4 Surprising Ways to Travel Nurse Abroad: Tips for Travel Nurses

By Matthew Lockerman

July 1, 2020



4 Surprising Ways to Travel Nurse Abroad

Being a travel nurse is great because it lets you see new places, have a flexible schedule, and make good pay. If you want to leave the country to be a travel nurse abroad, however, things can get a little tricky. To begin with, you will need to speak the language fluently. Then, other countries will want you to have the same licenses and qualifications as their own local nurses. Of course, if you decide you really want to be a nurse abroad, you can do it! All you need is time, and you’ll probably have a blast learning a new language and culture. But if you just can’t wait that long, here are four surprising ways to be a travel nurse abroad.

Cruise Ships

There are lots of people who love cruises. They travel the seas, visit distant places, and the whole time their every need is taken care of, including basic healthcare! Large cruise ships carry more than five thousand passengers, and in case any of those passengers have a medical need, each ship has a small medical department. Two to three doctors and up to six nurses are on board to handle routine medical problems and emergencies 24 hours a day. If it’s something really serious, the ship will get to a port for help as quickly as possible.

The positives of being a nurse on a cruise ship are you get to travel abroad, have housing and food paid for, and more off-boat privileges than the average passenger at ports of call. Most of the issues you deal with will be minor, like coughs, colds, and chronic conditions. On the other hand, the pay for working on a cruise ship will be lower than most other nursing positions. You have to weigh that against the free housing, food, and other benefits. You’ll also be on call basically all the time and you might get tired of being on a ship. Contracts, though, can be as short as a few weeks or as long as several months. So, this is a job where you can dip your toes in before you have to commit to a long drive.

Humanitarian Work

Nursing skills are needed in many places around the world. There are chronic problems that nurses have the skills to help address, like poor sanitation and lack of healthcare access. There are also crises like war and natural disasters, where suddenly a lot of people are in need of medical attention. So, many of the non-profits that organize aid for these areas are specifically looking for persons with medical training. It’s an opportunity for nurses with the time and interest to offer their skills to those in the world who most need it. At the same time, this is a way to nurse abroad, learn new skills, and hone old ones.

Maybe this sounds like work you would love, and you’re wondering if any nurses get paid to do international humanitarian work. The answer is yes! Doctors without Borders and the ICRC are two organizations that hire nurses and employ them around the world to do everything from providing basic healthcare to take care of wounded in a war zone. It can, however, be competitive to get a job in this type of organization. They tend to look for experienced nurses who can speak one of their in-demand languages. Having experience volunteering overseas for similar work is also a plus. To find out more about what kind of experience, specialty, and languages would best prepare you for international humanitarian work, visit their websites at doctorswithoutborders.org and icrc.org.


For any nurses who have considered serving in the military, this is one more way to get yourself abroad. The Air Force, Army, and Navy have bases in Europe and Asia. Only make sure you do your research into what military life is like, because joining any branch requires a multi-year commitment. Nursing in the military shared many similarities with civilian nurses, but make sure you research the differences. There are shift schedules in the military that are extremely rare in civilian life, like the 7, 12-hour shift every two weeks. There are also responsibilities specific to the military life that civilian nurses don’t deal with. However, the benefits might sway someone with the right interest. In addition to serving your country, military life can offer structure, tuition reimbursement and, of course, travel!

Antarctica Nurse

Okay, okay – when you think ‘travel’ you probably aren’t thinking of Antarctica! Believe it or not they need nurses, and going does technically count as travel. Though it may take a nurse with an especially adventuresome heart for Antarctica to be an appealing. So, what’s in Antarctica?

Most importantly for a nurse, there are thousands of researchers and support staff in Antarctica! Since 1956 the United States Antarctic Program has been in the south pole region to study the planet’s climate, the upper atmosphere, and even space. The pay may not be as good as working in the non-antarctic world, but for those who are interested, it could turn out that the adventure more than make up for it! You would experience a climate unlike anywhere else on the planet, like months of sunlight at a time and, of course, super-cold temperatures. For supplies, you would depend on ships called icebreakers, which smash paths through the ice to reach stations in Antarctica. And, you would never be able to see the whole continent, because Antarctica is larger than the US and Mexico combined!

So, what kind of nurses work in Antarctica? Some military branches provide support to Antarctica operations, and so a military route might get you there. However, you can also just apply! UTMB health posts medical opportunities to work in Antarctica here. They look for nurses with at least five years of experience and may prefer that experience to be in certain specialties. To learn more, take a look at the Antarctica program’s webpage, www.usap.gov. If you’re interested in reading about a day in the life of a nurse in Antarctica, check out this article at Health Central.


There you have it, four ways to travel nurse abroad. Nursing skills are needed everywhere. If you are a travel nurse and there’s somewhere you’ve always wanted to go, don’t give up on it. It may take a little ingenuity and some hard work, but it’s possible for nursing to take you anywhere in the world you want to go!

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