I'm about to be going to South America and I've been told vaccines can end up costing quite a lot of money (probably $300-600 per person).

Just wondering, is it better (better in terms of cheaper but still safe) to go to an actual travel doctor or to a general practitioner (GP)?

I've been told that travel doctors know more specific information about where you're going and that can save you money because they won't recommend vaccines that you don't need to take. However, they sell you the vaccines too which is likely to be more expensive plus I would've thought would be an incentive for them to overservice.

GPs on the other hand won't have the vaccines so you'll likely have to get them from the chemist (which i assume will be cheaper) but they may not know as much and will likely over- prescribe you to be on the safe side.

Has anyone been to a travel doctor? Do they actually know a lot more than the regular GPs?

Another option is to figure out what vaccines I need and just get a GP to get a prescription for them. I figure surely their advice can't be any different to the Center for Disease Prevention right? (http://www.cdc.gov/)

  • 3
    The answer probably depends on details of the health care system where you live. Given your use of "GP" and "chemist" I'm guessing UK? Jan 13, 2014 at 23:11

4 Answers 4


Generally the answer is going to be 'it depends'.

Some doctors are great and have a large knowledge of travel. Others will just pull out a book that lists the recommended vaccinations.

To be fair, this may even be what your travel doctor does.

It's going to be the same vaccine, and if it's just a case of deciding whether or not to get a vaccine, you can look at the CDC or other health websites, which they might even do themselves.

For me, I regularly have to go to a GP, so I do it at the same time. Usually it's fine, but one GP in the UK had a special 'travel nurse' you had to book in with.

The downside perhaps of going to a GP, is that there's a chance that they may not have the vaccine in stock, whereas it'd be pretty bad if a travel doctor didn't have the common vaccines in stock.

  • thanks for the quick response. Yeah, it costs $100 just to get an appointment with the travel doc - where as it's bulk billed for the GP. Having a look at CDC, it looks like I'm up for the works anyway cause I'm going into Peru and Bolivia. There's no way a doctor would recommend anything LESS than the CDC recommendations so it might be best just to go the GP route. Jan 13, 2014 at 6:20
  • Indeed, for South America it's just the yellow fever some insist on and others don't, from when I was there. If you're doing the jungle they're more likely to push for it.
    – Mark Mayo
    Jan 13, 2014 at 6:41
  • My GP just looks up some website, and then asks me some questions like "Are you going into the jungle".
    – WW.
    Jan 13, 2014 at 6:52
  • @MrPizzzzzza That is ridiculously expensive. In Holland you only pay 7.50 euro's for a consult with the travel doc. Of course you pay for the vaccines you use, but that is done immediately.
    – Bernhard
    Jan 13, 2014 at 12:24

Before I first started travelling to exotic places, I went to a travel clinic in a hospital in London. We went through a list of the countries I was visiting and made a list of vaccinations I would need. A bunch of "normal" ones I got at my GP, because they are free under the NHS in the UK, but the more specialized ones I paid for at the travel clinic and that was not cheap.

The doctor there took her time and we discussed things thoroughly, my GP is always super busy and he never has time to talk, so I'm glad I went to the travel clinic.

Later I learned that the malaria pills they recommended (and tested on me) did not work for some of the countries I was going to. They just recommended one type without checking the latest information about the areas. Also the pills were five times more expensive in London compared to Asia.

For another trip I got most vaccinations from a (different) GP and just yellow fever shots from a specialist.

I think it comes down to how much you trust your GP. If required you can still see a specialist afterwards.

Don't wait until a week before you leave, some vaccinations required various shots over many weeks.


Another option: If you know what shots you need there's likely a public health facility that has them at a good price. This is ONLY for shots, though, you're not going to get any medical advice.


For the vaccinations a general practioner (GP) will provide you good and sufficient advice. There is no need to see a specialised "travel doctor". Even the smartest travel doctor is not aware of all the possible diseases all around the world. For the details he will check recommendations from national and international bodies, just as a GP will do. Moreover, if you go to "your" GP, you are likely to get a more personalised advice, as he knows much more about your health status than a travel doctor does.

After all you should know that a so-called travel doctor is not a doctor with a huge travel experience, who has detailed first hand experience about the places you may want to visit. It is rather a doctor specialised in infectious diseases. Hence, the travel doctor is advisable when you come home and you have some suspect symptoms. He is probably better suited to interpret and treat them appropriately. Early detection is of paramount importance for some "tropical" diseases. 

I would not go the GP and simply waive a list of vaccines you want to get. He will probably give you a prescription and that's it. I would let him do the research and formulate a recommendation based on what he found out and based on his medical knowledge and intuition. That's his job ... Of course, you can double check his recommendations with what you have found and ask him about it. 

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