The importance of Japanese encephalitis (JE) in endemic populations and in travellers requires a balanced assessment. This disease represents an important public health problem in some endemic areas, which contrasts with the minimal risk for travellers to endemic areas. This is reflected by high numbers of infections mainly among children in endemic countries and by few case reports among tourists and even expatriates. The total number of case reports between 1978 and 2008 amounts to a risk of one to two cases per year. Nevertheless, some travelling groups may be at higher risk when visiting or working in high risk areas. A new vaccine against Japanese encephalitis will soon be registered in Switzerland. This paper contributes to the scarce data available for decision making whether or not to recommend the vaccination to tourists and expatriates.