Good, sometimes excellent, health care is readily available in Western Europe and, for minor illnesses, pharmacists can give valuable advice and sell over-the-counter medication. They can also advise if you need specialised help and point you in the right direction. The standard of dental care is usually good.
While the situation in Eastern Europe is improving since the EU accession of many countries, quality medical care is not always readily available outside major cities, but embassies, consulates and five-star hotels can usually recommend doctors or clinics.
No jabs are necessary for Europe. However, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that all travellers be covered for diphtheria, tetanus, measles, mumps, rubella and polio, regardless of their destination. Since most vaccines don’t produce immunity until at least two weeks after they’re given, visit a physician at least six weeks before departure.
Tap water is generally safe to drink in Western Europe. However, bottled water is recommended in most of Eastern Europe, and is a must in some countries, including Russia (particularly St Petersburg) and Ukraine, where giardia can be a problem. Do not drink water from rivers or lakes as it may contain bacteria or viruses.
Condoms are widely available in Europe; however, emergency contraception may not be, so take the necessary precautions. The International Planned Parent Federation can advise about the availability of contraception in different countries. When buying condoms, look for a European CE mark, which means they have passed quality tests.
There is a wealth of travel-health advice on the internet. The World Health Organization also publishes a superb book called International Travel and Health, which is revised annually and available online at no cost. Another useful website is MD Travel Health, which provides travel-health recommendations for every country; updated daily.
It’s usually a good idea to consult your government’s website before departure, if one is available: