After planning your trip, telling your angry parents you’re leaving, and booking the flight, you might remember that you should check which vaccinations you need for where you’re going. Vaccinations for travel can be expensive and unnecessary so it’s important you do your research. I’ll help you.
I was vaccinated like crazy when I got into nursing school. I’ve been checked for TB like 50 times, and I’m still always relieved when it’s negative. When I travel I disregard many recommendations, but I’m going to share the basic immunizations that I have, the ones I chose not to get, and why. This is not my nursing recommendation (which is get them all); this is my practical backpacking opinion
REMINDER: You also do NOT want to forget getting travel insurance. Vaccines, obviously, can only protect you against so much, and no vaccine is going to protect you if you break an arm rock climbing. I always recommend World Nomads because it also covers tech gear. Click this link to get a quote and read my full World Nomads Review to see what’s specifically covered, and what’s not.
Vaccinations for Travel
I’m breaking this up into a few different categories. Reminder, I’m American, so this stuff is more specific to the US and may be different if you’re from another country. Always double-check with your doctor.
Vaccines you probably had as a child:
- Hepatitis B
You should follow up with your doctor to make sure you don’t need boosters of these. I actually called my pediatrician’s office to get a copy of my records because I needed them for school.
**For some countries booster timings are different, for example tetanus is 10 years in the US but here in India, for the same dosage, they say 3 years maximum.
Extra vaccines I got because I think they’re important:
- Gardasil (against HPV)
- Annual Flu shot (only while I was in the US)
Beyond those, the only vaccination I got specifically for travel:
You must have proof of this on your passport to get into Uganda. I really wanted to add information specific to countries that have special requirements for entry, but the list was entirely way too long.
You need to look up that information from your countries equivalent of the U.S. State Department, it’ll be the same place you go for travel advisories. In most instances, if you send off your passport to get a visa, and an extra vaccination is necessary, that will need to be included in your paperwork.
they’ll stamp your needed vaccination right into your passport.
Others that are recommended for my travels so far I have not taken are:
- Malaria pills
- Japanese encephalitis
- Hepatitis A
From the World Health Organization, WHO, although a little outdated, it’s the most recent I could find and still serves it purposes.
Doctors are always really bummed/worried/confused when you don’t get these injections or prescriptions for preventative pills. You, as a responsible traveler, need to make the decision yourself. Some injections will cost you up to 800 bucks, no joke.
Other fun tips for your health while you travel
Some illnesses you can’t get unless there is an active outbreak in the area.
Read up and see if you need to vaccinate (for example Japanese Encephalitis) before departure.
Pack a small medical kit.
In case I end up sick due to not listening to doctors, I am luckily a nurse, and like all of you I know how to look up tropical illnesses online (I still didn’t self diagnose when I had Dengue). There are not yet vaccinations for dengue, just use your bug spray to prevent mosquito bites. I pack a tiny little medical kit with me.
As for Hepatitis A and Typhoid, I just wash fruit/veg with filtered water.
The longer you are out of the country and immersed in another, your body will begin to adjust.
Use bottles and filtered water for drinking
I brush my teeth with the water everywhere I’ve been, but it’s pretty much common sense where to use bottles water for drinking. Even my pets drink filtered water.
If you do get food poisoning and have become severely dehydrated, don’t jump to the worst conclusion. Head to the clinic for a few hours of IV fluids and you’ll probably be fine!
Don’t just brush off malaria.
I’ve discussed in another post that I don’t take medication for malaria prevention, and that’s another one you’ll have to make a decision on.
Ultimately, you must decide which vaccines you need and don’t need.
You have to decide what’s best for you and what’s in your budget. Even if I were a millionaire I don’t think I’d get any more vaccines unless the country forced me to.
For cheaper vaccination options, look into the countries you’re visiting
Injections are much cheaper where I am now, India, so I can easily get more vaccinations if another country denies me entrance without a particular one. So, on that note, remember when you travel it is an option to vaccinate in your destination at a less expensive cost.
Pretty much off topic, I want to add this interesting fact: when you fly into India they spray you down on the plane so you don’t bring pesticides and viruses into their country. But, when I fly back into the States from India, nobody sprays me down. India wins that one! and the other 5 countries that require it.
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spray you down! what?? that did not happen to us flying into Delhi, thank god. i would have been like “uh….what do you think you’re doing? step back!”
