holiday with you will depend on your destination. You also need to check what rules apply to taking your particular medicine out of the UK.
Check the rules for your destination, not forgetting any countries that you’re passing through on the way, especially if you’re going on a cruise. Countries will have specific rules about the types of medicine they allow to be taken into the country and the quantities of the drug that are permissible.
Some prescribed medicines contain drugs that are controlled under the Misuse of Drugs legislation in the UK. This means that extra legal controls apply to these medicines, which may require you to obtain a personal licence to take controlled medicines abroad.

Transporting your medicine

Once you’ve cleared up what medicines you can take away with you, the focus changes to transporting them in a safe and secure way. 
You should always carry medicines and medical equipment (needles, syringes and so on) in their original, correctly labelled packages. If your airline’s regulations allow it, carry your medication in your hand luggage with a copy of your prescription.
Pack a spare supply of medication in your suitcase or hold luggage (along with another copy of your prescription) in case you lose your hand luggage. Check that the expiry dates of your medicines will be valid for the duration of your visit abroad.
If you’re travelling to a warm country, you should check the medicine’s packaging for information about storage temperatures. Some medicines need to be kept at room temperature (below 25C) or stored in the fridge. A pharmacist will be able to advise you about keeping your medicine at the right temperature while you’re away.

Getting travel insurance with medical conditions

It’s important that you take out the necessary travel insurance with medical conditions prior to your trip to ensure you’ll be covered in the event of you needing medical assistance while you’re away.
If you purchase travel insurance with medical conditions covered you can rest assured that you’re protected for emergency medical care which is among the most costly elements of medical services. Usually, that cover will be up to £10 million.
Travel insurance with medical conditions through Insurance Choice offers access to 24-hour medical emergency assistance in practically every country in the world. Our cover also entitles you to claim for lost baggage or if you need to postpone or cancel your holiday because of your medical condition.
Finally, our travel insurance can give you the option of claiming for medical inconvenience benefits when you’re a patient in a hospital abroad.
Make sure your policy suits your needs by chatting to one of our friendly travel insurance specialists now on 01926 680 778, or get a quote.