Like everyone else, kidney patients also need a break now and then. Holidays offer a chance to enjoy life and provide respite for caregivers. Business travel is feasible for kidney patients too, whether in the UK or abroad.

Medical teams typically encourage travel and holidays for patients, regardless of their therapy. However, it’s crucial to consult your renal unit before making any plans. Even transplant recipients need a letter from their medical team to secure travel insurance and receive immunisation advice.

While travel for dialysis patients requires more planning, the limitations on destinations and holiday types are often fewer than expected. Assistance is available to ensure a memorable holiday experience.

Talk to your Renal Unit
Before taking any action, make sure to consult with your renal 
unit. Obtain their approval for travel and seek their assistance in planning your treatment while you’re away.

Choosing a destination
When selecting a destination, it’s important to make sure you’re reasonably close to medical assistance in case of emergencies.

Choose your Accommodation
When selecting accommodation, ensure that it meets your needs and any special requirements you may have. For instance, check if they can accommodate a special diet.

What to ask the Dialysis Unit before booking
1.    Acceptance of Visitors: Inquire if they accept visitors for dialysis.
2.    Preferred Date: Specify the date you plan to go for dialysis.
3.    EHIC/GHIC Acceptance: If traveling within the European Union, ask if they accept the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) or the new Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) as payment.
4.    Additional Charges: Check if there are any other charges beyond the standard dialysis fee.
5.    Patient Eligibility: Ask if they accept patients who have tested positive for Hepatitis, HIV, or AIDS. Note that it’s generally not recommended to dialyse in a unit that accepts these patients.

European Health Insurance Card (GHIC/EHIC)
Purpose and Coverage:
•    The GHIC (Global Health Insurance Card) or EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) provides access to necessary healthcare services during your travels within the European Union (EU), European Economic Area (EEA), and Switzerland.
•    In the event of a minor health emergency, the card entitles you to free or subsidized treatment. You’ll receive the same level of care as citizens of the country you’re visiting.
•    Note that while most services are covered, some costs may still be incurred in certain EU countries

Dialysis Treatment Coverage:
The GHIC or EHIC covers dialysis treatment if you use a state-run renal unit. This means that if you’re a renal patient and require dialysis while abroad, seek out publicly funded or state-operated renal centres.

However, it’s essential to avoid privately run renal units, as the card won’t cover treatment costs there.
Remember to carry your GHIC or EHIC with you when traveling—it’s your key to accessing necessary medical care!

Ensure you obtain appropriate travel insurance that covers your pre-existing medical conditions. For assistance in finding a suitable insurance company with medical coverage, feel free to contact the NKF Helpline at 0800 169 0936; the call is free or you can e-mail [email protected] for a list.

You can obtain information about various health hazards and diseases abroad from MASTA (Medical Advisory Service for Travellers Abroad).


Vaccination Considerations:
Before your trip, determine if any vaccinations are necessary for your specific destination. Some countries require specific immunizations to protect against diseases prevalent in their region.
However, kidney patients should exercise caution. Not all vaccinations are suitable for individuals with kidney conditions. Consult your renal unit or healthcare provider before getting vaccinated.

NKF Leaflet on Holiday Vaccinations:
The National Kidney Federation (NKF) provides a helpful leaflet specifically addressing holiday vaccinations for transplanted patients. It covers essential information about vaccinations, potential risks, and recommendations.
You can access this information Here
Remember to prioritise your health and seek professional advice when planning vaccinations for your trip!

Traveling with medications
When traveling with medications, it’s essential to be aware of airline policies and procedures. Here are some key points to consider:
Check Airline Policies: Before booking your flight, inquire about the airline’s policy regarding medical equipment, needles, and medications. 

Each airline may have different restrictions or requirements. Some airlines may ask you to fill out a specific form detailing your medical equipment and needs.

Airport Special Assistance: If you require Airport Special Assistance, make sure to arrange it at least 48 hours before your flight. This service can help accommodate your specific needs during travel.

Liquid Medications: The amount of liquid medication you can carry in your hand luggage is subject to current security guidelines. Having a letter from your doctor explaining your medical condition and the need for specific medications can be helpful.