I know, i was shocked the first time! Other countries do it as well before landing by law. I’m surprised you didn’t get it in Delhi. Many of the countries that “don’t do it” actually are right before you get on the plane!
So glad I saw this. I’ve been going back and forth about Hep A (leaning towards getting it), and Malaria pills (more than likely not getting) for an upcoming trip to Thailand. After hearing of friends who had digestive issues and even Hallucinations whilst taking the Malaria pills I think I’ll take my chances haha.
Malaria pills are a tricky one! I won’t ever take them again and i live in a place where people get it aaaall the time, but i’d hate to tell someone not to take them and then they get really sick! *sigh, but i stand by what I’ve said and i’m just not for them!
I am so glad I saw this post, I was reviewing your packing list for Goa (though I’m going to Kochi, Kerala). :) I have been trying to decide for the last few weeks about extra vaccines and had just about decided not to get anything additional. I will be in Kerala early February for about 10 days, so wasn’t sure it would be necessary. I found this helped finalize my decision! Thanks, much!
I’m glad it helped! I am still trying to get down to kerala, my boyfriend lived there a couple years and loved it- you’ll have so much fun! I’m sure you’ll end up doing the backwaters tour, so make sure to wear bugspray!!
Like the others, I’m on the fence about getting all these vaccines before I fly to India next week. I’ve spent almost a year in Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia without an issue, vaccinated only with common sense! I was worried I was being a bit stubborn and ‘hippie-ish’ in my reluctance to get vaccinated. But how to tell a doctor that your instinct is telling you you don’t need all that medication?
Sorry for the verbiage, it’s just nice to arrive at a decision. Thank you!
Well, I didn’t even share with my doctor where I was going. I made an appointment once for the yellow fever one for Uganda and we didn’t really discuss anything. Actually, I think I only saw a nurse. Don’t worry about telling them anything :)
Thanks for this. As many others I was on the fence about the shots. I got them when I travelled South America but that involved sometime spent in the jungle. I’m going to consider Goa an acceptable risk. And the problem where I’m from is mir the cost of the vaccination, it’s the cost of seeing a doctor for less than a minute for him to tell you what you already came for… You need a vaccination ! :)
British Cabin crew are obliged to take the Malaria pills and they hate it because of the unpleasant side-effects, and the knowledge that the treatment is mandated by insurance companies despite the limited effectiveness. It’s a bean-counting exercise that takes no account of effective personal preventative behavioural measures and the impressive efficiency with which the Indian health system contains outbreaks. That said, if you choose not to take any of these shots/pills, you should check that you are not invalidating your travel insurance, which can be an hugely expensive mistake.
Great advice, thank you
For the record, I haven’t had any shots or tropical disease medication since I was a child and haven’t lost a day to illness in India in more than a decade. So to those thinking of coming here, I’d say be diligent, but not afraid.
mineral water for dog..thats nice..
About the spraying down – they might have changed not spraying or maybe it is just air india.
I left Delhi April ’15 (last month) to Chicago on Air India and they sprayed the cabin on departure. (Direct Flight everyone, Star Alliance. ‘Free’ flight from United miles using the Chase Mileage Plus Award credit card.)
It was annoying how many mosquitos came into the plane as we boarded and kept biting at me. But as soon as they came around spraying the cabin (this was the first time i was happy about it)(I covered my face) the mosquitos were gone. Must be pretty vicious spray :-).
I’ve been to India 6 times (mostly eating at my destination only which caters to western needs; once traveling about for 2 months. During those two months i didn’t get sick perhaps mainly because I ate vegetarian food, and didn’t eat from street vendors other than chai and idly, or on the train.
I went on the two month trip after reading a book a guy wrote about one’s mindset, and he just went and drank the water, ate the food etc. and was fine. I really loved the book, so i did the same. I was in Mysore eating mostly at the Green Hotel drinking the water for a month. Until someone arrived and with negative energy said “you are going to get ____”… with that strong seed sown in my mind, i knew i had better switch to bottled and boiled water :-D.
The folks who got sick in Mysore at the time were not vegetarian and did not eat only at their hotel. Consider eating vegetarian if you are not at a venue which caters to Westerners/travelers.
(I support travelers drinking bottled/boiled water – don’t let me corrupt that good habit.)
You didn’t really say WHY you chose not to get the extra vaccinations, typhoid etc. Was is a financial consideration? Or were there other concerns?
