For many families, the Middle East has become a popular travel destination. It’s known for its warm hospitality, vibrant culture, historical landmarks, gorgeous landscape, and many tourist attractions. Whether planning a theme park trip to Dubai or a history excursion across the region, you must ensure you and your family have taken the right vaccines.
The Middle East is a vast region that includes countries like the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Kuwait, and Qatar, among others. The vaccines you are required to have when entering each region may differ.
The purpose and length of your stay will usually determine the vaccines you need. For example, suppose you’re travelling for business or a holiday and will be living in a resort or hotel. In that case, you will probably require fewer vaccines than if you were staying for a longer period in a rural area where sanitation is poor.
Vaccines You Should Take Before Travelling to the Middle East
Some vaccines are required to enter the Middle East, while others are recommended to keep you and your family safe. It is advisable to take vaccines that are not mandatory, especially if you are immunocompromised.
Apart from these two categories, there are also routine vaccines that you should be up to date on before travelling.
- Yellow Fever
The Yellow Fever and Covid-19 vaccines are required to travel to most Middle Eastern areas. In contrast, the Meningitis vaccine is explicitly required for travellers travelling to Saudi Arabia to go on pilgrimage for the annual Hajj or Umrah. The reason is that these pilgrimages attract hundreds of thousands of people, which can increase the risk of infection.
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B
Before getting all the recommended vaccines, it’s helpful to consider the context of where you will live and what you will do. It’s a good idea for unvaccinated travellers to get the Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and Measles vaccines, but remember that this would not count towards the routine vaccines that are recommended for all people regardless of whether you’re travelling or not.
Dog Rabies isn’t commonly found in the Middle East but may be present in wildlife species, like bats. It’s advisable for people travelling to the Middle East and working directly with wildlife to be vaccinated against Rabies. This may apply to field biologists, animal handlers and vets.
It’s a good idea to take the Typhoid vaccine if you plan on staying in small towns or rural areas.
Routine vaccines are advisable for everyone and are usually administered during childhood. It’s advisable to make sure that you’re up to date on the recommended routine vaccines before travelling.
Make Sure You’re Covered
Apart from making sure you have taken the vaccines, there are other things you must sort out before travelling. A significant consideration is insurance. It may be difficult to imagine that something may go wrong while you’re travelling, but the reality is there’s a lot that can go wrong! Your bags could get lost and not arrive at your destination, you may lose your belongings, or you could fall ill or become injured.
All these incidents are likely to have financial implications, so it’s a good idea to think about travel insurance. Travel insurance typically includes medical emergencies, lost luggage, trip cancellations, delays and belongings.
If you have life insurance, you must double-check if your plan will cover you when travelling abroad, specifically to the Middle East, as not all plans cover all areas. Still, most life insurance plans will cover you if you’re travelling to a country considered safe. If you don’t have life cover, it’s a good idea to shop around and compare life insurance plans and make sure that you settle on one that covers travel to the Middle East.
Other Steps to Take to Reduce the Risk of Falling Sick
While vaccines are essential and will prevent you from contracting a wide range of illnesses, there are some accidents and illnesses that vaccines can’t stop.
- It’s essential to keep hydrated when travelling in the Middle East, but you shouldn’t drink tap water. If water has been contaminated, it can make you severely ill. It’s best to drink bottled or canned water, ensuring the seal is intact. Alternatively, you can boil tap water, as boiled water is safe to consume.
- Given the climate of the Middle East, it’s advisable to wear long sleeves to protect your skin from the sun’s harmful rays. When going out, wear sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 and reapply it every two to three hours when you’re outdoors.
- Some more remote parts of the Middle East are prone to Malaria. If you travel to one of these areas, you must take prescription anti-Malaria medication. In most cases, you will need to take medicine a few days before you leave, during your stay and a few days after arriving home. Speak to your doctor, who will recommend a course of medication.
- Road accidents are a frequent cause of injury and death. Driving in a foreign country can increase your chance of being in a crash. This is because travellers are usually unfamiliar with the roads, may have to drive on the opposite side of the road, and may be fatigued because they’ve been travelling.
- To reduce the risk of being in a road accident, hiring a taxi is best instead of driving yourself if you’re not a confident driver. When hiring a taxi, make sure you use a reputable taxi company. Familiarise yourself with the roads and traffic laws so you know where you’re going and remain vigilant during the ride.
We have further guidance on family safety visiting the Middle East over here.
Before travelling to the Middle East, ensure that you have taken all the required vaccines, where necessary. It’s mandatory to be vaccinated against Covid-19 and Yellow Fever, and if you’re going on a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia, you must be vaccinated against Measles. Make sure you buy sufficient insurance to protect you in case anything goes wrong, wear sunscreen, stay hydrated and ensure you’re safe on the road.
- CDC.Gov: United Arab Emirates
- CDC.Gov: Saudi Arabia
- Ivisa: Saudi Arabia Vaccine Requirements: Do I need a vaccine to travel to Saudi Arabia?
- Fhi.no: Middle East – Travel Vaccination Advice
- Policyadvisor: Life Insurance and Traveling
- Fitfortravel.nhs: United Arab Emirates (Middle East)
- Passporthealthusa: Travel Vaccines and Advice for the Middle East