How to Stay safe and healthy while you are travelling

| September 2, 2010 | 0 Comments | 381 views

Sometimes, it's to do with commonsense precautions – like arranging the right vaccinations and travel insurance. Sometimes, we have more specialist advice – like how to keep yourself informed about the risks of terrorism in the country you're going to.

The essential travel checklist

Make sure you read our travel checklist before you go away - it's got everything you need to know for staying safe and healthy abroad!

Take our number with you!

Find out why it's a good idea to always make a note of the nearest embassy's phone number when you're abroad.

Travel checklist

We've put together this travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe whilst you are there.  We've got more advice for specific types of travellers in Your trip.

Before you go:
check our travel advice pages for the country you are visiting.  Sign up for email alerts and you'll get the latest updates for that country
register with our LOCATE service so we can get in touch with you if something goes wrong
find out where the nearest embassy will be – check their website to find out what services they offer and their opening times
don't travel without insurance – make sure it covers you for any activities you are likely to undertake such as extreme or water sports
travelling within the EU? Then get a free European Health Insurance Card for free or reduced emergency care - you still need full travel insurance though! Also remember, you can call 112 to contact the emergency services in any EU country.
check with your doctor as soon as possible to find out if you need any vaccinations before you travel
make sure you've got correct visas for the country you are visiting and that your passport is valid.
All first time adult passport applicants must now attend an interview to verify their identity. It now takes up to six weeks to get a first passport. For more information please visitDirectGov
for certain countries your passport must be valid for 6 months after the date you travel – check the entry requirementsbefore you go
take photocopies of your passport and other important documents and keep these separate from the originals when you travel and/or store them online using a secure data storage site.
make sure you fill in the emergency contact details in your passport. This will make it much easier for us to contact someone if necessary
tell a friend or relative where you are going and for how long for - give them some idea of your itinerary if possible and an emergency contact number
take enough money for your trip and some back-up funds in a mix of cash and travellers cheque -  make a note of the cheques' numbers before you go
invest in a good travel guide to help you plan your trip
driving abroad? Make sure your licence is current and valid. Make sure you are aware of the driving laws in the country you are visiting
check HM Revenue & Customs Travel website for information on duty-free allowances, banned goods etc.
When you are away:
think about what you are doing at all times and trust your instincts - don't take risks that you wouldn't at home!
don't openly display valuables such as mobile phones or digital cameras and consider using a padlock on suitcases or backpacks
find out about local customs and dress, behave accordingly and obey local laws -there may be serious penalties for breaking a law that might seem trivial at home
be careful when taking photographs, videos or using binoculars. Such activities may be misunderstood, especially near military installations
consider taking your mobile with you or renting one whilst you're away.  Store useful numbers such as the local police and the nearest embassy or consulate
check with your service provider to make sure your phone works abroad
check whether it's safe to drink local tap water- if not, stick to bottled water and avoid salads, non-peeling fruit and ice in drinks
use your judgement when buying and eating food you've not prepared yourself
respect the environment – don't buy wildlife souvenirs, conserve resources like water and don't drop litter
check import regulations for food and plants before you attempt to bring them back to the UK

Travel Health


Travelling 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.


HIV and AIDs

Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is present worldwide. It is caused by the virus known as Human Immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV). There is not a vaccine or cure for either, and people with HIV remain infected all their lives.

HIV/ AIDS can be contracted through:
unprotected sex with an infected person, who may not know they are infected
the use of infected syringes, medical and dental instruments or anything else that punctures the skin, such as tattooing needles
transfusions of HIV infected blood
passing from an infected mother to her baby during pregnancy, childbirth or breast-feeding.

It cannot be passed on through everyday social contact, insect bites or dirty food and crockery. Nor can it be passed on through kissing, coughing and sneezing.

Protecting yourself against HIV/AIDS
ensure you use condoms with new sexual partners. It is advisable to pack your own as standards may differ from those in the UK or they may not readily be available
don't share needles and syringes
be aware that some countries do not have the same medical standards as the UK. Equipment may not be adequately sterilised, nor blood screened for HIV and hepatitis B or C
if you require self-administered injections, take an adequate supply of your own needles
don't have a tattoo, acupuncture treatment or body piercing unless you can be sure the equipment is sterile.

Some countries have introduced HIV antibody testing for some visitors, or require an HIV antibody test certificate. Check with the relevant Embassy (see right for a search facility) before you travel.

If you need to take HIV/ AIDS related medications with you, check it's legal in the country you're visiting. It's best to pack it in your hand luggage and take a letter from your GP with you.

The relevant embassy and your local GP will provide you with more information.


Malaria is a major health problem in tropical and subtropical parts of the world. It is spread by the bites of infected mosquitoes.

Some forms can be fatal, others produce a high fever and may lead to kidney, liver, brain and blood complications.

Make sure that you:
Tell your doctor which countries and regions you will be visiting. Malaria parasites are resistant to different types of malaria tablet in different countries, so you need to be sure you're taking the right ones
Ask your doctor when you should start taking the medication and how long you should take it for. It is essential that you complete the course of tablets
Avoid mosquito bites by using insect repellent. Repellent containing DEET is particularly effective
Keep your arms and legs covered after sunset
Ensure the area where you are sleeping is properly screened and air conditioned if possible. Use a ‘knockdown' spray to kill any mosquitoes
Sleep under an insecticide impregnated mosquito net

Please note that none of these measures offer total protection.

If you develop a fever or feel ill whilst abroad you should consult a doctor.

If you develop malarial symptoms up to one year after leaving a malarial region, you should seek medical attention and tell the doctor you have been to country where malaria is a risk.

