Long-Term Travelers & Expatriates
Going to be spending a long time in another country or moving to a new country? Make plans to protect your health while you’re away.
Before You Go
- See your doctor and dentist at least a month before you leave. Identify and address health issues before you leave instead of taking care of emergencies when you are away. If you have serious or chronic health or dental issues, visit your doctor or dentist more than a month in advance of your travel.
- Talk to your doctor about what vaccines you will need, including travel-related vaccines and booster shots of routine vaccines. Get the vaccines now that will protect you for any additional trips you may take while abroad.
- Consider how you will pay for health care. If you go to a hospital or clinic overseas, be prepared to pay out of pocket (in cash) for any services they provide. Even if you are healthy, think about buying travel health and medical evacuation insurance to cover you in an emergency.
- Plan where you’ll go if you get sick or hurt. Contact the US embassy, consulate, or diplomatic mission at your destination for a list of in-country clinics. The International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers (IAMAT) maintains a network of physicians and clinics abroad.
- Know about medications.
- Check with the US embassy, consulate, or diplomatic mission at your destination to learn if the medicines you plan to bring with you are permitted in country. Even with a prescription from your doctor, they may be prohibited.
- Bring enough medicine to cover the time you will be away. Do not plan to buy medicine refills overseas. Counterfeit medicines are sold in some countries.
- Traveling for longer than a month? Plan with your doctor about how you will get medication refills. In general, medicines cannot be shipped overseas, and foreign pharmacies will not accept prescriptions written by doctors from other countries.
- If traveling with children, bring car seats because they may not be available in many countries or meet US safety standards.
- If you plan to travel with a pet (or bring one back with you to the United States), make sure your pet meets the requirements of your destination country as well as to return to the United States.
During Your Trip
- Prevent injuries. The number one cause of preventable death in travelers is injuries, particularly in traffic accidents.
- Always wear a seatbelt and don’t ride in vehicles that do not have them available. Children should ride in car seats.
- When possible, hire a local driver. Ask your hotel or a trusted source for a reliable driver or taxi company.
- Try to travel with others and not alone.
- Do not drink and drive and do not travel with a driver who has been drinking.
- Do not travel on overloaded buses or minibuses.
- Be careful swimming, diving, or boating. Drowning is another major cause of death when traveling. Take precautions when in or near water.
- Use proper equipment such as life jackets.
- Never swim alone or in unfamiliar waters, near storm drains or wastewater runoff.
- Do not dive in shallow waters.
- Protect yourself against non-vaccine-preventable diseases. Not all diseases can be prevented by vaccines, so take other measures to protect yourself.
- Avoid diseases spread by mosquitoes or other bugs
- Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
- Use EPA-registered insect repellent when you go outside.
- Choose accommodations with air conditioning or intact window and door screens or sleep under a bed net. Open windows only if they have screens.
- If your doctor prescribes medicine to prevent malaria, try to bring enough with you to last your entire trip; if you are not able to get the full amount, speak to your doctor about how to obtain refills while you are away. Closely follow the instructions for taking this medicine. If you will be moving to a new country, talk to your doctor about finding a source for malaria medication at your destination.
- Travelers’ diarrhea
- Be careful about what you eat and drink.
- Only eat food that’s cooked and served hot, peeled, or in a factory-sealed package.
- Avoid eating raw foods like vegetables and fruits that cannot be peeled unless they can be washed in safe water.
- Drink only factory-sealed bottled water, sodas, or sports drinks.
- Avoid drinks with ice, as the ice could be made with tap or well water.
- Before taking antibiotics, talk to your doctor.
- Avoid animal exposures. Do not pet or handle animals. Even kittens and puppies can spread disease.
- If an animal bites, scratches or licks you, wash the area immediately and thoroughly with soap and water.
- Call a doctor to find out if medication or preventive treatment for rabies is needed.
- Sexually transmitted infections
- Pack condoms and use one with every sexual encounter. Use condoms bought in the United States. Those sold in other countries may not be up to US standards.
- Avoid diseases spread by mosquitoes or other bugs
- Protect your mental health. Adapting to a new culture, lifestyle, and ways of doing things in other countries—especially if you do not speak the language—can be stressful.
- Eat healthy and exercise regularly.
- Maintain your support network by staying in close contact with loved ones at home.
After Your Trip
- Consider seeing a doctor for a check-up after you return. A medical visit after travel is particularly recommended for long-term travelers such as expatriate workers, Peace Corps volunteers, or highly adventurous travelers.
- If you’re not feeling well after you return home, and for up to a year after travel, see a doctor immediately and tell them all the places you traveled and what you did there.
Yellow Book: Long-Term Travelers and Expatriates
Page last reviewed: January 03, 2020