Well money definitely played a factor although even now in India where they are affordable I haven’t done so. For some it was just too little chance to getting the virus, and for some like typhoid it’s also partially avoidable if you follow tips
First of all thank you for this blog, i am currently in Vietnam, and my flight to Bangaluru leaves next week from there i plan to continue on to Goa, I must add, i have been to India before, so last round, i got my Vac’ for Hep A, Hep B, Polio, and prob’ Tetanus shot as well, tho i cant find the record for it on my booklet, Now I just addressed a doctor asking if my old Vac’ still apply or nor, and he said to get them done again and ASAP, Tho i understand the medicinal approach he has, i don’t agree completely and dont want to spend too much money now as i am backpacking, my last time in India was 2011 for 6 months, and slowly i’m reminded with all the hassle there is to deal with while traveling there.
My question is – should i wait to get to India and do the Vaccinations there? for Tetanus and DP? after reading your blog and my booklet, i came to the conclusion those are the ones i am missing, aside from Hep A and B that i dont think i should do..
I’m glad I stumbled upon your article! After seeing the ridiculously high cost of many of the vaccines here in Canada, I thought “meh, I’ll chance it”. I will have to check with my travel insurance to see if it would still be valid though…
I’m pretty sure my travel insurance would find some way not to cover me, regardless of what happened. Isn’t that what insurance companies are so good at?
Thanks for a great article!
I spent all of 2013 year in India (mostly in Goa) and did not have any shots and I did not come down with anything. Never really was much of a problem with mosquitos either. They mostly come out at dusk and dawn so you just stay inside during those times of the day or use bug spray and a lot of common sense. Also we landed in Delhi and I do not recall any spraying of us or the plane.
I’m going back soon for 3 weeks and am planning to get a tetanus booster because I’ve found the beaches have more debris than I’m used to and animal dung. I don’t want to chance a cut on a foot then getting infected if I walk barefoot on the beach.
Another tip– last time I was there I got an Executive Physical Exam which included everything from EKG, mammogram, sonogram, chest x ray, ears, eyes, nutrition plus bloodwork for approximately $100. Since I am uninsured this was an excellent choice. I plan to get it again this trip and as Rachel pointed out, I could get my tetanus shot there if I want to for a lot less money than it would cost here.
Katy, thanks for your tips! tetanus is bad here, so it’s smart to get a booster. Any scrape ups we have here, we go get a shot.
I love your blog :)
I was wondering if you could give me an insight into getting vaccinations in India? I am looking into Rabies and JE ( i really do not want to spend $1000 prior to leaving just on vaccines.. enough with the travel insurance cost), but i will be spending lots of time in rural india/SE and i dont want to take chances.
Do you know of any place in Delhi where i could get vaccinations that are reliable? also, an idea on the cost? somewhere i could locate them/website?
i cannot find anything online!! maybe you being there have a better idea on how it works!
Thanks a bunch :) all the best,
I don’t know of hospitals in Delhi, but you should be able to get these at any hospital without issues. Government ones are cheaper. You can ask your hotel to arrange! I can’t guess on the price… I think my rabies was around $10 per shot (it was a post vaccination series). JE isn’t prevalent in India so I have not gotten it.
Thank you for this! I am going to be in India for 10 months starting in July 2016 and I am going back and forth about vaccines. I had to get a booster of Tdap as well as a Hep A shot when I went to Haiti in 2014 so those are good and I also took malaria pills but that was for a 10 day trip…NOT 10 months. My insurance covered the pills for 10 days but I don’t think it will cover 10 months so I probably won’t get those. I always hear people say “discuss this with your doctor” but my issue is that whether it’s my PCP or the local travel health agency, they’re going to try to make me get EVERYTHING. I went to a Passport Health for info when preparing for Haiti and she was telling me to get Rabies shots. Those are 600 bucks! I didn’t get them. I went to Haiti and used common sense and didn’t pet random animals…much cheaper, LOL. I’m not sure about getting the Rabies shot for India. I’ll be in Chennai. It never occurred to be that I v=could get vaccinated in India at a lower cost.
I meant July 2017 NOT 2016, lol
I personally wouldn’t take malaria pills for 10 months. I don’t take them at all in India and the WHO says in Goa it’s not necessary. As for rabies you could get this in India. It’s a 1 month series though so you’ll have to go in 4-5 times to get all the injections.
