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Travel Vaccinations Guide

Written by: Letitia Smith | Travel Insurance Expert
Last updated: 24 November 2023 | Created: 6 October 2020
Travel Vaccinations Guide: Young woman relaxing on inflatable donut in swimming pool on holiday

Travel vaccinations

Whether you’re soaking in the atmosphere in India or heading to the vineyards of South Africa, you’ll need to think about travel vaccinations.

Different countries around the world can be home to infectious diseases that aren’t present in the UK. So, it’s important to get the right vaccinations before you travel.

Here’s a useful travel vaccinations guide that will help you find out:

  • Which travel jabs you’ll need
  • Where to get them
  • Whether you’ll need to pay for them

Which vaccinations will you need to travel?

Your GP can advise you about vaccinations you may need and there’s plenty of information available online. Your GP can also provide other travel health advice.

You can find out if you need a vaccination by selecting your destination country on these websites:

Some destinations will also ask you to prove that you have been vaccinated for certain diseases. Proof must be documented on an International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis (ICVP) before you enter or when you leave the country. You’ll need a polio vaccination if you’re travelling to a country where the disease is common or if there is an outbreak in the area. The Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) provides plenty of information on the destinations where polio is a problem.

If you’re travelling in Africa, South and Central America and some parts of the Caribbean, you’ll probably need vaccination against yellow fever. Yellow fever is a dangerous but preventable virus spread by mosquitoes. You’ll need to give proof of yellow fever vaccination if you’re travelling from an at-risk destination – important if you’re visiting multiple locations.

However, if you’re only travelling to northern and central Europe, North America or Australia, you’re unlikely to need any vaccinations at all.

Where can I get travel vaccinations?

You can be immunised at your GP’s practice, a private clinic or a nearby pharmacy. You can only get yellow fever vaccinations at specialist centres (find on National Travel Health Network and Centre).

Will there be any side effects?

All vaccines can cause side effects. However, most tend to be mild and only last a day or two. Some people don’t get any side effects at all.

Common side effects can include flu-like symptoms and a mild fever (NHS website).

The NHS recommends you seek help if you have a more severe reaction or if the side effects don’t go away after a few days.

When should you get vaccinated?

Book an appointment with your GP or a private travel clinic at least 8 weeks before your holiday. You’ll need some vaccines well in advance so you develop immunity. Some vaccines may involve several doses spread across several weeks or months.

You may want to visit your GP, even if you plan to get vaccinated at a private clinic, as they can access your medical records to check whether previous immunisations are still effective and if you’ll need a booster.

How much do vaccinations cost?

You can get several travel vaccines for free if your GP practice is signed up to provide the service:

  • Polio (given as a combined diphtheria/tetanus/polio jab)
  • Typhoid
  • Hepatitis A
  • Cholera

Where you pay for vaccinations, they can be quite expensive – three doses of the rabies jab can cost well over £100. Common vaccines that you’ll probably need to pay for include:

  • Hepatitis B
  • Japanese encephalitis
  • Rabies
  • Tuberculosis
  • Meningitis
  • Yellow fever

Is there anything else vaccine related you need to consider?

Some vaccines can’t be given to people with certain medical conditions which have compromised their immune systems. Examples of such conditions being HIV or those who’ve recently had chemotherapy or bone marrow or organ transplant.

Vaccinations may be less effective and have different side effects if you’re taking certain medication. Therefore, you must inform the clinic who are doing the jabs of any medication that you take. You might want to consult your doctor if you have an existing condition before you book your jabs.