Take these steps to stay healthy when you are traveling outside the United States.
Find out about local health problems and other risks.
Before you travel to another part of the world, make sure you know about any issues that could affect your health or safety. Check for information about:
- Common diseases (like malaria or hepatitis)
- Disease outbreaks (like the flu)
- Food and water safety issues and updates
- Warnings about natural disasters
- Security concerns (like political unrest or other violence)
- How to get medical care
For more detailed travel information, use this tool to get health and safety tips for specific countries.
See a doctor before your trip.
Make an appointment to see a doctor at least 4 to 6 weeks before you plan to leave. Say where you are going and what you’ll be doing there.
Here are some questions you may want to ask:
- Am I healthy enough to travel?
- Am I up to date on my shots?
- Do I need any other shots to prevent diseases?
- Do I need to take any special medicines with me in case I get sick?
Take extra steps if you have a health condition.
Ask the doctor for a signed letter that:
- Describes your health condition
- Includes any information that could be helpful if you need treatment while you are away
- Lists any prescription medicines you take, their generic names, and the dose (how much you take)
Ask for an extra supply of any medicines you need, in case your trip lasts longer than you expect.
Have a plan in case you get sick.
Before you leave, make a list of resources. Keep this information with you at all times while you are away.
Talk to your medical insurance company before you leave.
Find out if your insurance will:
- Cover you when you are outside of the country
- Pay for emergencies like a trip to a hospital or a medical evacuation (if you need to be moved to another hospital or treatment center)
If your insurance won’t cover these things, find out about short-term insurance for travelers.
Know how to eat and drink safely while you are away.
Depending on where you are traveling, you may need to drink only bottled water. You also may need to be careful about what you eat. In places with water safety issues, don’t drink or eat the following:
- Tap water
- Fountain drinks (like soda from a machine)
- Ice cubes
- Food from street vendors
- Food served at room temperature
- Certain foods – especially raw shellfish and foods that may be washed in tap water, like fresh fruits and vegetables
Things that are usually safe to eat and drink include:
- Bottled drinks
- Hot coffee or tea
- Food that is cooked and served hot
- Fruits and vegetables you have washed in clean water or peeled yourself
- Dairy products that have been pasteurized (heated to kill harmful germs before you buy them)
Find out what you can do to make water safe to drink.
Protect yourself from bug bites.
Bug bites can put you at risk for diseases, especially in certain countries. For example, mosquitoes can spread malaria in Africa and Asia.
Here are some basic tips:
- Ask your doctor if there are shots or medicines you can get to help protect you.
- Use bug repellent on your skin and clothing.
- Pack clothing that will protect you from mosquitoes and ticks. For example, you will want a hat, long pants, and long-sleeved shirts.
Stay safe around animals.
Dogs in Central and South America are more likely to have rabies than dogs in the United States. You can get rabies from any infected animal (like a dog, monkey, or bat) if it bites or scratches you.
To stay safe around animals:
Be an aware traveler.
- Learn about the local laws and customs (common behaviors) where you’ll be traveling. You can make safer decisions when you know which behaviors are okay and which ones might upset people.
- Keep your luggage in sight at all times. Also make sure not to take any packages from people you don’t know.
- Don’t carry large amounts of cash with you. When you take money out to pay for something, try not to let people see what’s in your wallet.
- Store any valuables and important documents (like your passport) at the hotel. Never carry them with you while you are out.
- Write down how to say a few key phrases in the local language in case of an emergency, like “I need help” or “I need a doctor.”
- Find out about ways to stay in contact by phone. In some areas, you may need to buy a local cell phone or use a pre-paid calling card.
Get more tips for staying safe on your trip.