Vaccinations & Medication

Vaccinations & Medication

For many, pre-trip vaccinations and trip-specific medication (e.g.: malaria tablets) are an expense that can come as quite a shock. So it’s worth doing your research and shopping around.

I was flabbergasted to spend over £700 on:

  • Rabies injections x 3 = £150
  • Japanese Encephalitis x 2 = £175
  • Combine Hep A & Typhoid = £75
  • Hepatitis B = £120
  • Malarone tablets for 8 weeks @ £3.20 per tablet = £180
  • General Antibiotic for chest infection = £8
  • Diamox for altitude sickness (never used) = £30
  • Private Prescription fee = £10 (even though I went to my local doctors)
  • Dip/Tet/polio booster = £0 (NHS)
  • Total = £748

My nurse and I used the NHS Fit for Travel website to work out what I needed.  Do get your vaccinations recorded in an appropriate document (usually a little booklet).  Bring it on your trip, along with copies of prescriptions for regular medicine and keep it all safe whilst you travel. You may be required to show it at border crossings.

Monks walking in the rain in Sikkim, India.

Pharmacy Medicines

Medicine whilst travelling

It is possible to save money on your pharmacy medicines.  Here are a few ways you can:


In the UK, many pharmacies are independent businesses so you can go in and ask to speak to the manager and negotiate the best price for things.

I only know this because it was the pharmacy manager who said, ‘I can do the malaria tablets for £185  instead of £195 and we can do something with the price on the altitude tablets’.  Otherwise, I’d never have thought the price was up for discussion!  As it turns out, he was still more expensive than Boots the chemist, so it’s worth shopping around.

Online Pharmacies

There are online pharmacists in the UK and these were used by fellow travellers, they made quite a saving.  They used Dr. Fox Pharmacy, based in Glasgow. Do get this sorted in plenty of time as one person’s medication got lost in the post and they only received it just in time.

Shop around

See Boots the Chemist for their price list and Nomad Travel , but be aware prices given can be per dose or for the full set of vaccinations. So if it looks very cheap, it may be the ‘dose’ price. I found my GP surgery to have the best prices for vaccinations.

Buy abroad

It might be worth buying medication when you arrive – though this brings a risk – but for globally available antibiotics such as Doxycycline (which can be used as an antimalarial), its an option.  It’s not an option I would choose, but I know people who have done this. I could have saved some money by using cheaper malaria tablets, but I’ve used Malarone a number of times and am happy with them so didn’t want to change.

You can pick up many medicines easily and cheaply in most countries and your truck should have a fairly well-stocked medicine box.  Don’t rely on this though, it’s there for emergency use, not because you couldn’t be bothered to bring your own things.

Prescription Medicine

It goes without saying that you need to make provision for medicines you take every day, and if they are medicines that need to be kept in a fridge bring a small watertight container for them.  A fellow traveller had her medicine contaminated by a raw chicken when stored in our truck fridge and it caused a few issues for her.

Not all trucks have a fridge, and even if they do, they can’t be relied upon to keep working, or stay at a correct temperature.  You may find yourself on a mixed trip in hotels for a few days and bush camping for a few days and you can’t guarantee your hotel room will have a fridge.  It might be worth seeing if you can switch to an alternative medicine.

Bring your prescription

Always have a copy of your prescription with you in case you have issues with customs/border crossings.  Don’t remove tablets from their correct packaging.

Check the local rules

Read up about rules and regulations for contraband. Many countries have a dim view of opiate based medicine, even if it’s prescribed.  Turkmenistan, in particular, doesn’t allow some opiate-based medicines such as Tramadol, and, as it turns out this extends to codeine-based medicines too,  even though they don’t mention this until you get to the border. It can cause a long delay at a border and make a very frustrating crossing.

If in doubt, discuss any concerns you have with the tour company before you book.

Medical Kit

My medicine kit contains:

  • Amoxicillin Antibiotic (for chest infection)
  • Paracetamol
  • Ibuprofen
  • Antihistamine
  • Tweezers
  • Imodium/Loperamide
  • Constipation/fibre drinks (sachets)
  • Tea Tree oil (Dual use: antiseptic & good for stopping itchy bites)
  • Blue Tiger Balm – (excellent for easing itchy mosquito bites)
  • Plasters in various sizes or a small roll that can be cut
  • Heel balm cream for cracked heels. (Great in dry climates)
  • Throat lozenges
  • Rehydration Sachets
  • Deet-based insect repellent

Keeping well on the road

Chances are at some point you’ll get sick.  Could be the food, could the water, could be a bug, could be a fellow traveller, could be how things are handled.  Most times, you never really know.

There are things you can do to reduce the chances, such as using an antibac hand gel, but if the cutlery is dirty…well, what can you do.

It’s good to be prepared.  Rehydration sachets are excellent, though some can taste pretty foul.  Try and go for a flavoured one.  It’s the lesser of two evils.

You can take tablets to block you up, but I feel it delays things but if you’ve got a very long journey ahead of you, it may be the only option.

It’s a good truck hygiene policy to have some kind of spray or pump hand gel cleaner available for all to use.  If it’s kept by the door people can ‘spray up’ after toilet stops before getting back on the truck.  Of course, food hygiene is essential too and these are standards that must to be set by the crew and passengers.



Much of the information and advice expressed on this website is the personal opinion of the writer. If you choose to follow any advice you do so at your own risk with no recourse to the writer or Adventures in Overland.