Official advice for New Zealanders living and travelling overseas

Staying Healthy While Travelling

Related links:

  • Read our travel advice for your destination, and for the contact details of the nearest New Zealand Embassy, Consulate General, or High Commission.
  • Information on the consular assistance available to New Zealanders who get into difficulty overseas is available here.
  • If you have a disability and plan to travel overseas, you may also like to read our advice here.

Travel Health Tips:

Travelling can be a great experience, but being away from the people and services that support us at home can create difficulties. The standard of health care varies greatly depending on where you are travelling, and the health services available to you in New Zealand free of charge won’t usually be available overseas. Whether you’re normally in good health, or if you have a physical or mental health condition, following this general advice will help you to keep safe when travelling.

Most importantly, take out comprehensive medical insurance, including cover for hospitalisation and medical evacuation. Make sure it covers your personal circumstances, both for pre-existing conditions and the activities you plan to undertake. Talk to your insurance provider about the details of your policy before you travel. The New Zealand government is unable to fund the medical costs or medical evacuations of Kiwis who travel or live overseas. More information about travel insurance can be found here.

Before you go:

  • Check resources for information on the standard of hygiene, sanitation, medical care and water quality in the areas you are visiting. The Ministry of Health has useful information for travelers.
  • Research your destination and read our travel advice.
  • The air quality in certain parts of the world can differ greatly from New Zealand.  If you have heart and lung conditions or suffer from asthma, research the air quality in your travel destination.  If you have concerns speak to your doctor before travelling, and ensure you have enough of any prescription medication you require.
  • Consult your medical practitioner to find out if any vaccinations or other medical precautions are recommended or required for the areas you are travelling to. Try to do this 6-8 weeks before you leave. As a minimum, you should ensure that all your routine immunisations are up-to-date (such as tetanus, measles, and polio vaccinations).
  • Have a dental check-up, especially if you have chronic or recurrent dental problems and will be travelling to remote areas.
  • Prepare a medical kit for all destinations. It should include basic medicines to treat common ailments, and first-aid items including special personal medical items needed by you or your family. Ask your doctor for advice.
  • Some categories of prescription medicines should be carried together with a medical certificate, signed by a doctor. This may be necessary to show to Customs officials. Ask your doctor if this is recommended. Ensure you have enough medication for the length of your trip, including possible delays, and keep it in its original packaging.
  • Check that your medication is available in the country you are travelling to in case you lose it, and leave a copy of your medical documentation with a family member in case of an emergency.
  • Be aware that alcohol, other drugs, or local substances (such as kava) may affect your regular medication, and may be dangerous for your health.
  • Talk to your doctor or medical professionals about ways that you can manage a physical or mental health condition while overseas. Have a plan in place, know what works for you, and think carefully about how you can keep yourself well.
  • Take out comprehensive medical insurance, including cover for hospitalisation and medical evacuation. Make sure it covers your personal circumstances, both for pre-existing conditions and the activities you plan to undertake.

While you are away:

  • If unsure of hygiene standards only eat thoroughly cooked food and only drink well-sealed bottled or packaged drinks. Boil drinking water or use water purification tablets if its quality is doubtful. Avoid ice in your drinks.
  • Take sensible precautions. For example, in areas where there is a malaria risk, cover yourself well and use insect repellent. If you become ill after returning from overseas, consult a doctor, or the Ministry of Health’s information for those returning to New Zealand.
  • Carry medicines in your hand luggage in case your luggage is lost. If you take regular medication, ensure you stick to your schedule as well as the usual guidelines associated with your medicine.
  • Ensure you get a good amount of sleep; travelling can be exhausting and it’s important to look after yourself.
  • Wear a medical alert bracelet if you have allergies or a chronic illness.
  • If you are treated overseas for illness or injury, obtain a full written medical report for your insurer or for ACC

Accidents, injuries and violence:

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), road traffic accidents are the most common cause of death among travelers. The risks associated with road traffic accidents are greatest in countries where trauma care systems may not be well developed. Injuries in recreational waters – for example while swimming, sailing, or fishing – and as a result of interpersonal violence are also common among travelers. The WHO provides advice on precautions that all travelers should take here.

Mental Health:

Travelling is a great experience, but can also create difficulties we might not have thought about. Being away from the things we are used to, different customs, language barriers, sleep disturbance and uncertainty can all create anxiety. Travelling can make an existing mental health condition worse, or trigger new concerns.

If you experience mental health difficulties while overseas, it can be particularly frightening for you, your family and friends. The way that mental health is viewed varies a lot around the world, and the treatment you receive overseas may be different from what’s available in New Zealand.
If you’re thinking of going overseas, talk to your doctor or treating professionals about how you can manage your mental health while travelling. Have a plan in place, know what works for you, and think carefully about how you can keep yourself well.

  • Consider writing this plan down in case you need to share with those around you, or with healthcare professionals.
  • Have a letter from your doctor detailing any conditions you may have, medications that you require, and the contact details for your healthcare team.
  • Ensure you declare any mental health conditions when purchasing travel insurance, and that these are included in your cover.

Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC):

If you are injured overseas and require treatment once you return to New Zealand, ACC may cover treatment provided to you in New Zealand. ACC does not cover treatment provided overseas, and you will still need to take out comprehensive travel insurance. It is also important to get documentation from your medical professional overseas that evidences your injury and what caused it. ACC provides information on eligibility and how to claim here.  

Death by injury:

You may be able to make a claim to ACC for financial support if a partner, child or dependent dies from an injury that ACC covers, including while overseas. More information is available here.

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