Don't Travel Overseas Without These Essential Vaccinations

Planning a trip abroad? You may need one of these vaccines to make sure all you bring back are memories.
Last updated June 2, 2023 | By Ben Walker, CEPF
sick woman sneezing at the airport

We may receive compensation from the products and services mentioned in this story, but the opinions are the author's own. Compensation may impact where offers appear. We have not included all available products or offers. Learn more about how we make money and our editorial policies.

Getting a vaccine doesn’t mean you won’t get sick while you travel, but it could help prevent or reduce your chances. This could be useful if you’re traveling to areas where you could be at risk of catching highly-infectious diseases like malaria, meningitis, or yellow fever.

Before you travel, proceed with caution and review this list of essential vaccinations. A bit of planning now could pave the way for smoother travels. The best travel credit cards also offer basic travel insurance to help you if you become sick.

Chickenpox (varicella)

Leigh Prather/Adobe blue medical gloves holding Chicken pox vaccine

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends you get certain routine vaccines before every trip to avoid common travel illnesses. This includes chickenpox, which is typically administered in two doses during childhood before the age of six. The disease is highly contagious and associated with a fever and itchy blisters that can spread across the entire body.


scaliger/Adobe health passport of COVID-19 vaccination in mobile phone for travel

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the entire world, and getting COVID-19 vaccines is recommended for all travelers. Some countries even require you to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 before you’re allowed to visit.

Depending on the type of vaccine, you might need multiple doses to be considered fully vaccinated. The CDC recommends that everyone age five and older get a COVID-19 vaccine.

Pro tip: Overseas trips can get very costly. Consider picking up a side hustle to boost your income and help cover the expenses. 

Diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough

Sherry Young/Adobe Tetanus Vaccine

A diphtheria, tetanus, and whooping cough (pertussis) vaccination (also known as DTaP) is recommended for anyone traveling abroad. Whooping cough is especially contagious and is known for violent coughing that can make it hard to breathe.

Babies typically receive three DTaP shots in their first year to build up protection and then receive two booster shots to maintain that protection later on. It’s recommended that adults get another shot every 10 years.

Flu (influenza)

Leigh Prather/Adobe Small drug vial with influenza vaccine

The influenza (flu) shot is another routine vaccination generally recommended for everyone older than six months. Influenza is typically associated with a variety of symptoms, including fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, body aches, and more.

The best time to get a flu shot is often right before flu season, which depends on where you’re traveling to.

Hepatitis A

Tobias Arhelger/Adobe hepatitis a vaccination blue colored theme

Hepatitis A is a virus that can be found in infected stool (feces) and blood. Symptoms include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, and more. The vaccine is recommended for international travelers six months or older.

Although contaminated food and beverages can spread hepatitis A, the virus is commonly found in many countries of the world and is not always associated with rural areas.

Hepatitis B

Sherry Young/Adobe Hepatitis B vaccine vial on desk

Hepatitis B is another virus that can be found in infected blood and bodily fluids. Symptoms include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, and more. A vaccination is recommended for all travelers and is routinely administered to babies.

The virus can spread through close contact with infected individuals and is more common in certain countries in Asia, Africa, South America, and the Caribbean.

Japanese encephalitis

Tobias Arhelger/Adobe Japanese encephalitis vaccination

Japanese encephalitis is a virus that spreads through mosquito bites. Symptoms could include fever, headache, and vomiting in severe cases. The risk of getting infected is low, and the virus is more common in certain parts of Asia and the Western Pacific.

Vaccination is available for children as young as two months old, but it’s typically only recommended if you have a long stay planned in high-risk areas.

Measles, mumps, rubella (MMR)

Leigh Prather/Adobe small drug vial with MMR vaccine

This routine vaccine helps protect against the measles, mumps, and rubella diseases. Measles could cause serious health complications, especially in young children. Two doses of the MMR vaccine are 97% effective in preventing measles. The vaccine is generally recommended for everyone, and children often receive both doses by age six.

Meningococcal disease (meningitis)

nenetus/Adobe Doctor visit

Meningitis is a disease caused by bacteria that can spread through close personal contact with other people. Symptoms include sudden fever, headache, stiff neck, nausea, vomiting, and more.

Anyone can get meningitis, but getting vaccinated is recommended for travelers in certain parts of sub-Saharan Africa. The vaccination is routinely given to pre-teens and teens in the U.S.


Alik Mulikov/Adobe a doctor giving a child an injection at home

Polio is a deadly disease caused by the poliovirus that can cause paralysis. Vaccination is generally recommended for everyone and is routinely given to infants and young children. Almost all children (99 out of 100) who get the recommended doses of the polio vaccine will be protected from the disease.


Tobias Arhelger/Adobe rabies vaccination

Rabies is another deadly viral disease spread by getting bitten or scratched by an infected wild animal, including bats, raccoons, skunks, and foxes. Symptoms include weakness, discomfort, fever, and headache. Extreme symptoms could include delirium and hallucinations.

