Practical travel guide for dialysis patients

Most patients who receive dialysis or have had a kidney transplant can travel safely, enjoy their vacation and at the same continue their treatment while away from home. 

But there are some important factors to consider while planning your trip, and you’ll need to make sure all your treatment needs are taken care of in advance.It is essential that you always consult your medical team before planning to travel. Below you can find some helpful tips to consider if you wish to combine vacation and dialysis.

How should dialysis patients organize their trip?

Many dialysis centers have a staff member who is experienced in arranging dialysis treatments away from home and can assist you with the planning of the process. Travel for kidney patients on dialysis requires more planning, so you should start planning at least six to eight weeks in advance.For domestic travel, start making arrangements at least 30 days before departure, whereas for foreign travel, getting started even earlier is a good idea. If you would prefer your treatments to be scheduled on specific days and at specific times, inform the center in advance. It is important that the dialysis center knows your exact dialysis dates and preferred dialysis time to check the availability and offer you the best possible option for your holiday dialysis.

How do I look for a suitable dialysis unit?

You will need to consider several factors in order to choose a suitable dialysis unit including the location, distance from your hotel, schedule, the means of transportation, and quality of care.  

What information will the dialysis center need to provide dialysis with safety for me?

Most dialysis centers require the following information for your admission to the center, such as the dates that the dialysis treatments will be performed, your contact details, your medical record and recent lab results, dialysis access type, as well as a list of the medications you take during treatment and at home. This information will be sent to your destination center for review and it is important for the doctor and the dialysis center to know as much about you as possible to serve you best while visiting their center. In addition to mailing your records to the center, you should hand carry a copy with you.

Do I need to bring any medical supplies or medicines with me?

As is the case for anybody on long-term treatment, make sure you take plenty of medication with you when you travel, and if necessary, allow time to order enough supplies before you head off. In general, bring enough of your medications to last for your entire trip to deal with possible emergencies and written prescriptions just in case.

Do I need a special diet when I travel?

When you travel, it's important to continue eating kidney - friendly foods. Ask for advice from your renal dietician where you're traveling and what foods you expect to be available and make a travel diet plan accordingly. In general, avoid foods high in potassium an phosphorus. Also, try to limit sodium consumption as well as fluid intake.

Will my insurance cover treatment during travel?

Each country has different foreign travel insurance policies are generally designed to handle medical emergencies. Make sure you understand the costs before making a deal with a dialysis provider in a foreign country and ask whether the dialysis center is affiliated with your insurance organization.

How can I be sure about the quality of care I will be getting away from my regular center?

When making your arrangements for hemodialysis during your trip, you may ask if the dialysis center reuses dialyzers, what are the hours and days of operation, what types of dialysis machine does the center have (conventional, high flux capability), whether there is public transportation available to get to the center and how many patients are assigned to each nurse. This information is usually available at the corporate web site of the dialysis center, but you may also register in a forum of holiday dialysis, or book your trip via an experienced travel agency for holiday dialysis.

Is it possible to travel if I am active on a transplant waiting list?

You can still travel, but simply inform your doctor about your travel plans, so that he may contact you in case a kidney becomes available.

Fotis Makris, Scientific Director at Mesogeios Dialysis Center in Palaio Faliro 


National Kidney Foundation: Travel Tips: A Guide for Kidney Patients, 2017

National Kidney Foundation: A “New Normal”: Life on Dialysis—The First 90 Days, 2007