STDs and Travel
An estimated 20% of travelers say that they have had casual sex with a new partner while in a foreign country.1 The excitement of being on vacation may encourage people to do things they would not do at home, and the inhibition-lowering effects of drugs and alcohol can also contribute to this behavior. Travelers who have casual sex, whether vaginal, anal, or oral sex, are at risk for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), such as HIV, herpes, and gonorrhea. Many STDs are treatable, but preventing an STD is always best.
What can I do to prevent an STD?
The most reliable way to prevent an STD is to not have sex, including oral sex. However, you can take other steps to protect yourself:
- Get hepatitis A and hepatitis B vaccines before you travel.
- Ask your doctor about an HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccine.
- Use a latex condom correctly every time you have sex. Bring condoms from the United States, since those in other countries may not be up to US quality standards.
- Do not have sex with commercial sex workers, even if prostitution is legal in your destination.
- Limit the amount of alcohol you drink, and don’t use recreational drugs. People take more risks when they have been drinking or using drugs.
What are the symptoms of an STD?
The symptoms of an STD are different depending on the infection. In fact, many STDs don’t cause any symptoms at all. If you have had unprotected sex, talk to your doctor about getting tested for STDs. Make sure to have an open and honest conversation with your doctor about your sexual history so he or she can determine the appropriate STD test(s) for you. Although most STDs don’t show signs or symptoms, some possible signs of an STD include the following:
- Pain when you urinate or have sex.
- Discharge from the vagina, penis, anus, or throat.
- Unexplained rash or lesion.
- Jaundice (yellow color of the skin and eyes).
What do I do if I think I have an STD?
Treating STDs early is important to prevent more serious and long-term complications. If you think you have an STD:
- Stop having sex.
- See a doctor immediately.
- Tell the doctor about recent international travel (since some STDs may be more common in other countries).
- Notify your recent sex partners if your doctor diagnoses an STD.
For more information: Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)
1. Vivancos R, Abubakar I, Hunter PR. Foreign travel, casual sex, and sexually transmitted infections: systematic review and meta-analysis. International Journal of Infectious Diseases. 2010;14(10):e842–51.
- Page last reviewed: March 19, 2013
- Page last updated: March 19, 2013
- Content source:
- National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, Division of Viral Diseases and National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, Division of Global Migration and Quarantine
- Page maintained by: Office of the Associate Director for Communication, Digital Media Branch, Division of Public Affairs