Foreign Travel Immunization Requirements

Traveling to foreign countries is exhilarating, eye-opening and can be the experience of a lifetime, but it is important to be aware of the risks and take the necessary precautions before you go. Not only is it possible to contract a disease that does not currently exist in the United States, but you can also carry it back with you. From Ebola to Malaria, be sure to know all the foreign travel immunization requirements before you depart for your next adventure. Don’t let the fear of alien diseases infect your dreams of traveling the world!

How Do Travel Immunizations Work?

When the medicine enters your bloodstream, you are exposing your body to the germs of the disease you need protection from. Don’t worry, you won’t contract it because the bacteria being injected is either dead or severely weakened. The vaccine builds up immunities in your body that fight against that particular illness. In turn, the body creates antibodies that will protect you later if you are exposed to the disease during your travels. There are rarely any side effects other than a dull ache where the shot was given, which will only last a short time.

Which Countries Require Which Vaccinations

First and foremost, it is important to keep up to date with any routine vaccinations required by the United States. Otherwise, here’s a list of the more common travel vaccinations you may have to get in order to visit foreign lands.

  • Hepatitis A
  • Hepatitis B
  • Typhoid and paratyphoid fever
  • Meningococcal disease
  • Yellow Fever
  • Rabies
  • Japanese Encephalitis

Vaccinations are not only specific to individual countries, but also regions. If you are traveling to a more remote part of China as opposed to Shanghai, there will be different vaccination requirements. It is imperative that you see a medical professional to find out exactly which ones are necessary.

Check out this handy CDC page for a list of other vaccinations you may need to enter a foreign country from the United States.

When to Get Vaccinated

You are going to want to get vaccinated at least 4-6 weeks in advance. It will take that long for the medicine to kick in and, depending on the vaccination, your doctor may need a few weeks to acquire them. Some may even require multiple shots over time. The CDC suggests that you are vaccinated at least 10 days before departure for your destination.

In some cases, such as yellow fever, the vaccines are only offered by a select few doctors. This means you may have to travel to a special clinic to get it, so be sure to plan far in advance.

Important Information for Your Medical Professional

Make your doctor aware of your trip itinerary, including where you are going, how long the trip is and when. Other things to consider are lodging conditions (staying in a hotel is quite different from staying in a tent), modes of transportation and activities. All of this information will help your doctor pinpoint exactly which vaccines you will need.

Last Minute Travel

It is possible to get some vaccinations on an accelerated schedule or even receive partial protection after just one dose. You can also travel to medical clinic that carries the vaccinations so you can receive them immediately.

What Else you Need to Know

  • Be sure you are caught up on your routine U.S. vaccinations on top of any specialized ones that you must get for travel.
  • Stay on top of travel alerts that may affect your plans.
  • If you are currently on medication for a preexisting condition, it could reduce the effectiveness of the vaccination, so be sure to make your doctor aware.

Summing It Up

Although it is not a requirement to get vaccinations for travel, if you are going to a more underdeveloped country, it is highly recommended. Travel can be stressful enough without having to worry about contracting a foreign disease. Protect yourself and be free to have the adventure of a lifetime!


  1. Thank you for sharing this very valuable information on Foreign Travel Immunization Requirement.

    To tell you the truth, this is an eye-opener for me too, because my family does travel occasionally to foreign countries and we haven’t tried to get a vaccination before the travel.
    Luckily we haven’t encountered any of these troubles. Surely on our next vacation, we will have these vaccinations.

    Once again thank you,

    1. Gin

      In certain situations it’s not necessary. I’ve traveled to Europe a number of times and have never had more than my regular vaccinations. It’s worth double checking the CDC website just to be on the safe side.

      1. Thank you for such an informative information. You real educated me on this title of foreign travel immunization requirements.

        Myself, I will be travelling to a foreign country and my family with kids of 1 – 5 years of age. I didnt know other countries immune plans. Thank you.

        1. Gin

          Hi! Yes, it is interesting and worth knowing the risks before you go. I have traveled to Europe multiple times without vaccinations, but if you are going to a lesser developed country, you may want to do a little research. Good luck!

  2. I have traveled abroad on a number of times and did not realize there were vaccines so thank you for the info. There was an occasion about 10 years when I developed flu like symptoms after returning home from Europe. This was during the during the H1N1 pandemic. I was told by my employer (a medical facility) that I was NOT to come to work until I was cleared by my physician. My physician told me that I was NOT to go out in public or have any contact with anyone for at least 5 days. The only person that would come anywhere me was my dog. And I was the lucky one. I was back to work in 10 days with no ill effects whatsoever.

    1. Gin

      Wow! That sounds pretty intense! I’m so glad everything is ok. I have traveled to Europe without vaccinations multiple times, but it pays to do a bit or research before you go! Did you ever find out what the problem was? Thank so much for your input!

  3. Enrique

    Hi, Gin,

    I totally agree with you. It’s very important to have your immunization records up to date especially when traveling abroad. Better to be safe than sorry.

    Like any other aspects of any trip, this is one we have to pay special attention to.

    Thanks for sharing.

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