When travelling overseas, you may get sick from infectious diseases or other health conditions. Before you go, find out what vaccinations and other preventative measures are appropriate for your destination.
Explore this page to learn about:
- the impacts of getting sick overseas
- how to find out about health risks in your destination
- where to get medical advice
- travel vaccinations
- preventative medication
- preventative measures you can take while you're there
- how the Government can help if you get sick overseas
The impact of getting sick overseas
Getting sick overseas is a sure way to ruin your trip. It impacts your health and may impact your safety and finances. Medical assistance overseas can be expensive.
Anyone can catch an infectious disease, even if you're usually fit and healthy.
You could experience serious illness, injury or even death while travelling overseas. Health risks include:
- worsening of pre-existing illnesses, such as heart disease or mental health conditions
- injury, such as wounds, sprains, fractures or head injuries
- heat or cold related illness, including severe sunburn
- infectious diseases
- traffic accidents
- allergic reactions
- altitude sickness
- illnesses that may have occurred at home, such as stroke or heart attack
If you return to Australia with an infectious disease, you put other people at risk, including your family and friends.
Your health is your responsibility.
If you get sick or injured, you could face very high medical costs. You'll need to pay for medical care yourself.
Costs may include loss of prepaid activities, accommodation or flights, as well as emergency food, accommodation or flight changes for your companions.
When you're overseas, you don't have access to Australia's subsidised Medicare and Pharmaceutical Benefits (PBS) Schemes. You, your family or travel insurer will have to pay.
- Stays in emergency wards overseas often cost thousands of dollars per day.
- If you have caught an infectious disease, they may need to put you in quarantine, which costs even more than an emergency ward.
- If you can't pay your bill upfront, you may not get treatment. Even in a medical emergency.
- If you get treatment and then can't pay your bill, you could be arrested or jailed.
Learn more about money problems while you're away.
Research your destination's health risks
Health risks can vary between destinations. When you know the risks, you know what vaccinations and preventative health measures you can take.
- Talk to your doctor or travel clinic.
- Read about key health risks in our travel advice for your destination.
- See the World Health Organisation (the WHO) advice on infectious disease risks for travellers.
- Check travel guides and online travel resources for your destination.
- Subscribe for updates to our travel advice for your destinations, including on changes to health risks, such as disease outbreaks.
You may need to meet certain health requirements to enter and exit your destination. For example, some countries require proof that you've had a yellow fever vaccination. Contact your destination's embassy or consulate in Australia for information.
Get medical advice from your doctor
Your personal situation can affect your health risks overseas. You need medical advice tailored to you, even if you're usually fit and healthy.
Only your GP, travel doctor or other medical specialist can advise what vaccinations and preventative health measures you should take. See your doctor to find out what is right for you.
- Ask how to protect yourself against infectious diseases, blood clots and destination specific risks such as altitude sickness and temperature related sickness.
- Consider how your medical conditions may be affected by travelling, such as heart conditions, diabetes or mental health.
- If you're an older Australian, ask if there are any additional precautions you should take.
- If you're travelling with babies or children, check their usual and travel vaccinations are up to date. Ask about any health issues that may be particularly relevant to them at your destination.
- If you're pregnant, ask what vaccinations you can take, what special risks you may face and what destinations you may wish to avoid.
- Read our general advice on taking care of your health.
Common vaccinations for travel
Vaccinate yourself against diseases that are a risk in your destination. If a travel warning is in place for a vaccine-preventable disease, get vaccinated against it.
You may need proof of certain vaccinations to enter and exit some countries. Some airlines and cruise lines require evidence before you board.
Diseases that the Department of Health suggests travellers can vaccinate against include:
- hepatitis A and hepatitis B
- chickenpox (varicella)
- yellow fever
- tuberculosis (TB)
- Japanese encephalitis
- meningococcal disease
- influenza (flu)
Depending on your health and destination, there may be other diseases you may need to vaccinate against. Talk to your doctor for advice specific to you.
