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Do I need travel vaccinations?

There’s no better feeling than planning an amazing trip to an exotic destination. Make staying safe with travel vaccinations top of your to-do list.

By having your jabs before you travel, you’ll develop protection against diseases your body might not be immune to, so you’re ready for your next adventure. And don’t forget to pack the essentials like suggested medications and travel insurance.

Posted: 22/8/2022 | By Sally Collins

Doctor stethoscope resting on top of a world map

Why should I get travel vaccinations?

In the excitement of planning an amazing trip, it can be all too easy to forget about getting our jabs before we go. However, vaccinations should be the first point of planning as they’ll help you stay safe and protected from potentially serious diseases found in other parts of the world.

How can I find out if I need a vaccination?

It all depends on your travel plans. If you’re visiting a big city in the EU, you probably won’t need any jabs at all. If you’re visiting a tropical country, it’s a lot more likely. Just how many vaccines you may need is determined by your choice of destination.

The NHS Fit for Travel website lists vaccine requirements by country, giving information on which vaccines, boosters and certificates are required, including further details on malaria and yellow fever. You can also check on recommendations and requirements for your holiday destination on the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FDCO) website, where information is displayed per country.

A visit to your GP or a travel nurse is the best way to find out what you need for your trip. Just let them know where you’re travelling to, and be as specific as possible. They’ll be able to tell you exactly which you’ll need.

Popular destinations for UK travellers

Although many countries popular with UK holidaymakers require no vaccinations, others can have a comprehensive list. Here’s a look at some of the most popular far-flung countries with UK travellers, with links to up-to-date information on their risks and requirements:


Thailand is a hugely popular destination for UK holidaymakers, with over a million of us travelling there annually. It has a tropical monsoon climate and a hugely diverse geography, including a long coastline, dense rainforest, paddy fields and high mountain ranges. Unfortunately, it also has a few health risks that we don’t have in Britain, so it’s sensible to take medical precautions and check the NHS advice for Thailand before you travel there.


Over a million of UK visitors make the trip to India every year, travelling to see incomparable monuments such as the Taj Mahal or to revel in the wildlife and beautiful beaches. With its breath-taking landscapes and rich history, it can be easy to overlook some of the health concerns there. The NHS can advise on how to stay safe and protected from infectious diseases during your travel in India.


With fabulous beaches, ancient ruins, bustling cities and mouth-watering cuisine, it’s no surprise that over 500,000 UK travellers visit Mexico annually. A little-known fact: Mexico is home to the world's largest pyramid. With fewer vaccinations required than other popular destinations, it’s best to note up to date NHS advice on travel to Mexico.

South Africa

The perfect winter sun getaway, South Africa welcomes over 400,000 UK travellers each year. One of the world’s Big Five safari destinations, South Africa also offers sensational coastlines, dramatic mountain ranges and exceptional vineyards. Although fewer vaccinations are recommended than for other long-haul destinations, it’s still a good idea to check the latest NHS advice for travel to South Africa.


For a tropical trip to remember, nearly 20,000 UK holidaymakers choose to visit Bali each year. The island boasts impressive volcanoes, pristine beaches, lush rice paddies and artistic treasures in Ubud. Known as the Land of the Gods, Bali is also famous as a surfers' paradise. Be sure to check current NHS guidance before you travel to Bali and Indonesia.

Don’t forget to get the right level of cover for your travels

Where can I get my travel vaccination?

These common vaccines are all available on the NHS:

  • Diphtheria, tetanus and polio (combined)
  • Hepatitis A
  • Meningitis
  • Polio
  • Typhoid

These will be offered free, or possibly at the charge of a prescription depending on your surgery.

What other vaccinations might I need?

Depending on your destination, you may require other vaccinations and treatments. Most are available on the NHS too, but you’ll have to pay more than the cost of a prescription. Here are some you may need to consider:

  • Hepatitis B
  • Japanese encephalitis
  • Malaria tablets (available over the counter)
  • Other meningitis vaccines
  • Rabies
  • Tetanus
  • Tick-borne encephalitis
  • Tuberculosis
  • Yellow fever

For a full list, including when vaccinations are likely to be required, check the NHS travel vaccinations page.

High street chains like Boots and Superdrug also offer vaccination services but the costs can vary greatly and will usually be more expensive than the NHS travel vaccines.

If you’re already travelling, the International Society of Travel Medicine has clinics in 90 countries and can provide pre-travel immunisation and counselling.

Once you know which vaccinations you need, shop around. Some chemists and travel vaccination clinics may offer the jabs at lower prices.

When should I get my travel vaccinations?

