Travelling Abroad to Attend Festivals and Other Gatherings
19 Jun 2023
The summer months mark festival season both in the UK and abroad. Festivals offer a fun escape from everyday routines; however, they can also bring with them some potential health risks.
If you are planning to travel abroad to attend a festival, parade or other gathering this year, you should be aware how you can protect yourself, your family and/ or friends against common health risks.
Advice for Travellers
Before booking any travel abroad, make sure you:
- check out the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office travel advice for information on COVID-19, entry requirements, safety, and local laws and customs at your destination(s)
- have comprehensive travel insurance that covers all planned activities, destinations, and provides expenses in an emergency
- make sure you (and your family) are up to date with all routine immunisations recommended for life in the UK, including MMR.
- review the country specific advice for your destination(s) for information on advisable vaccinations, malaria risk, disease outbreak alerts and any other health risks specific to your destination(s)
- seek a travel health consultation at least 6-8 weeks in advance of travelling abroad
Measles is a highly contagious viral illness that can be very unpleasant and sometimes leads to very serious complications. Measles can spread easily between crowds of people attending mass gatherings, such as festivals. Large measles outbreaks continue to be reported in the UK and abroad, including Europe. People who are not vaccinated against this infection are at risk.
Two doses of measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine are needed in your lifetime to protect you against all three viruses. Check with your General Practice to ensure you have received two doses of MMR vaccination before travelling.
- See the Measles Mumps Rubella page for further information on the disease, including how you and your family can find out how to access MMR vaccination in your local area
Since May 2022 cases of mpox have been reported in the UK, Europe and other international countries. Mpox has not gone away and there may be an increase in cases this summer as more people start to travel and attend events and festivals in the UK or abroad. While mpox does not spread very easily between human beings, it can spread between people through close contact with an infected person with mpox from:
- the touching of blisters or scabs and/or having any skin contact (including during sexual contact)
- touching clothes, bedding, towels or personal items that have been used by a person who has a mpox rash, blisters or scabs
- coughs or sneezes from a person with mpox infection
If you are travelling to summer festivals you can reduce your risk of exposure to mpox by:
- avoiding close contact (including sexual contact) with someone who is unwell and may have mpox
- avoiding touching the clothes, bedding or towels of a person who may have a mpox rash
- avoiding coughs and sneezes from a person who may have mpox
- practicing safer sex
The NHS is currently offering smallpox vaccination to people who are most likely to be exposed to mpox. Further information about the mpox vaccine and eligiblity is available for those living in:
Information on considerations that you should take both during and after travel in relation to COVID-19 are detailed in the COVID-19: Health Considerations for Travel page.
Other Health Considerations
Furthermore, if you are attending festivals abroad this summer, it is important to:
- Take care with respiratory hygiene and hand hygiene to protect yourself and others from illnesses caused by germs (such as bacteria and viruses) that enter our bodies through our eyes, nose or mouth.
- take safe food and water precautions and drink plenty of fluids to avoid becoming dehydrated, especially if the weather is hot
- practice effective insect bite avoidance at all times of the day and night to protect yourself from diseases spread to people by biting insects.
- practice safer sex, and use condoms to reduce your risk of blood borne viruses and other sexual health risks. Take condoms with you when you travel, even if you aren’t planning to have sex.
- practice sun safety to reduce your risk of sunstroke and other heat conditions, especially in warm weather, and also to help you to avoid getting skin cancer later in your life
- consider carrying a simple first aid kit to self-manage basic health problems
- be aware that excessive use of alcohol and/or drugs can increase your likelihood of risk-taking behaviour. Accidents and injuries are not uncommon at festivals. It is also worth being aware that your travel insurance may become invalid if you claim for an incident which occurred whilst you were 'under the influence'.
After returning home from a summer festival abroad, you should always:
- seek medical advice as soon as possible if you or your family are experiencing any symptoms of infection or illness
- seek sexual health advice and screening if unprotected sexual activity has occurred