Health Issues

All travelers should familiarize themselves with conditions at their destination that could affect their health (high altitude or pollution, types of medical facilities, required immunizations, availability of required pharmaceuticals, etc.). While some of this information may be found in the documents listed above, the key resource for health information is the Travelers’ Health page of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website at The CDC website also provides general guidance on health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect-bite protection. The CDC also maintains an international travelers' hotline at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or, by fax, at 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299). See also the resources listed below.

Vaccination, Infectious Diseases, Pandemic Influenza, Foot & Mouth Disease, Chemical/Biological/Nuclear Incidents

General guidance on vaccinations and other health precautions may be found on the Travelers’ Health page of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website at

Fact Sheets on foot and mouth disease, responding to chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear incidents and other health issues, including pandemic influenza, may be found at

For information about pandemic influenza, see or the website above. Information about infectious diseases abroad may also be found on the website of the World Health Organization at, and further health information for travelers is available at

Insurance, Medicare & Medicaid, Medical Evacuation

Obtaining medical treatment and hospital care abroad can be expensive, and medical evacuation to the U.S. can cost more than $50,000. Note that U.S. medical insurance is generally not accepted outside the United States, nor do the Social Security Medicare and Medicaid programs provide coverage for hospital or medical costs outside the United States. 

If your insurance policy does not cover you abroad, it is a good idea to consider purchasing a short-term policy that does. There are health insurance policies designed specifically to cover travel. Many travel agents and private companies offer insurance plans that will cover health care expenses incurred overseas including emergency services such as medical evacuations. The names of some of the companies offering short-term health and emergency assistance policies are listed on the Bureau of Consular Affairs website at

Bringing Medications or Filling Prescriptions Abroad

A traveler going abroad with a preexisting medical problem should carry a letter from the attending physician, describing the medical condition and any prescription medications, including the generic names of prescribed drugs. Any medications being carried overseas should be left in their original containers and be clearly labeled. Travelers should check with the foreign embassy of the country they are visiting to make sure any required medications are not considered to be illegal narcotics. A listing of foreign embassies and consulates in the U.S. is available on the Department of State’s website at Foreign embassy and consulate contact information can also be found on the Country Specific Information for each country.

If you wear eyeglasses, take an extra pair with you. Pack medicines and extra eyeglasses in your hand luggage so they will be available in case your checked luggage is lost. To be extra secure, pack a backup supply of medicines and an additional pair of eyeglasses in your checked luggage.

If you have allergies, reactions to certain medications, foods, or insect bites, or other unique medical problems, consider wearing a "medical alert" bracelet. You may also wish to carry a letter from your physician explaining required treatment should you become ill.

Information on filling a prescription abroad and other health issues may be found at

Doctors and Hospitals

If an American citizen becomes seriously ill or injured abroad, a U. S. consular officer can assist in locating medical services and informing family or friends. If necessary, a consular officer can also assist in the transfer of funds from the United States. Note, however, that payment of hospital and all expenses is the responsibility of the traveler. For more information, go to

Special Planning Considerations

Student Travelers

Many college students travel during school breaks. While most students will have a safe and enjoyable adventure, for some the trip will become a nightmare with a serious impact on the rest of their lives. Students planning travel may want to review American students planning travel to Mexico may want to review the following as well:

Older Americans

Older American travelers should consider the following tips, review this information sheet, read the section Tips for Traveling Abroad, and discuss the trip with a physician: 

  • Local conditions: Be aware of any effects the local topography or climate may have on you: If you are sensitive to altitude or to humidity, or to other attributes of your destination, consult with your physician.
  • Don’t over-program: The additional physical activity undertaken during travel can be quite strenuous, and sudden changes in diet and climate can have serious health consequences for the unprepared traveler.
  • Pack wisely: Don’t pack so much that you will end up lugging around heavy suitcases. Dress conservatively—a wardrobe that is flashy may attract the attention of thieves or con artists, while clothing that is very casual may result in being barred from some tourist sites overseas. Include a change of clothing in your carry-on luggage. 

Traveling With Disabilities

Individual countries have their own standards of accessibility for disabled travelers. Some countries have nondiscrimination laws that help to protect travelers with disabilities, while other countries do not. Preparation before you go can help ensure that your planned destination will be accessible, safe and enjoyable. Travelers with disabilities should review the Department of Transportation pamphlets New Horizons for the Air Traveler with a Disability and Plane Talk: Facts for Passengers With Disabilities. Both of these publications are available at the Department of Transportation’s website In addition, travelers with disabilities should review the information contained Tips for Traveling Abroad, and discuss the trip with a physician: 

  • Research in advance:  Learn about planned stops and ask questions about services available. Consider the level of health care available, as well as local transportation needs to and from the airport, luggage assistance, and whether other help will be needed to leave the airport terminal. When making reservations, inform the travel agent or carrier of your disability and the equipment you use, and, if necessary, request a wheelchair be brought to the gate upon arrival and any other assistance needed while flying and at the airport. In all cases, ask that your needs and requests be documented as part of the reservation, and take down the name of the agent. That way, if there is a problem, you may be able to quickly show that you are entitled to the service you requested.
  • Seek medical advice:  Talk to your physician about the activities you have planned and your general physical condition, any immunizations that might be needed, and medications, whether prescription or over the counter, that you might need for your trip. Carry a letter from your attending physician, describing your medical condition and any prescription medications, including the generic names of prescribed drugs.
  • Your medications: If you take prescription medication, make sure you have enough to last the duration of the trip, including extra medicine in case you are delayed. Pack your medication in your carry-on bag, since checked baggage is occasionally lost. Always carry your prescriptions in their labeled containers, not in a pill pack.
  • Documentation of immunizations: Take with you proper documentation of immunizations.
  • Health and Evacuation Insurance: Make sure you have adequate health insurance coverage while abroad, including coverage of medical evacuation (not covered by most domestic policies). Note that U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States.
  • Service dogs: Some countries have restrictions on service dogs. If you intend to travel with a service dog, be sure to check on possible restrictions with the embassy or consulate of each country you will visit. This and other country information may be found on each country’s Country Specific Information. If service dogs are permitted, learn about quarantine or vaccination requirements. Find out what documents are needed, including international health certificates and rabies inoculation certificates, and if the documents need to be translated. Talk with your vet about tips for traveling with a dog, and how travel will affect the animal. You may also want to ensure that hotels will accommodate your service dog, and that there will be an adequate area for the dog to relieve itself.
  • Maintenance on equipment: Have a maintenance check done on any equipment you will take with you, to ensure that everything is in working order before you leave. You may want to research the availability of wheelchair and medical equipment providers in the areas you plan to visit.
  • Carry written plans: Carry with you your written itinerary and directions of where you wish to go. These can be shown to people who might be able to help you if you are lost. Another useful tool is a point-and-conversation guide.

Worldwide Caution

Travel Warnings

Travel Alerts

Country Information

US Flag