Travelling with Medication: What You Should Know Before Your Trip

If you’ll be travelling with medication during your upcoming trip, there are a few basics you should know.

If you’ll be travelling with medication during your upcoming trip, there are a few basics you should know.

Every country has slightly different restrictions when it comes to travelling with medication for personal use. Unfortunately, it’s also not that easy to get the right information about it before you board a plane.

Every country independently regulates medication imports and this information is not always readily available to the general public. If you are planning an international trip and need to pack prescription or over-the-counter medication, this is what you need to know about bringing across borders.

Travelling with Medicine: Quantity Basics

How much medicine you’ll be able to travel with is dependent on the destination as well as the type of medication. In most instances, travellers can bring up to a 90-day supply with them, provided it doesn’t contain a controlled substance.

A controlled substance refers to an ingredient that can lead to addiction and misuse, which includes certain narcotic and psychotropic medication. Most medicines that are designed to make you feel and behave differently tend to contain controlled substances. A few examples of regulated psychotropics and narcotics include Vicodin, Ambien and Adderall.

While these substances have strict limitations, they can differ between countries. For example, while some countries will allow travellers to bring a month’s supply of medications that contain a controlled substance, others only allow enough for several days. Countries such as Japan actually prohibit many of these types of medications completely, even if you have a prescription from your doctor.

Medication and Your Travel Destination

So, how do you find out what will and won’t be permitted in certain countries?

There are two main websites that you can consult before your trip:

  1. The International Narcotics Control Board. This independent organisation that’s involved in international drug control. Unfortunately, since countries are required to report regulations themselves, the information is not always accurate or even available.
  2. The International Society of Travel Medicine. This is a pharmaceutical group that has put together their own lift of regulations, which may be able to provide you with specifics on your travel destination.

It’s important to check more than one source before you travel, especially if you require specific medication every day during your trip. In fact, you could probably even check with your general practitioner whether they know what you can take over and how much. You may even need to find an alternate medication in some instances. Another option is to contact the country’s embassy, consulate or national drug administration body to find out what the requirements are.

If you are permitted to travel with your prescribed or over-the-counter medication, make sure that you bring all of the necessary supporting documentation along with you. This includes a copy of your original prescription and a letter from your doctor that outlines the specifics of the medication and what it’s treating. You will need these documents when you go through customs and are asked whether you have anything to declare. If you happen to be travelling with more medication than is permitted, you will definitely need to declare it. Unfortunately, this also means that you may need to apply for an import license before your trip.  

Travelling with Medication: How to Pack

Here are a few dos and don’ts that you should follow when packing medication for your trip:

  • Do carry the medication in your hand luggage
  • Don’t place the medication in an unmarked pill box. It needs to remain in its original labelled packaging
  • Do store your medication in a way that protects it from temperature changes and moisture
  • Don’t mail your medication or carry it for anyone else

Travelling with medication doesn’t have to be complicated, it simply requires a little extra preparation, which is well worth it if it means having what you need on your trip.

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Jenny Cohen Drefler

Jenny Cohen Derfler

Air Dr CEO & Co-Founder

Jenny is the CEO and one of the Co-Founders at Air Doctor. She spent more than 20 years at Intel, most recently as general manager of its manufacturing facility in Israel and before that in various engineering and manufacturing roles in Silicon Valley. Air Doctor is her second startup having previously founded electric vehicle company ElectRoad.