Avian & Pandemic Influenza

The risk to humans from avian flu (commonly known as bird flu) is currently low, so there's no reason not to travel to affected countries.

There's comprehensive advice and information on the current situation and background on the World Health Organisation (WHO) website, including a map showing where there have been outbreaks.

Despite the low risk, you should still take precautions if you're travelling to an affected country:

consult your usual healthcare provider for travel medical advice and further guidance if you have specific concerns
check our travel advice for the relevant country before travelling
avoid visiting live animal markets, poultry farms and other places where you might come into contact with wild, domestic or caged birds
avoid contact with surfaces contaminated with animal faeces or fluids
avoid eating or handling raw and undercooked poultry, egg or duck dishes (normal cooking destroys the virus)
wash your hands regularly, especially before eating or preparing food
don't attempt to bring any live poultry products back to the UK.

Because of the low risk, UK's Health Protection Agency does not at present advise tourists visiting affected areas to carry anti-viral drugs.

Avian versus Pandemic Flu

It's important to distinguish between avian flu, the current disease affecting mainly birds, and pandemic flu, which would affect mainly humans and is at this stage only a possibility.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) warns recent outbreaks of avian flu could trigger a future human flu pandemic, by combining with the influenza virus. It is impossible to predict when this might happen, but if it did, it would be much more serious.

There is presently no vaccine against any future pandemic flu strain. Anti-viral drugs such as oseltamivir (Tamiflu), may be effective in reducing the severity and duration of an influenza illness, but this has not been proven in a pandemic situation. Their effect may be limited if a resistance is developed to the drug.

Further medical information is available from the Department of Health.

How we'll help in a pandemic

We're working with the Department of Health to prepare for a possible pandemic.

As a precaution, we have obtained courses of the anti-viral drug oseltamivir (Tamiflu) for treatment of our staff working overseas should they fall ill in the event of a pandemic.

This should enable our staff at overseas missions to continue to work and provide consular assistance to British nationals overseas.
It also fulfils our duty of care to our staff, in line with the actions of many other organisations and UK companies with operations overseas.

As far as possible, we'll continue to deliver a consular service for British nationals resident or travelling overseas through our network of embassies.

But this may be limited, depending on the scale and severity of the virus in some countries. In extreme cases we may even have to offer evacuation for our staff and their dependents.

British nationals living overseas

If you live in a country affected by avian flu you should be prepared to take personal responsibility for your own health and consider whether you would have access to anti-viral medicine in case of a pandemic. In a pandemic you should seek medical advice before using anti-viral drugs.

British nationals working overseas should speak to their employers about the contingency plans in place for a flu pandemic. Such plans may include access to anti-viral treatment for employees and/or repatriation to the UK.

A flu pandemic could spread extremely quickly and with little warning. Many countries will not be sufficiently prepared and the availability of anti-viral drugs may be limited.

Our embassy staff may be able to provide advice on the availability of local medicines or healthcare but we cannot provide medical treatment.

Some countries might close their borders, international transport could be severely disrupted or halted, and travel could become medically inadvisable. We will not be in the position to offer repatriation to British nationals during a pandemic.

Swine flu

About to travel overseas?

In some instances swine flu might affect your travel plans, you should therefore consult the travel advice for the country concerned.

Before you travel
If you have swine flu, do not travel until you are no longer showing symptoms.
Check to see if your destination is reporting cases of swine flu. You can look on the NaTHNaC website for up-to-date information.
Stock up on waterless alcohol-based hand gels.
You should also consider:
whether you need to go to a swine flu affected area
the risk of getting swine flu at your destination
the level of medical care including access to anti-viral medications in the event you need treatment for an influenza-like illness (fever plus two or more of cough, sore throat, runny nose, muscle aches or headache).

You should receive appropriate vaccines and other preventive measures for your destination. This includes seasonal influenza vaccine if you come under the recommended risk groups. See NaTHNaC Health Information Sheet on Influenza
You should obtain comprehensive travel health insurance, and clarify any exclusions to coverage.
You should also check the policy of your carrier or tour operator on transporting people who are ill, or who have been exposed to or diagnosed with the A(H1N1) swine flu virus.
During travel

Influenza is transmitted via the respiratory route and you should exercise sensible precautions:

Follow public health guidance at your destination.
Avoid crowding or mass gatherings.
Where possible avoid close contact with persons who are ill with an flu-like illness.
Wash hands with soap and water; use waterless alcohol-based hand gels when soap and water is not available.
Avoid touching your nose, mouth or eyes, to prevent the spread of germs.
Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze and dispose of the tissue promptly.
Keep hard surfaces (e.g. door handles, countertops) clean using a normal cleaning solution.
Ensure that children follow similar advice.
Swine flu has not been shown to be transmissible to people through eating properly handled and cooked pork and pork products.
There is little evidence of the effectiveness of wearing masks, However, properly fitted special grade masks can be worn in situations such as healthcare settings.
If you fall ill while abroad (especially with flu-like symptoms) you should seek medical assistance. Where possible the British Embassy/High Commission/Consulate should be able to provide British nationals with details of English-speaking doctors and information on the local availability of anti-virals.
After you travel

Travellers who have visited affected areas should monitor their health for seven days after the visit. If you develop a flu-like illness with cough, sore throat, runny nose, headache or muscle aches, within seven days you should:

Check your symptoms.
Limit contact with other people.
Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze and dispose of the tissue promptly.
Wash hands with soap and water.
Keep hard surfaces (e.g. door handles, countertops) clean using a normal cleaning solution.

British nationals abroad

If you live in a country affected by swine flu, you should monitor our travel advice. This might include obtaining access to anti-viral medicine. If you have any concerns over your own health, you should seek medical advice.

Click here for your Travel Insurance Needs.

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