Tips to help protect you from falling ill abroad

Making sure you have travel insurance in place can help protect you from high medical costs if sickness does strike, but there are also a number of other precautions you could take to protect yourself and lower your chances of falling ill. Read our helpful guide to find out more.

Before you go


Depending on which part of the world you're travelling to, you may need to get vaccinated against tropical diseases such as malaria, hepatitis A, typhoid and yellow fever. You should also make sure that vaccinations you had in your childhood for illnesses such as polio and tetanus are up to date.

Seek advice from your doctor

Your GP should know exactly which vaccinations you'll need and how many. Arrange an appointment at least eight weeks before your trip, as you may need to receive a series of injections a few weeks apart for some immunisations. You can also find out which vaccinations are needed for the area you're visiting through the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Travel insurance

A travel insurance policy will ensure you have access to the right medical services in the unfortunate event that you get ill when travelling, but be sure you get the right policy for your needs. If you're planning on doing any extreme sports such as skiing or snowboarding, check to make sure you're covered in the event of an accident. You must also declare any pre-existing conditions to your provider before you set off, otherwise your policy may be void.

European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)

Anyone travelling in the European Economic Area could benefit from a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). Should you fall ill within this region, the card entitles you to medical treatment at a reduced rate or, in some cases, for free.

While you're away

Water safety

While UK tap water is safe to drink, this isn't the case in many parts of the world. If you're visiting destinations where the water isn't safe, stick to bottled water for drinking, brushing your teeth and so on, as tap water or untreated water could make you sick. Remember to ask for drinks without ice too, as it could have been made from unsafe water.

Be careful with food

When travelling to countries with unsafe water, it's also important to be wary of fruit, vegetables and salads, as they may not have been washed in safe water. The CDC also warns to avoid raw or undercooked meat, eggs or fish, food from street vendors, condiments and unpasteurised milk when travelling to developing countries.

Keep cuts clean

If you're planning on doing lots of exploring, you're bound to get a few cuts and scrapes along the way. Make sure you clean any minor wounds immediately and apply antiseptic - for anything more serious, seek medical attention.

Sun protection

Not only is sunburn painful, it can also result in heatstroke, which could leave you feeling exhausted, dizzy and sick. In the case of infants and elderly people, hospitalisation may even be necessary. Avoid heatstroke by regularly taking breaks from the sun, and using a high factor sun cream. Be sure to top it up regularly too - especially if you're swimming.

What to do if you feel unwell

Check your temperature

Feeling sick is one thing, but if you have a fever, that could mean you're at risk of serious illness. If your temperature rises to 38 degrees or more, keep checking it every three to four hours. Not all fevers require medical attention, but if yours persists, you should see a doctor.

Find an English-speaking medical professional

If you're seriously ill, you'll need to be able to communicate your symptoms to a medical professional. By talking to an English-speaking doctor or nurse, you can make sure your needs are better seen to. If in doubt, contact the British Embassy or Consulate of the country you're in.

Drink plenty of water

To help avoid dehydration, make sure you drink plenty of clean water. Make sure you have a good supply of clean water within easy reach.

Look to over-the-counter treatments

Depending on the severity of your sickness, local pharmacists in the area you're travelling in may be able to provide an over-the-counter treatment. Make sure you communicate your symptoms clearly so that you receive the medication you need.