Skip to main content

Overseas Medical and Safety Primer

Updated 5 Mar 2010

Travelling overseas takes families a long way from 911! If you and your family are relocating overseas, know that accidents and illness occur more frequently during this stressful time.

Nevertheless, about 65 percent of relocation packages still overlook medical care advice, so whether or not you are moving at the request of your employer, it is important for you and your family to educate yourselves so that you will all be safe and secure. When an emergency occurs, you need to know how to find adequate care and a doctor who can speak your language.

Sound medical planning

Organise necessities your family will need: copies of the family’s medical records, prescriptions; dates of treatments; current doctors’ contacts (telephone, email and addresses); and a few months’ supply of indispensable drugs. Be clear about your medications: some drugs can be legal in one country, but not another. It is helpful to know the generic name of necessary drugs that anyone takes on a routine basis in case a substitute has to be made.

Your entire family should have a thorough medical, dental and eye examination before moving to another country. Understand how your health insurance policy will be affected in the country and review all of your medications with your doctor. Facilities, services and terminology can vary considerably from country to country. For instance, emergency rooms are referred to as casualty wards in many countries and are only available in certain hospitals. Therefore, make visiting new medical services and caregivers a priority as soon as possible upon arrival so that you can clear up any confusion about routine and urgent medical care before it is needed.

Many countries require immunisations. Know what will be required to move to your destination and schedule your shots early. Combining several shots shortly before traveling is not always recommended. Also note that some diseases manifest themselves more severely in younger children.

Safety issues

Your family will need the following items when you travel abroad. Add whatever is relevant for your situation.

  • A bilingual dictionary

  • Important telephone numbers with access codes for the country

  • Prescriptions for eyeglasses/contact lenses (pack an extra pair of each)

  • Several days’ worth of prescriptions packed in your carry-on luggage

  • Insurance forms and card with the identification number

  • Information about how medical insurance will be applied in the country

  • Anti-diarrheal medicine and prescribed antibiotics if a family member is prone to severe infections

Investigate overseas

  • Emergency procedures, routes to hospitals, and common medical procedures for the country

  • Physicians who speak your language

  • Unsafe areas in the city that should be avoided

A few more tips

  • Carry a minimum amount of money and credit cards. Keep monies and identification in a safe concealed area.

  • Know where your home country embassy is located and find out how to reach them in case of difficulties

  • Carry with you telephone numbers for your company’s office, as well as any helpful friends or colleagues who live locally

  • Copy all passports and important identification and keep them, plus traveler's check numbers, separate and in a safe place

  • International relocation places a considerable amount of stress on people and that is just when accidents or illness can strike—often before a family knows the location of a doctor or hospital. Do not overlook this aspect of relocation. All families need to have a medical plan in place before they travel, as well as know how to locate doctors who can speak their language.

Useful resources

  • IAMAT provides medical information for countries around the world and is associated with English speaking doctors in 300+ cities,

  • The Centers for Disease Control provides health information for specific destinations regarding food and water qualities, vaccinations, infectious diseases and quarantine. This site also has Travel Warnings and Consular Information Sheets for every country of the world,

  • Input Worldwide Assistance Services into a search engine on your computer for companies that provide a variety of overseas medical services.


About the author:

Beverly D. Roman of BR Anchor Publishing, Jacksonville, FL, has written over 30 domestic and international relocation books. Contact her at For more information about the author’s books and the company’s varied publishing services, contact Amy Roman, Publisher at or visit the website

Expat Health Insurance

Cigna Health Insurance

Cigna Global Health Insurance.

Medical insurance specifically designed for expats. With Cigna, you won't have to rely on foreign public health care systems, which may not meet your needs. Cigna allows you to speak to a doctor on demand, for consultations or instant advice, wherever you are in the world. They also offer full cancer care across all levels of cover, and settle the cost of treatments directly with the provider.

Get a quote from Cigna Global – 10% off

Moving Internationally?

Sirelo logo

International Movers. Get Quotes. Compare Prices.

Sirelo has a network of more than 500 international removal companies that can move your furniture and possessions to your new home. By filling in a form, you’ll get up to 5 quotes from recommended movers. This service is free of charge and will help you select an international moving company that suits your needs and budget.

Get your free no-obligation quotes from select removal companies now!