Remember to plan ahead, communicate with the airline, and carry the necessary documentation to ensure a smooth journey with your medications. Safe travels! 

Packing your medications 

When packing your medications, remember to split your tablet supply. Keep half in your hand luggage and pack the other half in the checked luggage. Additionally, carry a letter from your doctor confirming that the drugs are prescribed.

If you’re carrying medications that require refrigeration, consider using a small cool bag or jiffy bag with ice packs. Alternatively, a chilled wide-necked thermos flask can also keep them cool. EPO (erythropoietin) doesn’t need refrigeration for journeys up to 6 hours, but be mindful of transfer times and delays. When returning, declare any drugs you received or were prescribed abroad to customs.
Important Travel Tips for Insulin and Medications:

1.    Carry Insulin in Cabin Baggage: Ensure you have enough insulin with you in your cabin baggage rather than placing it in your checked luggage. Cold temperatures in the hold can deactivate insulin.

2.    Pack Medications Properly: Keep all medications, syringes, and medical equipment in their original packaging. Airport staff may need to inspect the containers during security checks.

3.    Notify Cabin Crew About Hypodermic Needles: If you need to use a hypodermic needle during the flight, inform the cabin crew. They will provide a sharps box for safe disposal. Note that cabin crew cannot administer medications or injections.

Traveling with a Dialysis Machine: Important Tips

1.    Contact Your Airline in Advance: If you require any medical assistance related to your dialysis machine, reach out to your airline at least 48 hours before your travel. They can provide guidance and address any concerns.

2.    Excess Baggage Consideration: Airlines should not charge you for carrying a dialysis machine as excess baggage. It’s essential medical equipment, and you should be able to bring it without extra fees.

3.    Battery-Operated Equipment: Since power supply availability on board cannot be guaranteed, ensure that your dialysis machine is battery operated. This way, you won’t face any issues during the flight.

4.    In-Flight Usage Restrictions: Keep in mind that you may not be able to use your dialysis machine during taxi, take-off, or approach and landing. Follow the crew’s instructions for safe and appropriate usage.

Peritoneal Dialysis fluid 

Your renal unit will help you to make the necessary arrangements for your peritoneal dialysis fluids to be delivered to your holiday destination. They will ensure that the equipment you are taking with you for your dialysis away from home base is fully insured, either by the supplier company or the renal unit, and help you to check the airline policy on traveling with this equipment. Also check in advance with your destination that they are happy to receive your clinical supplies on your behalf. Deliveries are usually made two working days before the patient travels.

Food and Beverage Safety Tips for Travelers
•    Consult with Your Dietitian: Before traveling abroad, discuss local foods to avoid with your dietitian. If you’re flying, inform the airline about any special dietary requirements.
•    Water Precautions: Be cautious about local water. This includes avoiding ice cubes and using bottled water for drinking and teeth brushing. Consider tying a ribbon around the tap as a reminder not to drink from it.
•    Choose Safe Water Sources:
o    Buy bottled water.
o    Use boiled water.
•    Salads and Ice Cubes:
o    Only consume salads and ice cubes if you’ve personally washed the salad and made the ice cubes using bottled water.
•    Street Vendor Ice Cream: Avoid purchasing ice cream from street vendors.

Make sure that you and your traveling companions have emergency contact numbers with you at all times.  These should include the medical contact at your destination and the numbers of your UK renal unit. Also your travel agent (if you have used one) and your travel insurance company.  

Department of Health Overseas Healthcare Services 
Tel :  0191 218 1999

Useful telephone number :
The Department of Health Overseas Healthcare Team - (+191 218 1999)

Useful information about the GHIC can be found by clicking Here

Useful information about the EHIC can be found by clicking Here

Further useful information about travel in Europe can be found at 

Download this Information in PDF

Updated June 2024

The National Kidney Federation cannot accept responsibility for information provided. The above is for guidance only.

More holiday information

Holiday guide for kidney patients

Holiday dialysis UK

Holiday Companies

Travel Insurance

Holiday guidelines for PD patients

Holiday guidelines for HD patients

Holiday guidelines for transplant patients

Holiday / Travel vaccinations in transplant patients