Travel vaccinations on the NHS: Free travel vaccines UK

Travel vaccinations usually come as an afterthought to planning your next big trip. You’ve booked the flights, the hotel, the day trips – but now you need to seriously consider your health. It’s easy to put these things off, however, as travel vaccinations can be so expensive. 

TravelDoc vaccine booklet

That being said, I’ve been around the world and I’ve done my research. And, while there are a few vaccinations you simply have to pay for in the UK, you can get more travel vaccinations on the NHS than you might think.

Before I start, you should know I am not a healthcare professional- I’m just a backpacker who knows how to make her money stretch. I’ve received both NHS vaccinations and private travel vaccinations, and I know when it’s worth spending a bit of cash and when it definitely isn’t. Here are all the travel vaccinations available on the NHS and tips on getting them.

When should I get my NHS travel vaccinations?

Travel vaccinations are something you should consider sooner rather than later. While it can be easy to put them off, you could be putting yourself at risk if you don’t visit your doctor soon enough.

Aim to see your GP at least two months before your travel date. Some vaccines require time to allow your body to develop immunity, while others require a number of doses across several weeks. Your doctor may also need to order in the vaccines you need.

Which vaccinations do I actually need?

There are several handy tools on the web to help you determine the vaccinations needed for your trip. Some countries require proof of these travel vaccines at the border – so it’s very important you’re ahead of the game.

Use Travel Health Pro to determine which travel vaccinations you’ll need. Simply enter the country/countries you’ll be visiting, and click the vaccine recommendations tab. It’s a good idea to take a copy of this to your GP appoint so the doctor can inform you which travel vaccinations are available on the NHS.

Where do I get travel vaccinations on the NHS?

First, call your GP practice to see if it is able to provide free NHS travel vaccines. Most are, but it’s important to check. You will then be invited in for a chat with your doctor or practice nurse to discuss your vaccination record and which vaccines you will need before travel.

Some vaccinations may be available at your GP straight away, while others may need ordering in. You will likely need to make several trips to your doctor’s surgery over several weeks.

If your GP does not offer travel vaccinations on the NHS, you may need to find a pharmacy offering travel healthcare.

Free NHS travel vaccines

Here’s a list of all the travel vaccinations on the NHS, and what they protect against. These vaccinations are free as they protect against diseases which may pose a great risk to public health if brought back to the UK. 

1. Polio

The polio vaccination is also referred to as the 3-in1 teenage booster or the Td/IPV. It’s given to protect against polio, tetanus, and diphtheria as a single injection in the upper arm.

Most people in the UK receive this vaccination around age 14 as part of the national immunisation program. Your health record (accessible by your doctor/nurse) will indicate whether you have been given it.

2. Typhoid

Typhoid fever is found in areas with poor sanitation. Areas of high-risk include South America, Africa, the Indian subcontinent, and South Asia. The vaccine is recommended if you plan to stay or work with local people in these areas, or will be staying in areas with poor sanitation for prolonged periods.

This travel vaccination is free on the NHS and can be administered in two ways. The first is a single injection (known as the Vi vaccine) and the second is given as three capsules taken over alternate days (Ty21a vaccine).

3. Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is generally given free on the NHS to those planning to travel to countries where the risk of infection is high. It’s also advised for those with long-term liver disease. 

There are three types of Hep A travel vaccine on the NHS. The first is a vaccine for hepatitis A only, the second is a combined vaccine for Hep A and Hep B, and the third is a combined vaccine for Hep A and typhoid fever. These vaccinations are needed at least 2 months after your trip, and top-ups are recommended for long term protection.

It’s important to note that the vaccine for hepatitis B is not available for free on the NHS – so the combined hepatitis A and hepatitis B vaccine is a good shout.

4. Cholera

Cholera can be caught from drinking unclean water, eating food that has been in unclean water, or eating food prepared by someone infected. Though the risk of getting cholera while travelling is low, it is one of the few travel vaccinations on the NHS.

The cholera vaccine will be administered to you if you are travelling to an area where infection is common, or you are an aid or disaster relief worker. The vaccine is given a powder to be dissolved in water and consumed. Adults need two doses, taken 1 to 6 weeks apart.

Travel vaccinations not available on the NHS

While a good few vaccinations can be taken care of on the NHS in the UK, there’s more that you will need to pay for. Below is a list of travel vaccinations that can be administered by your GP or nurse, but need to be paid for.

Prices for these vaccinations vary, and you may need to visit a private travel clinic to receive some.

  • Hepatitis B
  • Rabies
  • Tuberculosis
  • Yellow Fever
  • Meningitis
  • Japanese Encephalitis
  • Tick-borne Encephalitis

Getting prepared

Just like you’ll research the best travel backpack, it’s important to research and budget for any travel vaccinations you will need before your trip. Make sure to see your doctor or practice nurse at least eight weeks prior to travel. 

If you are travelling to northern or central Europe, Australia or North America, it’s unlikely you will need any travel vaccinations – but it’s still important to check you are up to date with routine NHS vaccines.

Free UK vaccines

Can’t stay around long? Here are the free travel vaccines you can receive in the UK. We strongly recommend reading on to find out if you’re eligible for each of the vaccinations listed below.

  • Polio
  • Typhoid
  • Hepatitis A
  • Cholera