Summer travel: advice for students and young holidaymakers

Off on a summer break? See our guide to staying safe and healthy abroad

Before you travel

Check our country pages for current health risks at your destination, including any vaccine and malaria recommendations, and see the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office country pages for the latest safety and security advice.

Ideally, visit a travel clinic at least four to six weeks before you travel to check your routine UK vaccines are in date and get any recommended travel vaccines and malaria tablets.

Going on a last-minute holiday?

It's never too late to get travel health advice; some vaccines can be given last minute, and malaria tablets (if needed) can be started on the day you travel.

It's still important to check COVID entry requirements and consider your COVID risk during the journey and at your destination; see our general advice for travellers.

Get comprehensive travel health insurance that covers medical evacuation (being brought home to the UK for hospital care if you have a medical emergency), any pre-existing health conditions, prescribed medicines and all the activities you plan to do while away. Apply for a free UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) for travel to some European countries (EHIC arrangements expired on 31 December 2020). Check the GOV.UK website for updates and advice. Remember a GHIC card only gives you access to basic emergency care in European Union/European Economic Areas countries, and you still need your own travel insurance.

Take a basic first kit including items like pain relief, gauze, antiseptic, tape, plasters, tweezers and any medicines you take.

While you are away

  • Alcohol – eat before drinking alcohol and have plenty of water and soft drinks. Remember, alcoholic drinks may be stronger than at home and hot weather can make you more vulnerable to the effects of alcohol. Avoid alcohol sold in unlicensed places like street markets, as it could be fake and could put you at risk of severe, even fatal poisoning. Never accept drinks from strangers or leave drinks unattended.

    Try to moderate your intake: alternating every alcohol with a soft drink is a great way to reduce your alcohol consumption and stay hydrated. Don't do something you regret- too much alcohol can reduce your inhibitions, could put your health at risk and increases your chance of having an accident or doing something risky.

    Never drink and drive or swim after drinking.
  • Stay safe – take care on and around balconies and water. Never dive into a swimming pool from a balcony. Follow local advice about tides and never swim alone. Always wear a helmet if riding a horse, bicycle or motorbike/moped. Avoid driving at night.
  • Blood-borne infections – body piercing, tattoos, illegal drug use and unprotected sex all put you at risk of blood-borne illnesses like HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C. You may be tempted to get tattoos/piercings abroad, but safety standards are unlikely to be the same as in the UK. If you decide to get tattoos or body piercings abroad, always check sterile, single use needles are used and disposed of carefully after each procedure.
  • Food and water – be careful with what you eat and drink and follow basic hygiene rules.
  • Travellers' diarrhoea is common – be prepared. Visit a chemist before you go and get advice about over-the-counter diarrhoea treatments suitable for your trip. Remember to drink plenty of fluids and if you have diarrhoea with blood and/or fever, see a doctor straight away.
  • Protect yourself against insects and ticks – as well as causing skin irritation, in some countries insect and tick bites can also result in disease. Reduce your risk by covering up and using insect repellents. In areas with insect-spread illnesses like malaria, reduce bites by using air-conditioning, mosquito nets and window screens in your accommodation whenever possible.
  • Safer sex – carry condoms and see NHS advice about sex activities and risk.
  • Sun protection – use an SPF sunscreen of at least 30 UVA/UVB and reapply frequently, especially after swimming, wear a hat and sunglasses.

When you return

Get urgent medical attention for any fever or flu like symptoms and remember to tell your doctor you've been abroad. This is especially important if you visited malaria risk countries, even if you took malaria prevention tablets and have been home for a while (an urgent malaria test must be arranged).

If you had unprotected sex while abroad or think you might have a sexually transmitted infection, go to a free, confidential sexual health clinic for advice.

Resources

First published : 25 April 2023 Last updated : 13 June 2023
  1. A link to ABTA advice for young holidaymakers added to resources.

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