Travel vaccination guide: what to get before you go

27/01/2016 / By / , , , , , / Post a Comment
It’s fair to say the pre-trip vaccination jab isn’t the best part of travel. No-one really looks forward to that visit to the doctor when they pull out a needle and tell you to “relax” while they put it in you. Oh the humanity!

But fair’s fair, it is just part of the process, and if you’re venturing to places where Yellow Fever and Typhoid are real risks, it pays to be safe.

So where do you start? Here’s a quick rundown of what you’ll need to do before you travel. Remember, all of this is meant as a guide only, and we recommend you get qualified medical advice before you fly to any of these destinations.

The first thing to do

Before anything else, check out the smarttraveller government website. It’s got lots of useful pre-trip information, particular around medical issues, and a lot of your basic questions can be answered there.

See your GP

After that, you should chat to your local GP and book in a pre-trip check-up. Some vaccinations can be affected by pre-existing medical conditions, so make sure you’re in tip-top shape before you head to the departure lounge. Plus it’s always good to cover your bases with your travel insurance provider.

GPs vs travel doctors

Some doctors specialize in travel vaccinations and advice. So do you go to the experts, or will a basic GP do? Most GPs nowadays are across the various vaccinations you’ll need for each destination, but for extra peace of mind, it’s always worth going with someone who knows their stuff. Travel clinics often sell little travel packs too, full of prescription medications to treat simple travel bugs. Make sure to bring records of your previous shots so the doc can know if you require a booster or not.

Are vaccines safe?

Any vaccine you get in Australia has to be approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration, so you know it’s gone through a stringent safety process. Unfortunately, no vaccine is 100% effective, and even if you’ve got your boosters, there’s still a small chance you’ll get sick on your travels. Very rarely, people can have an allergic reaction to some vaccines (all the more reason to provide your GP or Travel Doc a comprehensive medical history before you get started). For more info, you can check out this guide here.

Vaccinations for Asia


Image c/o Japp1967, Flickr

Asia is vast, and different countries will have their own vaccine requirements, but in general you should consider getting:

  • Tetanus / diphtheria (if you need a booster)
  • Hepatitis A.
  • Typhoid
  • Yellow Fever
  • Malaria medication (this comes in pill form if you’re tired of all the jabs)

When travelling in Asia it’s always worth keeping a few other things in mind: drink from bottles, not the tap. Don’t rinse your toothbrush with tap water either, or open your mouth in the shower. A bottle of hand sanitizer also goes a long way to avoiding any tummy bugs you might pick up. Bring some DEET too to keep the mozzies at bay and reduce the risk of any infection.

Vaccinations for Africa


Image c/o C. C. Chapman, Flickr

Vaccines are advised for most of Africa, especially if you’re travelling to Kenya, Tanzania, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Nigeria or South Sudan. Mostly they’re similar to those you’ll get in Asian countries, but there are a few differences.

  • Cholera
  • Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B
  • Diphtheria pertussis
  • Polio
  • Yellow Fever
  • Typhoid
  • Rabies (if you think you might come into contact with animals)

Check the particular countries for more specific info. It’s also worth remembering that Yellow Fever is a mandatory vaccination for many African countries (you won’t be allowed in without documented proof of vaccination).

Vaccinations for South America


Image c/o Annais Ferreira, Flickr

Where you’re travelling in South America, and for how long, will determine what shots you should be taking. What’s safe for Patagonia won’t be for the Amazon jungle. Definitely see a specialist travel doctor before your trip, but as a guide, you should consider getting:

  • Tetanus
  • Diphtheria pertussis
  • Hepatitis A
  • Typhoid ( Hep B if required )
  • Yellow Fever (it’s compulsory for certain destinations, like Brazil)
  • Meningococcal
  • Meningitis vaccination
  • Malaria medication (particularly if you’re travelling near the equator, or trekking in the Amazon).

Typhoid should be mandatory if you’re heading into any developing or more rural areas, and if you’re on an extended trip through the continent, Hep B is probably a good idea. If you’re travelling at altitude during your trek, especially on the Inca Trail, ask your doctor about Acute Altitude Sickness, and how you can acclimatize safely.

Our specialists can give you more advice on vaccinations, health insurance and keeping safe on your travels. Check out our range of small group tours for more info. 

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