Learn more about travel vaccinations from the Department of Health's website.
Medication and medical supplies
You can get some over the counter or prescription medications to help protect you from infectious diseases and other health problems overseas.
Common preventative medications and medical supplies may include:
- an adequate supply of usual medications
- a first aid kit
- anti-malarial tablets
- altitude sickness tablets
- insect repellent sprays, creams and gels containing DEET or picaridin
- antihistamines for allergies or insect bites
- oral rehydration sachets or tablets
- anti-diarrhoeal medication
- motion sickness prevention medication
- emergency antibiotics
- water purification tablets
Talk to your doctor or travel clinic about medications you can take to prevent health problems where you're going.
You can get some over the counter or prescription medications overseas to help protect you from infectious diseases and other health problems. However, these may not be the same standard as those bought in Australia.
Be aware of any limitations or risks when travelling with medication.
What you can do to prevent illness while you're away
There's plenty you can do while you're away to reduce the risk of health problems.
- Practise good hand hygiene.
- Eat and drink safe food and water.
- Protect yourself against insect bites.
- Use sunscreen and other sun protection.
- Take actions to prevent blood clots due to air or land travel.
- Take actions to prevent illness related to heat, cold, and altitude.
- Practice safer sex.
- Use appropriate safety equipment for your activities.
- Take appropriate precautions when participating in activities that are unfamiliar or you haven’t done for a while.
- Take care with drugs and alcohol in unfamiliar environments.
- Be aware in unfamiliar traffic conditions and only use vehicles that you are licensed to drive.
- Avoid destinations with higher risks of infectious diseases if you have medical conditions that place you at increased risk.
- Know how to seek medical assistance in your destination.
- Seek medical advice if you're unwell overseas or on your return.
- Follow social media and local news while you're there so you can find out if there's a disease outbreak.
If there is a major disease outbreak in your destination and we raise the advice level to do not travel, then don't go. Wait until the risk has passed. You're putting yourself and others at serious risk.
Consular Services and preventative health
You're responsible for preparing to protect your health while you're away.
Read the Consular Services Charter for what the Australian Government can and can’t do to help you if you have health troubles overseas.
What we can do
- We can update our travel advice if we learn of a disease outbreak.
- We can publish some key health risks in each destination.
- We can provide some consular help in a medical emergency.
- We can give you a list of local English-speaking doctors and health services.
- We can help you get in contact with family and friends in Australia.
What we can't do
- We can't give you medical advice.
- We can't tell you every vaccination you need.
- We can't tell you everything to do to protect your health overseas.
- We can't pay your medical costs if you get sick while you're away.
Final tips before you go
- Check our travel advice for your destination, look for details on health risks and how to access medical services overseas.
- Subscribe to updates for your destination in case the situation changes.
- Do your own research, and know the health risks in your destination.
- Get medical advice, only a doctor can tell you what vaccinations are right for you.
- Get the vaccinations and medicines you need well before you go, some take time to work.
- Stock up on items you'll need overseas to stay safe before you go, such as insect repellent.
- Look after your health while you're away, make smart decisions to reduce your risks of needing medical assistance or dying.
- Learn more about infectious diseases overseas.
- Read about travelling with medication and medical equipment.
- See our advice on travelling while pregnant.
- Learn about medical tourism.
- See our health advice for everyone.
- Read advice on reducing health and other risks when travelling with children.
- Read about health risks in all your destinations.
- See our advice for travellers with a disability.
- See our advice on taking care of your mental health.
- Understand how and when consular services can help Australians overseas.
- Read travel health information and learn about travel vaccinations (Department of Health).
- Read about travel immunisations (Victorian Government).
- See advice on immunisation for travel (Department of Health).
- Know the restrictions on travelling with medication (Therapeutic Goods Administration).
- What you need to know about travelling overseas with PBS medications (Department of Human Services).
- Know how to take care of your health when you travel (CHOICE).
- Learn more about infectious disease risks for travellers (World Health Organisation).