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Traveling with medication and prescriptions

Every country has its own rules when it comes to taking medication overseas.

What you need to know

  • It is generally a good idea to travel with any prescription medicines you need to take.
  • You will need to do some research to make sure your meds are legal in every destination.
  • Travel insurance can help replace lost prescriptions overseas if you declare your pre-existing condition.

Is it a good idea to travel with prescription medication?

For obvious reasons, it's a good idea to make sure you can take your medication with you when you travel. You're taking it for a reason, after all. However, some drugs are going to cause you problems overseas if you're not prepared. A couple of common examples are medications with codeine, strong painkillers, potentially addictive drugs like methadone, as well as drugs that are still illegal in many countries like cannabis. Some drugs will have a carry limit, while others will be illegal to have at all.

Tips for traveling with medication

Here's a quick list of tips that you'll want to follow before you take any overseas trip.

  • Talk to your doctor and pharmacist. They're the experts, and they know you best. Get their opinion and follow it.
  • Get travel insurance. It's important to have cover, in case something happens to your medication or you need more while overseas. Make sure you declare your pre-existing condition when you sign up.
  • Do you research. Find out if your medication is legal in each of your destinations, and if there are any limits. The best way to find out specific information about a country is from their embassy in Australia. It's also worth reading up on the local culture of the country you're visiting. Some medications are controversial in some parts of the world, so you may need to be more discreet than you would be at home.
  • Bring proof. Keep your medications in the original packet, and get have your doctor write you a letter. If your medicines are on the PBS, you're required to have either a doctor's letter or a completed Medical Export Declaration Form when you leave Australia.
  • Look after your meds. Keep your medicine in your carry on, take enough for the whole trip and arrange refrigeration if needed. You may not be able to replace them if they're lost or stolen, so make sure they're safe and secure.

Finder survey: Which pre-existing medical conditions do Australians have?

Response
None62.41%
Mental health conditions12.14%
Asthma9.17%
Chronic pain8%
Diabetes7.46%
Other6.12%
Heart condition5.94%
Cancer3.6%
Physical disability3.6%
Kidney disease1.17%
Source: Finder survey by Pure Profile of 1112 Australians, December 2023

Entry conditions destinations popular with Australians

We looked at 20 popular destinations for Australians and the conditions of entry with prescription medications. Keep in mind that these are subject to change. You should contact the Australian embassy for any country you are planning to visit to check on the specific laws.

DestinationConditionsDestination guide
Thailand
  • You should keep your medication in its original bottles
  • Bring your prescription with you
  • People travelling with personal medications must apply for a permit and declare the medications (not exceeding 30 days of usage) when entering the country
  • There are some restrictions on importation of prescription medication, so check with your local Thailand embassy about your medication
Learn more
Fiji
  • You should have a prescription for any medication you are carrying
  • You may also need a doctor's certificate
Learn more
South Africa
  • You must not bring more than three months' supply of prescription medication
  • Bring a copy of your prescription from your doctor
Learn more
Hong Kong
  • You may only bring a reasonable amount into the country and it must only be for personal use
Learn more
Philippines
  • You can only bring enough prescription drugs for the duration of your stay in the Philippines. If travelling to another country afterwards, the supply for that country should be separated and declared
  • You should bring a letter from your doctor noting the reason for the prescription and the dosage, in English
Learn more
France
  • You can bring in medication (sufficient for 3 months of treatment) without prescription (prescription required for more than 3 months), provided it is carried in your luggage
  • You are required to carry a prescription if your medication contains narcotic and psychotropic ingredients

 

Learn more
Japan
  • There are strict rules about which medications travellers can carry into the country
  • You may require permission or a certificate from the Japanese government if you are carrying medication that contains controlled certain substances

 

