Last updated July 2016
News about disease outbreaks and terrorist attacks understandably make a lot of international travelers feel a bit jittery. Here are websites with great info on how to stay safe and healthy on foreign soil.
For each country the State Department site offers lists up-to-date travel warnings and alerts; entry, visa, and exit requirements; currency restrictions; and locations of U.S. embassies and consulates. The site also summarizes local laws and safety issues that especially apply to U.S. travelers, such as threats from terrorism, crime, weather and earthquakes, and government and community tolerance of faith-based groups and LGBTQ travelers. The Traveler’s Checklist offers tips on preparing for trips abroad ranging from how to gather required travel documents to advice on immunizations to checking whether your health insurance plan covers healthcare costs abroad.
We strongly recommend signing up for the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), which allows you to log your itinerary with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. Sharing your contact info will help the State Department, and your family and friends, contact you if there’s a natural disaster, civil unrest, or a family emergency. If you travel often, set up an account to streamline the process. STEP enrollees also receive updates and alerts on safety and health conditions for countries they visit.
The website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers extensive info about disease risks around the world and recommendations for vaccinations and other preventive measures. It provides a directory of health departments and travel clinics that can administer whatever shots you’ll need. The site also offers special advice if you have a chronic disease, are traveling with children, are pregnant, if you’re going on a cruise, and more.
Recent additions to the CDC site include guides on the Zika virus and how to prepare for trips to the Olympics in Brazil.
The World Health Organization also reports on disease risks around the world. There’s a lot of information overlap between its site and the CDC’s, but check out both resources before you skedaddle.
The nonprofit International Association for Medical Assistance to Travellers (IAMAT) coordinates doctors around the world so that international travelers can get medical assistance. Its members (it’s free!) get access to a database of English-speaking doctors and assistance with scheduling appointments. Based on feedback it gets every day from healthcare professionals and public health workers on the ground in each country, IAMAT also provides news and recommendations on health risks, immunizations, food and water safety conditions, climate, and more.