Travelling with medications

Anthea Skinner
I love travelling overseas. But I need to take a lot of medications with me. It can be difficult. I have some tips to share. Start by getting travel insurance. You should also have a check up with your doctor. Check each country that you are visiting about their rules about medications. The airline might also have rules. Pack your medicines in two separate bags in case one gets lost. Keep medicines in their original packets. Keep your prescription and a letter from your doctor with them. You should only carry with you what you need for the flight. Declare needles and syringes at airport security.
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Anthea Skinner on 19/05/2011
Six shiny yellow and red medications in capsule form

Check your medications are legal in the countries you are visiting

I love travelling overseas. It doesn't matter whether it is for work or pleasure. I enjoy the chance to see new sights, eat new foods and meet new people. But packing my bags is always a problem. I am never sure what to do with all the medications I have to take.

On an average day I take around 20 tablets. I also have to carry extras in case of emergencies. Over a couple of weeks this quickly adds up to a whole pile of drugs in my bag. My partner is also diabetic. When we travel together I worry about the customs officers scanning our bags. I worry they will think they have stumbled across a major drug smuggling operation.

Fortunately there are a number of things you can do when travelling. They will help make sure you have all the medications and equipment you need without ending up in a foreign prison.

Preparing for your trip

The most important thing any traveller can do to protect themselves is to make sure they have travel insurance. Medicare does not cover Australians while they are overseas. Medical bills can quickly mount up. Just make sure you declare any existing disabilities or illnesses to your insurer. You also need to carry details of your insurer and policy with you when you travel. It's also a good idea to visit your doctor for a check-up before you go. There might be vaccinations you require before the trip.

It's also important to check that your medications are legal in the countries you are visiting. Some prescription and even over-the-counter medications that are legal in Australia are banned in other countries. In some places you are also not allowed to bring in your own needles or syringes. Instead, you must buy them through official channels after landing. You can find links to foreign embassies on the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trading website. You should also check with your airline about any specific requirements they have.

Packing your bags

When packing your bags, split your medications and put them into two separate bags. This is in case one bag goes missing. Make sure all your drugs are in their original, labelled packages. If you usually buy medications in bulk like me, it might be worth buying a smaller packet to save room. Make sure you count out your tablets to ensure you have enough for the trip. But also pack extras in case of accident or emergency.

Carry your prescriptions with you. Also carry a letter from you doctor explaining what your medications are for. Make sure the letter includes any non-prescription drugs. The letter should detail how much medication you need to carry and that the drugs are for personal use. Make copies of both the prescription and letter and keep them packed with your medicines.

On the plane

When packing your hand luggage, only pack as much medication as you will need until you pick up your baggage. But do include some extras for emergencies or delays. Needles and syringes should be presented for inspection to airport staff at security screening points. You should also present a letter from your doctor. If your medications need to be kept refrigerated you should bring a small cooler with you. Most airlines will supply ice to top up the cooler as necessary.

With a little research and preparation you shouldn't have any troubles taking your medications with you. Now all that's left to do is enjoy your trip.



Department of Foreign Affairs and Trading: Foreign Embassies and Consulates (opens new window)

Smart Traveller – travelling well (opens new window)

Qantas Medical Assistance (opens new window)

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