Medical assistance overseas
If you're overseas and need medical care, you may face unexpected challenges. This page provides practical information about health care overseas, and how to get medical assistance when things go wrong.
Explore this page to learn what to do if you're overseas and you
- need urgent medical assistance
- are sick
- are pregnant
- need mental health support
- need to get medication overseas
- can't pay for your medical treatment
Medical emergencies overseas
If you have a medical emergency overseas, contact the local emergency medical services and go to a hospital immediately.
- Call emergency services or go to a hospital immediately. Contact numbers are in the 'Where to get help' section of each travel advisory.
- If you can't contact local services, get someone to do it on your behalf. You could ask a travelling companion, tour guide, concierge, friend or family member to help.
- Contact your travel insurer. Most have 24-hour hotlines and processes in place to help in emergencies. See international travel insurance contacts on Find an Insurer (Insurance Council of Australia).
- Pay for your treatment. You may have to pay upfront, or hand over your insurance details before they'll treat you, even if you could die without treatment.
You can also call the Australian Government's 24-hour consular emergency centre from overseas on +61 2 6261 3305. Our staff can provide you with a list of hospitals and English-speaking medical professionals in your destination. The Australian Government can't pay your bill or loan you money.
Emergency medical care is expensive. Even more expensive if you need a medical evacuation. Be aware that you'll have to pay the full cost of your emergency medical care yourself. Most countries won't subsidise the cost of your treatment through their public health system.
See the Consular Services Charter to understand how and when we can help in a medical emergency.
If you get sick overseas
If you get sick while travelling, you'll need to organise to see a local doctor. If you're too sick to organise one, ask someone you know to help.
- Find a local doctor or hospital. Book in to see them.
- If you need a specialist, you may need to see a general practitioner first for a referral.
- Contact your travel insurer as soon as possible. They may help you arrange medical treatment, and may have a list of preferred doctors and hospitals to consider.
- Pay your bill. If you don't pay your bill, you could be arrested or jailed. The Australian Government can't pay it for you.
If you’re in a non-English speaking country, consular officials can give you a list of local English-speaking doctors. In some destinations, consular officials list specialists. Contact your nearest Australian embassy, high commission or consulate (DFAT).
See the Consular Services Charter to understand how and when we can help you get medical care.
If you're pregnant overseas
If you have fallen pregnant overseas, see a doctor. The doctor can confirm your pregnancy and advise you what to do next. They can also refer you to a specialist.
- See a doctor. If it’s urgent, call local emergency services or go to a hospital. If it's not urgent, find a local doctor and make an appointment.
- Contact your travel insurer to find out if you're covered. Many exclude pregnancy.
- If you're unmarried, consider the local laws in your destination about sex and marriage before seeking help. Your pregnancy could be used as evidence that you broke local laws. You could be arrested or jailed.
If you're in a country where English isn't spoken, we can provide a list of local English speaking doctors. Contact your nearest Australian embassy, high commission or consulate (DFAT).
Mental health support overseas
If you or someone you’re travelling with needs mental health support while overseas, there are things to be aware of.
In many countries, mental health support is available through the healthcare system. Contact the local emergency services listed under Local Contacts in the travel advice for your destination.
However, in some countries, serious mental health episodes could result in forced hospitalisation. Threats or acts of self-harm may be considered a crime. If you break the law during a mental health episode, you could be arrested or jailed.
If you have any doubts or concerns about seeking local mental health support in your location and need immediate assistance, contact your nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate, or call the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre (CEC) on +61 2 6261 3305.
If you're in a country that doesn't speak English, the embassy or CEC can provide a list of local English-speaking doctors. In some destinations, this includes mental health professionals and crisis lines.
If you are paying for mental health services, contact your travel insurer as soon as possible. Be aware many travel insurers exclude mental health from their policies. You may not be covered.
Read our advice about travel and mental health.
Getting prescription medication overseas
Ask your local doctor or hospital for advice about accessing over-the-counter or prescription medication. Not all medication available over the counter or by prescription in Australia is available in other countries.