I was wondering if you could recommend a clinic or hospital in Goa for doing the series of rabies vaccinations. I’m coming to the area soon and want to be protected, but can’t stomach the $1000 price tag from US pharmacies. Thanks very much!
You can get these pretty much anywhere – the government hospital in Mapusa will be cheapest.
Thanks, Rachel! Really appreciate it.
Excellent advice from you. We travelled India 2 Years ago and only needed malaria pills for 7 days but cost us £10 a pill from uk pharmacy so 2 of us £140. Good to know that we won’t need them for when we are in Goa
Damn, that is so expensive! Yeah, the WHO says Goa it’s not necessary, but I think some other places in India they still recommend it. Luckily, malaria is very treatable, and it seems like the strains in India aren’t as strong as other places in the world.
im heading to india in nov 2017 for 28 days. im debating on getting hep A, hep B, and thyphoid .
whats your take on this please
Loving your blog and articles, but don’t agree with this one. I am against vaccinations and traveling the world perfectly fine without any of them. I got only three vaccinations as a child and two of them didn’t work at all.
I became very sick with two diseases later during my childhood. My parents decided not to vaccinate me any more and I have never gotten any other shots in my life.
Yes, nowadays I can’t go to certain countries because of the yellow fever vaccine, but besides those a few countries there is still so much to explore. Even in South America, not every country requires you to have a proof of a vaccine. You just need to follow important rules and take care of your health and you will be totally fine.
Also, I may understand why people get lifetime vaccinations against some diseases, but why do they get shots from flu just doesn’t make sense. There are hundreds of different viruses and getting a shot from one will not help your body fight another one. Instead, it will effect your immune system tremendously. I see people eating trashy foods and leading unhealthy lifestyle and then bombarding their bodies with extra stress as vaccines, and still getting sick.
Just my modest opinion,
Happy travels! ;)
Everyone has a right to be for or against vaccines – I am a nurse and am 100% for vaccines, even then I still don’t get all that they say to get as you can see in the post. For me, my stance is that it’s irresponsible to tell people to travel without vaccinating against things that can save their lives. I mean, in India you get bit by a dog or you step on a nail … rabies and tetanus both kill but thankfully someone has created a way to prevent that with medicine :)
Don’t get Rabies Vaccine as a preventative. I’ve had many of the vaccines listed. Rabies, suggested by the doctor ($$$$$ maker) has put me in bed for 2 weeks now with a brutal headache, exhaustion, aches, and weakness. I did not finish the 3 shot course. It’s one of the most dangerous. I’m hoping to feel better soon, and the University Hospital Travel Clinic is just shrugging their arms.
I hope this helps someone else. Only get what is necessary. The most important is hepatitis. I’ve been to 10 countries that require yellow fever and not one has asked for proof of it. Of course I have that. I think the above list of what the writer has done herself is pretty good. Forget the others.
thamks for the great article, I am flying to the Philippines next month and will visit descent resorts. I will be in Bohol and Palawan which are major tourist destination. I did get tetanus about 6 years ago and while in the army (35 years ago) I was vaccinated with all types of things (don’t even remember which kinds :)) . what your recommendations when it comes to those areas? Thanks
Hi Rachel, with your knowledge of India can I ask – I’m going to Jaipur with my Mum (she’s a very healthy, spritely 76 years old) we’re only going for 4 nights, staying in a lovely 5 star hotel, but I literally just thought, should we get injections? Mine are probably all out of date and I know Mum hasn’t had any and doesnt seem phased but thought I’d ask. Am I over thinking it!?! Thanks Lula
Technically you should – but personally, I wouldn’t for such a short time and traveling in a more luxe way. A doctor would say yes, you should. It’s up to you!
Thanks for this article Rachel, it has put my mind at ease somewhat. My wife and I are travelling to Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Indonesia and Philippines across 7 months from later this year and were looking at near on £1,000 for ‘recommended vaccinations’. As a minimum we are protected against Hep A/B, typhoid, polio and tetanus. Given the time we are travelling and the places we are going would you even suggest considering Rabies or Japanese Encephalitis? None of the countries require it but only suggest for certain activities. Thanks :)
As you mentioned, the yellow fever vaccine is required to travel to certain countries. My sister is wanting to go do some charity work in Uganda, and wants to make sure she has all the up to date vaccines needed for travel there. I will have to ask her if she has had the yellow fever vaccine.