Rabies can occur in areas worldwide. The vaccine is recommended in certain areas but is not available in all countries.


Khunatorn/Adobe elderly getting immune vaccine at arm for flu shot

Shingles is a disease that typically causes a painful rash on parts of the face or body. Other symptoms include fever, headache, chills, and upset stomach. Vaccination is typically recommended for adults 50 and older, as well as adults 19 and older with weakened immune systems.

Tick-borne encephalitis

Tobias Arhelger/Adobe tbe vaccination syringe background

Similar to encephalitis spread by mosquitoes, tick-borne encephalitis is instead spread by ticks. Symptoms include fever, aches, loss of appetite, headache, vomiting, and more.

A vaccine for tick-borne encephalitis has been licensed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, though recommendations are still being worked on.


tashatuvango/Adobe diagnosis typhoid fever

Typhoid is a disease caused by bacteria. It’s typically associated with a high fever and includes symptoms of weakness, stomach pain, diarrhea, and more. It’s often found in areas with poor sanitation, including parts of Asia, Africa, the Caribbean, Central America, South America, and the Middle East. Vaccines are available for individuals two and older.

Yellow fever

Rido/Adobe Doctors wearing masks

Yellow fever is another disease that’s spread through mosquito bites. Symptoms include fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, and more. About 15% of cases result in serious illness, including bleeding, shock, organ failure, and sometimes death.

This disease is found in certain parts of South America and Asia. Vaccination is recommended if traveling to these areas, including anyone nine months or older.


tashatuvango/Adobe diagnosis - malaria

Malaria is a disease caused by a parasite and spread by mosquitoes. It’s found in areas of Africa, Central America, South America, parts of the Caribbean, Asia, Eastern Europe, and the South Pacific.

There is no malaria vaccine, but you can take malaria medicine at the recommendation of a doctor. Age requirements depend on the type of medicine.

Tips for staying safe

Yakobchuk Olena/Adobe tired old man drinking water from bottle in woodland

Consider these tips to help you stay safe on your travels:

  • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water. Bottled water is typically one of the safest options if you want to avoid water-borne illnesses.
  • Employ safety and hygienic measures such as washing your hands and wearing masks. Soap and hand sanitizer could help reduce the spread of viruses. Masking could help reduce the spread of airborne viruses like COVID-19.
  • Always check travel advisories from the U.S. Department of State and recommendations from the CDC. This can give you important information about how to prepare for your trip or whether you should adjust your plans.

Remember to compare credit cards to help save money on travel expenses.

Bottom line

pucko_ns/Adobe mature woman with her doctor in ambulance talking about healthcare

Travel is a great stress reliever, and it offers opportunities to explore the world while experiencing different cultures. But part of staying safe while traveling is considering how different environments could introduce different dangers to your health. Fortunately, global advances in health and technology provide many travelers with travel vaccines to help protect themselves.

For another way to stay safe while traveling, consider travel insurance. It’s difficult to plan for every type of situation, but having protections in place could help you save money on expensive trips. Check out the best credit cards for travel insurance to learn more. 

Also keep in mind that overseas trips can get very costly. Consider picking up a side hustle to boost your income and help cover the expenses.

Easy-to-Earn Unlimited Rewards

Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card


Card Details

  • Earn 25,000 online bonus points after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening - that can be a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases
  • Earn 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases
  • Longer intro APR on qualifying purchases and balance transfers
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Apply Now
  • Earn unlimited 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases, with no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees and your points don't expire.
  • 25,000 online bonus points after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening - that can be a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases.
  • Use your card to book your trip how and where you want - you're not limited to specific websites with blackout dates or restrictions.
  • Redeem points for a statement credit to pay for travel or dining purchases, such as flights, hotel stays, car and vacation rentals, baggage fees, and also at restaurants including takeout.
  • 0% Introductory APR for 18 billing cycles for purchases, and for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days. After the intro APR offer ends, 17.99% - 27.99% Variable APR will apply. A 3% fee applies to all balance transfers.
  • If you're a Preferred Rewards member, you can earn 25%-75% more points on every purchase. That means instead of earning an unlimited 1.5 points for every $1, you could earn 1.87-2.62 points for every $1 you spend on purchases.
  • Contactless Cards - The security of a chip card, with the convenience of a tap.
  • This online only offer may not be available if you leave this page or if you visit a Bank of America financial center. You can take advantage of this offer when you apply now.
Apply Now

on Bank of America’s secure website

Read Card Review

Intro Offer

Earn 25,000 online bonus points after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening - that can be a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases

Annual Fee



Why we like it

Author Details

Ben Walker, CEPF Ben Walker, CEPF, is a credit cards and travel writer at FinanceBuzz who loves helping others achieve their travel goals through financially sound decisions. For over a decade, he has been using credit card points and miles for the sole purpose of traveling the world. Ben is a Certified Educator of Personal Finance and has been featured in The Washington Post, MSN,, and