They’re not the kind of thing you can book the week before you’re due to fly. For example, the rabies vaccine requires three jabs given over six weeks. If you do need jabs last minute, it may be quicker to book an appointment at a private clinic rather than your GP, though it’ll probably cost more. However, most vaccines to travel require a bit of time to be effective, so don’t assume you’re covered as soon as you have the injection.

Staying safe

Even though you’ve had your vaccinations, there’s still no guarantee against being infected with a disease or illness. Take the usual sensible precautions, like washing your hands, carrying anti-bacterial gel and wearing insect repellent while visiting countries where mosquitoes can carry infectious diseases. And make sure you're protected by a travel insurance policy that will cover what you need it to when you go.

Helpful travel resources

Here are a few websites that can help you plan for your next foreign trip:

Interested in travel insurance?

Common travel vaccination questions

  • The Covid-19 virus is still with us but these days its impact on our travel plans is greatly reduced from the height of the pandemic.

    Many destinations have lifted all their Covid-19 entry requirements and restrictions, including the need to show proof of vaccinations for travel or negative test results. However, some countries may still require a vaccination certificate for travel.

    Things change, sometimes faster than we can update our pages – so it’s always worth checking which countries you can travel to without a Covid vaccination. The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) foreign travel advice pages offer the very latest guidance for your destination before you book and again before you travel.

  • Common vaccines such as diphtheria, hepatitis A, tetanus and polio (combined), meningitis, polio and typhoid are all readily available on the NHS.

    Find out more about travel vaccinations on the NHS travel vaccinations page.

    Comprehensive advice for your holiday destination can be found at the FDCO travel advice website.

  • Tetanus is contracted through the contamination of cuts, burns and wounds, and is a potential issue in places where medical care is limited, so make sure you’re fully vaccinated against it before you travel. An infection can be an unpleasant experience causing a tightening of the muscles in the body, which can than affect swallowing and breathing.

    A total of five injection doses of the tetanus vaccine are recommended for life in the UK and boosters are recommended if you haven’t had one for ten years.

  • Hepatitis A is a liver infection spread through contaminated water and food that causes high temperatures, joint pain, nausea, jaundice and itchy skin among other symptoms. It is prevalent anywhere sanitation is poor and has no specific treatment. Jabs for hepatitis A can be given in one dose. You should have the hepatitis A jab if you’re travelling to:

    • Sub-Saharan Africa
    • Asia
    • The Middle East
    • South and Central America

    Hepatitis B is spread through blood and body fluids. The hepatitis B vaccination usually involves a course of three injections. Depending on how quickly you need protection, these may be spread over a period as long as six months or as short as three weeks. Hepatitis B is found worldwide, but more common in:

    • Africa Asia
    • The Middle East
    • Southern and eastern Europe

    A combined hepatitis A and hepatitis B jab is also available if you're likely to be at risk of both these conditions while travelling.

  • Malaria is the most well-known and serious condition spread by mosquitoes, causing severe fever and sometimes even proving fatal – with some symptoms developing as long as a year after exposure.

    Other mosquito-borne viruses include dengue fever, which causes fever, headache, severe joint and muscular pain, and the Zika virus, which is relatively mild but can have serious side effects for pregnant women. Both diseases are more common in urban areas than rural.

    Currently there are no effective vaccines available for travellers to protect against dengue fever or Zika viruses, though trials are underway among populations where they diseases are prevalent, so may become available for holidaymakers in the future.

    The best method of prevention is to try and avoid being bitten in areas where these viruses are a risk. Cover up with clothing such as long sleeves and long trousers, especially after sunset. Use insect repellents on exposed skin, And, when necessary, sleep under a mosquito net. For malaria, a course of antimalarial tablets such as Atovaquone, Proguanil or Doxycycline is also advised for anyone spending significant time in any affected regions.

    Mosquitoes also spread the brain disease Japanese encephalitis and, though contracting it is unlikely, vaccination should be considered for anyone spending a long period in any mosquito hotspots.

  • This depends on where you’re travelling to and which vaccinations you need. But, if possible, visit your GP or a private travel clinic six to eight weeks before you're due to travel. Some vaccinations involve a number of doses spread out over several weeks or months, and need to be given well in advance to allow your body to develop immunity.

  • There are lots of destinations that you can travel to from the UK without travel vaccines. It’s always sensible to check the rules regarding vaccinations for travel in any country you’re planning to visit before booking a trip. You don’t always need to be vaccinated to travel abroad – the NHS Fit for Travel pages list destinations alphabetically, each with their own individual vaccine for travel requirements.

    Read our guide to finding out where it's safe to travel to.

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