As a rule of thumb, before 2020 one could travel between Western countries without any immunizations. But there were always some countries where they were required. The main one has been for yellow fever although Covid-19 has become a necessity of late. There are also other diseases that one may need to be mindful of if one would like to go to those countries.

While for the most part, immunizations are only recommended, they are also required in some countries. Often vaccinations (like yellow fever) are required for traveling to more unusual destinations. This topic is particularly important for traveling in Africa - Africa is a very rewarding continent and one that is difficult but still possible to travel on a budget.


Vaccination for Yellow Fever

"Yellow fever is prevented by an extremely effective vaccine, which is safe and affordable. A single dose of yellow fever vaccine is sufficient to grant sustained immunity and life-long protection against yellow fever disease."

World Health Organization

There are many countries - mostly in Sub-Saharan Africa where all visitors must be vaccinated for Yellow Fever before entry. If one is planning to go, remember that one has to be immunized at least 10 days before entry.

  • 10 Days: Period For The Vaccine to be Effective

When one is immunized for Yellow Fever, one will receive a yellow vaccination card that one needs to show on entry - and often when applying for the visa.

Risk countries include many tropical countries in Africa and South America - although it is normally only countries in Africa that require one to be vaccinated.

  • Exemption: Babies Less Than 9 Months Old Do Not Need To Be Vaccinated
  • Number of Doses: One Dose

Often the requirement is for countries to protect themselves from people bringing the virus into the country, and other times it is to protect the visitors from yellow fever in their countries.

Previously the WHO recommend a yellow fever vaccination once every 10 years. Since 11th July 2016 that has been extended for life.

Countries that one needs to be vaccinated to visit (regardless of where one is coming from are): Mali, Uganda, Angola, DR Congo, Congo, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Chad, Niger, Cameroon, and many others in Africa (as well as French Guiana in South America). Westerners typically do not need to be vaccinated to visit South Africa.

One should check the requirements before traveling as many countries may require it if one is coming or is from an at-risk country.

Related: Why You Should Visit The Cradle of Humankind In South Africa

Covid-19 Vaccination Requirements

It is very difficult to supply information about the requirements for Covid-19 vaccination requirements as the requirements are constantly changing. Requirments are in a state of flux and as of the time of writing (March 2022), the requirements around the world are very complicated as every country has its own requirements and they are frequently changing those requirements.

  • Tip: Check For Updates - It Is Not Possible To Give Specific Information Here
  • Fluid: The Requirements Are Fluid and Changing

Some countries do not require it, some only recognize certain brands, others require booster shots - included three shots.

It is very very important to check these requirements as one is risking being denied boarding, refused entry and deported, or forced to quarantine for up to 14 days at one's own expense if one gets it wrong.

Some airlines may even require vaccination to fly with them - regardless of the requirements of the countries that one is flying to and from.

Before traveling, one should seek up-to-date information. One can often find this on the airlines' website, the government website, or with the International Air Transport Association.

Related: Your Most Pressing FAQs about Visiting South Africa

Other Vaccination Requirements

Smallpox Requirements:

Between 1944 and 1981 there were requirements to be vaccinated against smallpox. But the eradication of smallpox was one of the greatest medical triumphs of the 20th century. On being declared eradicated in the 1980s, there have not been any requirements to be vaccinated against it to travel.

  • Requirement: There Are No Longer Requirements For Smallpox

Polio Requirements:

Polio has been mostly but not completely eliminated - it is still present in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Pakistan has vaccine requirements for those staying for more than 4 weeks. There are also other countries that have some requirements for those coming for the very few "key at-risk countries." 

  • Polio: Not Completely Eliminated
  • Requirements: A Few Requirements For very Specific Countries

Meningococcal Meningitis Requirements:

Reportedly some countries with some vaccine requirements for meningococcal meningitis include The Gambia, Indonesia, Lebanon, Libya, the Philippines, and Saudi Arabia. In practice, many of these countries may not really enforce this and generally, visitors do not need to worry about this disease. If in doubt, check with an official source.

  • Requirements: There Might Be a Very Few Requirements - Particularly For The Haji in Saudi Arabia

Next: The Best Time To Visit South Africa's Largest Game Park, And What To Expect