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Visiting friends and relatives overseas

Planning to visit your parents, attend your friend’s wedding in a foreign country, introduce your newborn baby to relatives or travel to look after an ill grandparent?

These are all times when you might not think about seeking travel advice. Whether it’s a last-minute plan or you’re very familiar with the destination, you could underestimate the potential travel-related health risks.

Did you know that travellers visiting friends or relatives have an increased risk of getting travel-related illnesses – including infections – and are more likely to be hospitalised? Because you’re more likely to mix closely with the local community, you may be at higher risk of infections such as measles, flu and meningococcal meningitis. You also need to be aware of your risk of malaria.1

You should think about a few things before visiting your friends and relatives overseas. This can help stop an emotional reunion turning into a bad memory. Included below are a few things to help you start thinking.


You may have grown up in the country you’re visiting – or have lived there for a while – but you still need to check the vaccination requirements. See our interactive travel health map for possible recommendations, or check which diseases may be present in the country you’re visiting.2

Also check the standard NHS childhood vaccination list.

Whenever possible, you should see a healthcare professional at least 8 weeks before you travel.

Travel insurance

Travel insurance should be near the top of your list before any travel. Otherwise, you might need to pay a large and unplanned sum of money. You may already have insurance associated with your bank account or credit card – but have you read the policy carefully? It might not cover everything you need.

You could save money with an annual and/or family policy if you travel more than once a year. Before buying any travel insurance, check the details for:

  • countries
  • length of stay
  • planned activities e.g. climbing, skydiving, snow sports and water sports

If an injury happens after taking drugs or alcohol, or during undeclared activities, your cover may be invalidated.

Arrangements for travelling with a baby

If you’re flying with a baby, you can may be able to take expressed breast milk, formula milk, sterilised water and/or baby food. Additionally, you may be able to take a pram or car seat as hand luggage. Be sure to check the policies of the airline or travel company before travelling.

Individual containers of breast milk must hold no more than 2 litres and airport staff may need to open the containers to screen the liquids.3

You may want to take medicine or prescriptions for colds, fever or stomach bugs – but check for any rules on bringing medicines by contacting the embassy of the country you’re visiting.

Stomach upsets and diarrhoea

Staying with friends and family and in hotels can be risky for stomach problems. The risk is the same if you’re eating out often. Water in some countries should be purified. Get further advice on clean food and water.

Insect and tick bites

Malaria, dengue, yellow fever and Lyme disease are some of the many diseases that can be spread by insects and ticks. Avoiding insect and tick bites is vital to reduce your chances of being infected.

Check our advice on insect and tick bites.

Staying happy and healthy

So even when visiting friends or family, book a travel health consultation before you go away.

Also, see what else should be on your travel checklist and if you’re travelling at Christmas, read our 12 tips of Christmas travel.


Date of preparation: April 2019



1. Fit For Travel. Advice for Those Visiting Friends and Relatives.

2. NHS. Travel vaccinations overview.

3. Hand luggage restrictions at UK airports.

All accessed April 2019.