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Before You Go

Health Insurance

  • Keep all medical receipts and documentation for billing and insurance claims and reimbursement later.
  • Some health-insurance policies require you to get pre-authorization over the phone for medical treatment before seeking help.
  • Overseas visitors with travel-health-insurance policies may need to contact a call center for an assessment by phone before getting medical treatment.

Recommended Vaccinations

Currently there are no vaccination requirements for visiting the USA. California has recently had outbreaks of measles and whooping cough, since fewer parents have been choosing to vaccinate their children. Before visiting California, make sure you've had all of the standard immunizations, including but not limited to MMR (measles, mumps and rubella), Hepatitis A and B, varicella (chickenpox) and Tdap (tetanus-diphtheria-acelluar pertussis) within the last 10 years, and the annual seasonal influenza vaccine.

In California

Availability & Cost of Healthcare

  • Medical treatment in the USA is of the highest caliber, but the expense could kill you. Many health-care professionals demand payment at the time of service, especially from out-of-towners or international visitors.
  • Except for medical emergencies (in which case call 911 or go to the nearest 24-hour hospital emergency room, or ER), phone around to find a doctor who will accept your insurance.

Environmental Hazards

Dehydration, Heat Exhaustion & Heatstroke

  • Take it easy as you acclimatize, especially on hot summer days and in Southern California's deserts. Drink plenty of water. A minimum of 3L per person per day is recommended when you’re active outdoors. Be sure to eat a salty snack too, as sodium is necessary for rehydration.
  • Dehydration (lack of water) or salt deficiency can cause heat exhaustion, often characterized by heavy sweating, fatigue, lethargy, headaches, nausea, vomiting, dizziness and muscle cramps.
  • Long, continuous exposure to high temperatures can lead to possibly fatal heatstroke, when body temperatures rise to dangerous levels. Warning signs include altered mental status, hyperventilation and flushed, hot and dry skin (ie sweating stops).
  • For heatstroke, immediate hospitalization is essential. Meanwhile get out of the sun, remove clothing that retains heat (cotton is OK), douse the body with cool water and fan continuously. Ice packs can be applied to the neck, armpits and groin.


  • Skiers and hikers will find that temperatures in the mountains and desert can quickly drop below freezing, especially during winter. Even a sudden spring shower or high winds can lower your body temperature dangerously fast.
  • Instead of cotton, wear synthetic or woolen clothing that retains warmth even when wet. Carry waterproof layers (eg Gore-Tex jacket, plastic poncho, rain pants) and high-energy, easily digestible snacks such as chocolate, nuts and dried fruit.
  • Symptoms of hypothermia include exhaustion, numbness, shivering, stumbling, slurred speech, dizzy spells, muscle cramps and irrational or even violent behavior.
  • To treat mild hypothermia, get out of bad weather and change into dry, warm clothing. Drink hot liquids (no caffeine or alcohol) and snack on high-calorie food.
  • For more advanced hypothermia, seek immediate medical attention. Do not rub victims, who must be handled gently.

Tap Water

It's fine to drink water from the tap anywhere in California, except at some wilderness campgrounds where the water may not be potable (look for signs or ask the campground host).