- Make sure your medication is legal where you are. Asking for an illegal medication could get you arrested or jailed for drugs, even with a prescription from Australia.
- Pharmacies overseas may not recognise your Australian script. You may need to see a local doctor there.
- Find an official pharmacy. Only buy medication from qualified pharmacists. In some countries, vendors don't need to be qualified to sell medication. You could receive products or advice that harm you.
- Ensure your medication is genuine and hasn't expired. Counterfeit or expired medication are common. The quality of medication in some countries varies widely, especially in developing countries.
The Australian Government can't help you get medication. You need to organise it yourself. See the Consular Services Charter to understand how and when we can help.
Paying for medical treatment overseas
- Ask the local health care provider how much your care will cost, before they treat you. Some may inflate the price afterwards and expect you to pay it.
- Make sure you have access to money, or your travel insurance details. You may need to pay up-front, even in a medical emergency.
- In most situations you'll have to pay the full cost of medical assistance yourself. Most destinations won't subsidise the cost of your treatment through their public health care system.
Subsidised healthcare for Australian travellers
You may be eligible for subsidised or free health care if:
- the country has a reciprocal health care agreement with Australia
- you're a dual national there, they have a subsidised public health system and you're eligible to access it
- their government policy is to never deny emergency care, although you may be asked for payment afterwards
What happens if you don't pay your bill
If you can't afford to pay your medical bill and you didn't get travel insurance:
- you could be arrested or jailed
- you could be sued by the hospital
- you may not be able to leave the country until you pay
Claiming the cost of medical care on travel insurance
- Contact your insurer directly to make a travel insurance claim. Most travel insurance companies have a 24-hour assistance centre you can call. The Australian Government can't contact them on your behalf.
- Give your insurance details to the hospital. The travel insurer may need to liaise directly with the hospital to coordinate payment. This could be before or after receiving treatment.
- Always ask for a receipt. If you've already paid for the treatment, your claim will be for reimbursement. Talk to your insurer about their claims process.
If you think your insurance company has unfairly refused your claim, you can make a complaint. For information about making a complaint, see the travel insurance buying guide (CHOICE) for guidance on making a complaint.
You can also make a complaint to Australian Government (Australian Financial Complaints Authority).
How the Australian Government can help
Read the Consular Services Charter for what the Australian Government can and can't do to help you overseas.
If you need consular help, contact your nearest Australian embassy, high commission or consulate (DFAT).
What we can do
- We can provide you or your family with a list of local hospitals or doctors that speak English.
- We can provide you or your family with a list of local lawyers that speak English.
- We can give some information on how and where to get prescribed medication locally.
- We can, in an emergency, contact your friends of family for you if you give consent.
What we can't do
- We can't pay your medical bills for you.
- We can't recommend hospitals, doctors or lawyers.
- We can't organise your with health care or medication.
- We can't book appointments with medical professionals for you.
- We can't organise or pay for your medical evacuation back to Australia.
- Read the Consular Services Charter for what the Australian Government can and can't do for you.
- What to do if assaulted or sexually assaulted overseas.
- See our advice for travelling with a disability.
- Learn about travel insurance that covers medical needs overseas, including medical evacuations.
- What to do if you need money overseas to pay your medical bill.
- If you don't pay your medical bill, your could be arrested or jailed.
- If you need consular help, contact your nearest Australian embassy, high commission or consulate (DFAT).
- If you need urgent crisis counselling, get help (Lifeline).
- See the CHOICE travel insurance buying guide (CHOICE).
- Read the fact sheet on staying healthy when travelling overseas (NSW Department of Health).
- Read country and disease specific advice for travellers (The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).
Medical tourism is when you go overseas for medical treatment. Before you go, gather the information you need. Make informed choices about your medical procedure.
You may get sick from infectious diseases or other health conditions overseas. Find out what vaccinations and other preventative measures can help.