What do I need to know before I travel?
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Advice for Package Tourists

Package holidays are the most popular booking made by UK travellers, they may be booked in person, through a travel agent or through a holiday website.

Regardless of booking method, tour companies have no obligation to alert travellers about potential travel related health risks. Consequently, package tourists may book their holiday without being made aware of vaccinations or malaria tablets advisable for their trip. Additionally, package tourists may not have received any advice on travel health risks.

Standards of accommodation, amenities and medical facilities will vary. Package tourists should carry out their own research; it is unwise to rely upon the ratings of holiday companies.


Comprehensive travel insurance is essential. Package tourists should be aware of the importance of purchasing the correct insurance for their trip:

  • Check insurance coverage covers all intended destinations.
  • Always declare any underlying medical conditions that you may have and any medications that you take (including over-the-counter) to your travel insurer. Failure to do so may nullify insurance cover.
  • Check insurance covers all planned activities. For example will the traveller be participating in adventure sports such as scuba-diving that are popular with travellers. 
  • Ensure travel insurance includes cover for accidents, emergency medical treatment, medical evacuation and repatriation.

Those going on short package holidays will normally be staying in accommodation that is chosen and quality checked by the tour operators. This does not protect the traveller from unexpected health problems particularly when venturing away from the hotel.


Sun exposure below the level that leads to sunburn can be beneficial, helping our bodies create vitamin D and promoting feelings of general well being. However, too much sun exposure may lead to sunburn, premature aging, photosensitive rashes, and potentially worsen existing skin conditions such as rosacea. Most skin cancers are caused by exposure to the sun, this may be long term exposure, or short periods of intense sun exposure and burning.

The safest way to enjoy the sun and protect skin from sunburn is to use a combination of shade, clothing and sunscreen.

Alcohol and Drugs

Factors such as freedom from usual social restraints, peer pressure, cheap alcohol and all inclusive deals may lead to increased alcohol/drug use in package tourists. Alcohol and drug use can impair judgment; this may lead to an increase in risk-taking behaviour and leave travellers more vulnerable to injury from accidents or assaults. Unaccustomed consumption of alcohol/drugs can also lead to illness from intoxication.

Travellers should be aware that insurers are unlikely to pay for the healthcare bills and/or medical repatriation of those that have suffered an injury that could be perceived to be their own fault because it occurred whilst under the influence of drugs/alcohol.

Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (SHAAP) has produced information and advice for young holidaymakers on alcohol-related risk behaviours.

Risk of Accidents

Unfamiliar surroundings and alcohol consumption often result in accidents. Beware of sea currents and take particular care crossing roads. Sharp objects and discarded glass on beaches can cause injury to bare feet.

Stomach Upsets and Diarrhoea

These are very common. Contaminated food and water is a major cause of illness and care is especially important when eating out in countries where local hygiene is poor. Unaccustomed spices or oil in food as well as alcohol can also lead to stomach upsets. You should consider taking an antidiarrhoeal preparation.

Unsafe Sex

New sexual partnerships abroad are not uncommon. Unprotected sex abroad is also not uncommon; this places travellers at increased risk of STIs (sexually transmitted infections). A person is three times more likely to acquire an STI when having sexual intercourse abroad.

Culture Shock

This can be very real even for short-term visitors perhaps made worse by family problems at home, illness or unaccustomed alcohol consumption. Problems may include adjusting to a different climate and language, unfamiliar social amenities, coming to terms with poverty, begging, and movement restrictions for safety or political reasons.


Although some commonly used vaccines such as Hepatitis A and Typhoid give protective levels from 2 weeks, some practices will not offer travel appointments within this timeframe. As such, travellers should ideally present for pre travel advice about 6-8 weeks prior to departure, this allows time to receive full courses of any advisable vaccines, thorough travel health advice and malaria tablets (if required).

Malaria Prevention

Your accommodation may well provide good mosquito protection, if not you must consider taking a good mosquito net. Sensible clothing to protect the skin from bites and careful use of mosquito repellents are also important. If your advisor recommends antimalarial tablets make sure you take then correctly.

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