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Be Health-Smart Before Traveling Overseas

Keep your health in mind when going abroad.

You've made all your preparations for that upcoming business conference in, say, Hong Kong or Mumbai, but one thing you may have overlooked is your health. Overseas travel can become a nightmare if you get sick. Before setting out, take measures to ease the pain in case your health falters abroad.

First, you may want to visit your doctor. If you have a medical condition, be sure to check with your doctor about precautions for traveling.

Find out what the health-care systems are like in the countries you'll be visiting. Many exotic places, such as Costa Rica, China and Thailand, offer good services, says travel expert Arthur Frommer, of Frommer's travel guides. But some countries, such as Vietnam, do not.

Also, check out the health conditions. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information on diseases worldwide and the precautions you should take (; 877-394-8747). The World Health Organization ( lists countries that require vaccinations and provides other health-related information for overseas voyagers.


In addition to doing a little research, take these steps to help ensure a healthy trip.

Review your health insurance. Many insurance policies don't pay for medical expenses overseas, so check your coverage carefully.

If you need coverage, Frommer says, "it's an absolute necessity to get a good comprehensive policy." He suggests checking, which offers policies from major travel-insurance companies.

Make sure the policy covers medical evacuations, which could cost you $50,000 without coverage. Also ask about any exclusions.


Toting medication. If you're on medication for a chronic condition, take an extra supply of your medicines, and pack one in your carry-on bag and the other in checked bags.

In case you need to fill a prescription, carry copies of the generic names of your medicines, because the brand names may be different overseas. Bring medicines in the original containers, with your name on the labels.

Also, take copies of your prescriptions. If you travel with needles or prescribed narcotics, having a doctor's letter explaining your medical needs will make it easier to get through security and customs.

If you carry more than three ounces of liquid medicines, you'll need to have them inspected by airport security. For the latest requirements, check with the Transportation Security Administration (, click "For Travelers"; 866-289-9673).


If you get sick. The U.S. embassy or consulate can provide a list of local English-speaking doctors. Frommer advises getting a free directory of English-speaking doctors around the world from the nonprofit International Association for Medical Assistance to Travellers (; 716-754-4883). There's also a clinic directory on the International Society of Travel Medicine Web site (

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story is adapted from an article that was originally published in Kiplinger's Retirement Report. To subscribe, click here.