Traveling Abroad with Medicine

If you’re planning to bring your prescription or over-the-counter medicine on your trip, you need to make sure your medicine is travel-ready. Many travelers must carry their medicines with them across international borders to treat chronic or serious health problems. However, each country has its own guidelines about which medicines are legal. Medicines that are commonly prescribed or available over the counter in the United States could be considered unlicensed or controlled substances in other countries. For example, in Japan, some inhalers and certain allergy and sinus medications are illegal. Also, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has strict narcotics laws that have landed many travelers in prison.

While rules vary from country to country, there can be serious consequences if you violate the laws of the country you’re visiting. These consequences can range from confiscation (removal) of your medicine, which could harm your medical treatment, to stiff penalties, including imprisonment on charges for drug trafficking. To avoid medicine-related issues during your travel, follow these tips from CDC Travelers’ Health.

  • Pack smart and put your medicines in your carry-on luggage. You don’t want to be stuck without them if your suitcase gets lost!
    • Bring enough medicine to last your whole trip, plus a little extra in case of delays.
    • Keep medicines in their original, labeled containers. Ensure that they are clearly labeled with your full passport name, doctor’s name, generic and brand name, and exact dosage.
    • Bring copies of all prescriptions, including the generic names for medicines.
    • Leave a copy of your prescriptions at home with a friend or relative in case you lose your copy or need an emergency refill.
    • Pack a note on letterhead stationery from the prescribing doctor (preferably translated into the language understood at your destination) for controlled substances, such as marijuana, and injectable medicines, such as EpiPens and insulin.
Buying Medicine at Your Destination

Don’t plan on being able to buy your medicines at your destination. They may not be available, and if they are, they may not meet US quality standards. In many developing countries, counterfeit drugs are a big problem.

If you must buy drugs during your trip in an emergency, there are ways to reduce your chances of buying counterfeit drugs:

  • Buy medicines only from licensed pharmacies and get a receipt. Do not buy medicines from open markets.
  • Ask the pharmacist whether the drug has the same active ingredient as the one you were taking.
  • Make sure the medicine is in its original packaging.
  • Look closely at the packaging. Sometimes poor-quality printing or otherwise strange-looking packaging will indicate a counterfeit product.
This information is directly from the CDC.