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Medical help

Medical help
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How to get healthcare while travelling

As a rule of thumb, if you would seek advice from a healthcare professional at home, then you should do so while travelling. Read our blogpost about when to get medical help while travelling.

In an emergency…

To learn more about what constitutes a life-threatening emergency, see NHS England’s advice.

If you need to go to hospital, ask locally about contacting emergency services: your travel rep, tour guide, hotel or, if you are out and about, nearby businesses will have up-to-date information about the right number to ring.

Bear in mind that not all countries have an effective ambulance service. It may be faster and safer to make your own way to hospital.


For minor illnesses you may be able to care for yourself using your travel first aid kit. Rest up and take plenty of fluids, just as you would at home.

Some pharmacies can give advice about minor health problems, and sell you over-the-counter remedies and dressings. But if you are in any doubt about your ability to cope with a healthcare problem, no matter where you are in the world, always play it safe and take advice from a qualified medical professional.

Is there a doctor in the house?

Let your hotel or holiday rep know if you are ill or have had an accident. There may be an in-house medic, or they will be able to arrange an appointment with a local doctor and perhaps help you get there, too.

Diplomatic and consular missions overseas can give you a list of local medics and interpreters if you need it, but they can’t pay for your healthcare.

Insurance helpline

Let your travel insurer know you are ill, too, in case you need to make a claim later. Many travel insurance packages include a medical helpline. It will give you access to a healthcare professional who can tell you whether you need to see a doctor. A phone consultation with an English-speaking nurse or doctor can be incredibly reassuring at what may be a distressing time, so if you have access to this service make use of it: you have paid-for it, after all!

Keep a record

You should keep hold of all receipts and any doctor’s notes. You will need these for an insurance claim, and your healthcare provider at home will want to see them, too.

It may sound odd, but it can be helpful to photograph an injury. Your healthcare provider at home may find a picture helps them to better understand how you are healing up.

What to take with you to a healthcare appointment abroad

Be sure to bring your travel insurance details with you to a healthcare appointment, and some means of paying for your care, either cash or a credit card. If you’re on any meds, bring those in their packets, and any prescriptions or doctor’s letters you are carrying.

Most healthcare professionals will do their utmost to help you out, even in the face of language differences, but you may wish to bring someone who can translate for you, or a phrase book.