Travelling abroad with medications: What are the rules?
There can be a lot to think about when you go abroad. You have to be aware of the local laws and culture, but there are also some things to consider before you even leave the country. Whether you’re flying or using another mode of transport, it’s not always easy to know what the rules are concerning what you can take with you. If you take medication, especially if it’s a prescription medication, you might be wondering about the rules for taking it on holiday. Even if you’ve done it before, it’s easy to forget or miss a change in the rules between holidays.
Use this guide to understand how to safely take your medication on holiday with you so that you can look after your health while you’re away.
Is Your Medication Allowed?
The first thing that you should do when taking medication abroad is check that you are allowed to take your medication into the country. Ideally, you should do this before booking a holiday. You don’t want to book and then later discover that you can’t take vital medication with you. You can find that some countries won’t allow certain medications or that they have limits on the amounts that you can bring into the country. Even medication that’s available over the counter in the UK could be controlled in other countries, so try not to make any assumptions.
You can often find the information you need from the relevant embassy or from the official travel advice website for the country you’re visiting.
Some medications contain controlled drugs. For these medications, you need extra proof that it’s prescribed to you if you have it with you when leaving or entering the UK. Before taking medicines abroad, you can ask your doctor or pharmacist if your medication contains a controlled drug, or check the ingredients against the controlled drugs list. If your medication contains a controlled drug listed as schedule 2, 3 or 4, you need either proof that it’s prescribed to you or a license.
To prove your prescription, you need the person who gives it to you to write a letter with your name, the countries you’re visiting and the dates you will be there, information about your medication, and their signature. A license is needed if you’re travelling for three months or more, or carrying enough medication that it would last you for at least three months. You can find the application form online from the Home Office.
Taking Medication on a Plane
If you can take your medication on holiday, you need to know the rules for flying with it. Most medications and medical equipment are acceptable to fly with if you keep it in its original packaging. You should keep your medication in your hand luggage, and have a copy of your prescription with you. You might be asked to show your prescription when going through security at the airport if you want to take your medication on a plane. It’s a good idea to check with your airline before you travel so you know if they have any specific rules. Spare medication in your hold luggage, with another copy of your prescription, is also a smart idea.
Most liquids are limited to a maximum of 100ml when you fly, but medications are one of the exceptions. As with other medication, keep any liquid medication in its original packaging and make sure you have your prescription with you. If you have medication that needs to be kept at a certain temperature, your pharmacist can offer you advice on how to carry and store it. You might need to use a thermos flask, an ice pack or a cool bag to help keep your medication at the right temperature.
Managing Your Medication While You’re Away
When you’re on holiday, your usual routine is disrupted. This can be good in lots of ways, giving you a break from everything, but it can have its downsides too. If you take regular medication, you can end up forgetting to take it when you should.
If you want to stay organised, using a travel pillbox can help you to stay on top of your medications. Once you arrive at your destination, you can sort pills into different days and times. Some pillboxes have detachable days, making them easy to carry around. If you carry any medication with you while out and about, be sure to check the local laws. In some places, such as some states in the US, you’re required to keep prescription medications in original packaging. You might also find it helpful to set an alarm on your phone to remind you to take your medication.
Make sure you know how to legally and safely carry your medication by doing some research before you leave. You can ask your doctor or pharmacist for help if you’re not sure.