Tourists with a MapThe last thing you want is to be sick while on vacation, but you should always be prepared to find medical care when you’re abroad. You should do some homework and research before you even leave for your trip so that, in the event something happens, you aren’t at a loss as to what to do.

Medical facilities will vary greatly depending on where you are traveling and if there is a language barrier the situation can escalate further. You should be prepared with a number of things to present to the facility or doctor so that you can get the best treatment possible.

Check with Your Health Insurance Company

The first thing you should do before leaving for your trip abroad is to see if your health insurance covers medical expenses outside of the country. Some insurance policies will pay for these expenses while others will not. Some policies will cover certain things but not others.

The Insurance Information Institute suggests that you not only find out if you have coverage abroad, but also what it entails and what the limits are. This is especially important if you are visiting a third world country with questionable medical services; ask if your policy will help to fly you to a different country with better medical care.

If you have coverage, make sure to pack and carry with you your identification card and a form for claims. If you have Medicare, it does not cover medical or hospital costs in other countries. If your policy does not cover your medical costs you may want to consider buying temporary coverage. This is often part of travel insurance.

Research Your Destination

Before you leave for your trip you should become familiar with the country or countries that you are visiting. Visit the website for the Bureau of Consular Affairs. You can type in the country you will be staying in and you will be presented with a wealth of information.

Click under ‘medical facilities and health information’ and you can read what type of facilities there are and what their standards tend to be. You will be told whether the standards are as high as those in the United States or not. Some will inform you that cash is needed if you don’t have insurance available to cover the services. Being prepared will keep your stress level manageable.

Another good resource is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It will list the recommended vaccines for the area in which you will be traveling, as well as give other tips to remain safe and healthy. It will give you ideas as to what to pack and information that you should bring with you.

Bring Health Information on the Trip

To be as prepared as possible, you should pack certain health information. Bring contact information for your regular doctor, especially all phone numbers associated with him or her. Along with your insurance card, bring the contact information for your insurance company or HMO so that you can call them with questions about care coverage.

You should also know the contact information for the embassy in the country in which you will be vacationing. If you have particular health conditions, such as diabetes, serious allergies, or a heart condition, ask about emergency bracelets or other tips for traveling abroad. You should also have a list of your medical history, the medications you are taking, and any allergies you have.

You may even want to ask your doctor for an emergency contact number if necessary. Keep all pertinent information in your wallet or purse so that it is easy for you or someone else to find and reference.

Finding a Facility

If you do happen to have an accident or become ill while abroad, you may wonder where you should go to get care. The United States Embassy in your area can give you recommendations. You can also visit the Department of State‘s website for lists of nearby hospitals or clinics.

Although you may be guided in finding a doctor or facility, the United States is not responsible for referring you to a particular one. They are also not liable for the quality of any medical service received.


If you are taking any prescribed medication, plan on bringing enough with you on your trip so that you don’t have to get a refill, which can be difficult overseas. If you are traveling for a longer period of time, speak with your doctor or pharmacist and show them your itinerary, as they will often extend your supply.

Keep your medications in the original bottles with your name clearly displayed. Some pain medication, such as narcotics, may be illegal in the country you are traveling to. Check with the embassy in that country to make sure you can bring the meds into the country.

You may also want to take some over-the-counter medication in preparation for the country in which you are traveling. For example, you may want to bring anti-diarrhea medicines for certain countries.

No one wants to have to get medical care while on vacation, especially in a foreign country. However, being prepared will ensure that things go smoother if you do.