How to travel abroad with prescription drugs

Written by nicole whitney
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How to travel abroad with prescription drugs
Your prescription drugs come under scrutiny when you travel. (pills image by Dariusz Urbanczyk from

Your passport is in hand and your travel itinerary in order. You have prepared just about everything you need to travel abroad. As you decide what to pack, medications probably top the list of necessary items. Take steps to ensure that you do not find yourself halfway around the world without necessary medications, or in legal trouble with the local authorities.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Medications
  • Prescriptions
  • Luggage

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  1. 1

    Have a new prescription filled before you leave home so that you have the maximum amount of medication your prescription allows as you travel.

  2. 2

    Carry a letter from you physician describing your medical condition and the prescription drugs you take, including their generic names. Bring your doctor's contact information and a written prescription in case you need to refill while abroad.

  3. 3

    Pack your drugs in their original containers with distinct labels. You may bring liquid medications, but the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) requires that you declare to a TSA officer if your items exceed 85.1gr. or are not contained in a one-quart zip-top plastic bag.

  4. 4

    Look at the web page of the foreign embassies of all the countries you will visit and confirm that your drugs do not qualify as illegal narcotics (see Resources). The State Department says that more than one-third of U.S. citizens incarcerated abroad are held on drug charges. Tranquillisers or amphetamines you purchase legally in one country could be illegal in the next one you visit.

  5. 5

    Checks the laws of the country before purchasing large amounts of drugs while you are there. Authorities there could arrest you on suspicion that you are purchasing drugs for commercial distribution. Call the local U.S. embassy or consulate for specific information about foreign restrictions.

  6. 6

    Pack prescription drugs in your checked and carry-on luggage. If you become separated from your checked luggage, you will still have a supply available for immediate use.

  7. 7

    Wear a medical alert bracelet and carry a letter from your physician outlining recommended treatment for emergencies if you react adversely to certain medication, food or insect bites, or if you have an unusual medical condition.

Tips and warnings

  • Consider purchasing a short-term insurance policy that covers your medical needs as you travel abroad. Medical facilities aboard generally do not accept U.S. medical insurance, and Social Security and Medicare coverage do not follow you abroad.
  • You may ask TSA security officer to visually inspect your medications and medical equipment instead of putting them through the x-ray machine. (see reference 3)
  • Protect yourself from infection while abroad. Get any vaccinations recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. See the agency's "Travelers' Health" web page for a checklist (see Resources).

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