Background Malaria chemoprophylaxis is a mainstay of malaria prevention in travelers. Adequate pretravel advice forms the basis for efficient malaria prophylaxis. This study assessed the determinants for seeking pretravel advice and evaluated the quality of advice from each source and its influence on the patterns and outcome of malaria prophylaxis intake.

Methods In March and April 2004, a self-administered questionnaire was distributed by cabin crews to passengers flying back to Germany from three popular tourist destinations: Kenya, Senegal, and Thailand. To evaluate the quality of advice and actual intake, figures were assessed against the official recommendations of the German Society of Travel Medicine and International Health (DTG).

Results A total of 1,001 passengers were included in the study (Kenya, 492; Senegal, 131; and Thailand, 378), of which 81% had sought any kind of pretravel health advice. Travelers’ age and time of pretravel consultation were associated with the source of information consulted. Seventy-five percent of travelers from Senegal and Kenya received DTG compliant advice compared to only 17% of travelers from areas with low malaria risk in Thailand. Travelers returning from Kenya and Senegal had used correct chemoprophylaxis in only 65 and 47% of trips, respectively. In multivariate analysis, the factors determining correct intake among Senegal and Kenya travelers were receiving pretravel advice (from nonmedical professionals: OR 4.4, 95% CI 1.9–10.0 and from medical professionals: OR 15.4, 95% CI 7.3–32.4), a correct risk perception (OR 2.9, 95% CI 1.9–4.5), 2 to 3 weeks of travel abroad (vs a duration >3 wk: OR 2.2, 95% CI 1.3–3.8), and travel to Kenya (OR 1.9, 95% CI 1.1–3.1).

Conclusions Malaria prevention among a large proportion of German travelers to tropical destinations is inadequate. Public health efforts should be made to raise awareness among travelers, travel agencies, and medical institutions in Germany.