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5 Key Health and Safety Travel Tips

Bolivian Altiplano

Crossing the Bolivian Altiplano (photo: David Lee)

[F]alling ill at the best of times isn’t easy but when you are travelling in far-flung places with only your guidebook and rucksack for company it can get a whole lot harder.

Things can be even more complicated if you have any pre-existing medical conditions but with a bit of planning and common sense things can still go smoothly.

We’ve put together a few tips to help you prepare for a trip abroad, whether it’s backpacking through the Andes or cruising the Med on a yacht.

1. Vaccinations

First up make sure you know what vaccinations you need for your destination(s) and when you need to have them as some can take several weeks to become effective.

As a guide, 8 weeks is normally far enough in advance for most vaccinations. Some vaccinations are available on the NHS and others you will have to pay for.

To find out more detailed information visit the NHS travel vaccination planner or the NHS Fit for Travel website which also has vaccination information for every country in the world.

2. Insurance

Some form of pre-existing medical travel insurance is essential if you are planning a trip, even if you are just heading out on a backpacking trip to EU countries.

Healthcare and its associated costs vary hugely across the world and taking time to find a good insurance plan will give you peace of mind and be invaluable if the worst should happen.

There are many types and levels of cover, from activity based to pre-existing medical travel insurance. Take time to research the most relevant one for you and your travels.

3. Language

Learn a few key phrases that may be helpful in a medical emergency in the language of each country you will be visiting.

If you have an existing medical condition then get the key information translated into each language before you leave and always have the relevant notes on you.

4. Medication

Pharmaceutical drugs can be expensive abroad and in some cases you may not be sure what you are being given so it is worthwhile getting a prescription that will cover you for your whole trip, plus some emergency supplies in case you stay away a bit longer.

Although you can get the usual painkillers etc. in all countries they can be incredibly expensive compared to the UK so it’s worth taking your favoured brand with you just in case.

5. Emergency numbers

Always have emergency numbers on you and at your accommodation if possible. Your next of kin contact details, your insurance telephone and policy numbers need to be easily accessible in case of illness or accident.

Make sure your emergency contact at home also has all of your insurance details and itinerary. If you can, try to let someone at home know you are ill so they can deal with insurance if needs be.

It’s also worth making a note of the emergency numbers for the countries you are staying in – the equivalent to the UK’s 999 emergency number.

Those are our top 5 tips to help give you some peace of mind when it comes to falling ill on your travels. Of course hopefully you won’t get sick or meet any accidents…

Your trip will be a total blast from beginning to end and you’ll come back fitter and more relaxed than ever before.

Planning a trip? Go Backpacking recommends:

Tom Miller

Friday 14th of September 2012

When I travel, I see to it that I research more first about the place I need to go, accommodation, near dining places and convenient stores. I also try to check what the place is like especially for traveler's safety. That way, I will be able to prepare myself on what lies ahead of my journey.

Nadine @ Goowai

Friday 14th of September 2012

Great post! I couldn't agree more. When I travel I always bring my medicine kit along with me. It really does help especially when you're traveling for a month or so. Because you will never know what will lies ahead it's better to be prepared especially when talking about health and wellness when traveling.


Tuesday 11th of September 2012

If you are from the UK and heading to Europe then you should also get a European Health Insurance Card.

It lets you get state healthcare at a reduced cost or sometimes for free. It will cover you for treatment that is needed to allow you to continue your stay until your planned return.

While travel insurance covers you while away there is often delays in treatment while the insurer confirms the treatment/provides the paperwork etc, having a EHIC means you get treatment immediately.

I have been travelling for Europe for years with out realising that we should have applied for a Card before I left!

John Kim

Saturday 8th of September 2012

Very useful tips. But I think there is also an important thing to think before make a travel. We should know about the travel place properly. If we are going to a unknown place, we definitely need to do some research on that place to know all the attractive sites of that place. However Thank you for the nice post. :)

Rachel Jones

Thursday 6th of September 2012

As always, it pays to do your research. Particularly if you're going to an urban area make sure you know in advance where the crime-heavy areas of the city are and which scams are played on hapless tourists. Stay safe.

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