In a prospective survey conducted between May 1998 and September 2001, the prevalence of carriage of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE) and gentamicin-resistant Gram-negative bacilli (GGNB) was determined in 1167 patients repatriated from foreign hospitals to The Netherlands. Swab specimens, demographic data and clinical data were obtained during transfer of the patients from the foreign hospitals. The total prevalence of carriage of resistant microorganisms was 18.2%. MRSA was carried by 2.7% of all patients, and by 4.7% of the patients repatriated to a Dutch hospital. Antimicrobial treatment (adjusted odds ratio (OR) 3.4; 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.2–9.7), length of stay in a foreign hospital of > 14 days (adjusted OR 5.4; 95% CI 2.3–12) and artificial ventilation (adjusted OR 8.5; 95% CI 1.8–41) were risk factors for carriage of MRSA. VRE and GGNB were isolated from 2.7% and 14.1% of the patients, respectively. Transfer from Asia, and southern, southeastern and eastern Europe, were risk factors for carriage of GGNB. These carriage rates were high compared to those found in patients in Dutch hospitals, where the rates are < 1% for MRSA, 2% for VRE, and 4.5% for GGNB. The highest risk of acquisition of GGNB was associated with the country from where the patient was repatriated, rather than with the antimicrobial treatment received by the individual patient in the foreign hospital.