Learn more
Indonesia
  • There are some medications available in Australia that are treated the same way as narcotics in Indonesia, be sure to check if your drug is a prohibited substance, for example, some attention deficit disorder (ADD) medications
  • Contact your closest Indonesian Embassy to confirm if your drugs are legal under Indonesian law
Learn more
Singapore
  • Some other over-the-counter medications and prescriptions that are available in Australia may be classed by Singapore law as controlled substances. You will need to apply for approval at least 10 days prior to your travel
  • You should check the Singapore Health Sciences Authority website before bringing any medication
Learn more
United States of America
  • Prescription medications should be in their original containers
  • Don't travel with more medication than you'll need on your trip
  • Bring a valid prescription if your drugs are no longer in original packaging
  • Bring a doctor's note explaining your need for the medication
Learn more
Vietnam
  • Prescription medication can be brought into the country if it's under a specified $US amount and for non-commercial use
  • Psychotropic medications (such as those used to treat anxiety, depression and insomnia) may be carried if there is no more than 7 days' worth of the drug and it does not exceed the amount that was prescribed by your treating physician
  • You must declare your medication on entry to the country
  • Prescription must be made out in either English or Vietnamese
  • Prescriptions should include all relevant information about the patient including age and name
  • The prescription should also include treating physician's name, address, signature and type of medication (including volume and dosage)
Learn more
United Kingdom
  • If you’re entering the UK for 3 months or more with medication containing a controlled drug, you must get a licence
  • Check the controlled drugs list that is on the UK's government services and information website
Learn more
Malaysia
  • If your medication requires scheduled drugs like morphine tablets or is administered with a syringe, or if it's treatment for HIV or a drug dependency, you'll need to declare it and show the prescription from your doctor
  • You must carry your medications in the bottle or packet it was dispensed in with the label with the patient's name and the contents visible
Learn more
Canada
  • Contact Health Canada to find out the condition for travelling with your medication, including over-the-counter and prescription drugs
Learn more
New Zealand
  • Consult the New Zealand Customs Service regarding requirements
Learn more
India
  • Bring enough medication for the duration of your stay in India
Learn more
Cruises from Australia
  • Bring enough medication for the duration of your cruise
  • Bring a copy of the prescription and the reason why you've been prescribed that medication
  • Make sure all prescriptions are clearly labelled
Learn more
Italy
  • Bring a copy of the prescription
  • Prescription drugs should be clearly marked
Learn more
Europe
  • Bring a copy of the prescription to prove it is your medication
  • If you're prescribed a controlled drug and travelling to/from the UK carry it with you rather than in your checked luggage
Learn more
China
  • Any amount above a seven-day supply of your medication should be declared as cargo and customs will verify the amount according to the prescription
  • Bring a copy of the prescription from your doctor for the reason why you're taking the medication, customs may keep the copy, so bring extras if travelling onwards to another country
Learn more

Does travel insurance cover prescription drugs?

There are 2 ways travel insurance can cover prescription drugs.

Medicine you're prescribed overseas

If you are prescribed medication by a doctor overseas for a new condition, you should be able to make a claim as an overseas medical cost. However, if the medicine is for a pre-existing condition that you haven't declared, you may have more trouble.

Theft or loss of your medication

Most standard travel insurance policies won't automatically cover loss or theft of prescription drugs you take with you. However, many comprehensive policies will cover your prescription medicine if you declare it as a pre-existing medical condition.

Compare travel insurance for prescription medications

Compare travel insurance with the tool below and make sure to fill in your pre-existing condition declaration when you sign up. To be completely confident of what travel insurance will cover, you should talk to your travel insurance provider.

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10 Responses

    Default Gravatar
    AnneApril 9, 2019

    Hi,

    I’m travelling to Ireland, Denmark and Norway with transit stop in Dubai and Singapore from Australia. I want to take antibiotics with me. Am I ok just with the original box and script or do I need a letter from the doctor?

      AvatarFinder
      JeniApril 10, 2019Finder

      Hi Anne,

      Thank you for getting in touch with Finder.

      It is recommended to bring doctor’s prescription with you during your trip since you will go through various countries. This is to make sure that checking your antibiotics at the customs will not consume much time.

      I hope this helps.

      Thank you and have a wonderful day!

      Cheers,
      Jeni

    Default Gravatar
    VicJanuary 9, 2019

    Can you travel to Zambia with Concerta? Going for 3 months

      Default Gravatar
      NikkiJanuary 10, 2019

      Hi Vic,

      Thanks for getting in touch! We don’t specifically know if Concerta is allowed in Zambia – what’s important is that for all the medications you have to bring when you travel must have legitimate and strong supporting documents and that they are prescribed by your doctors for your own consumption. Hope this helps!

      Best,
      Nikki

    Default Gravatar
    PeteAugust 25, 2018

    I am going to the Philippines for 6 to 12 months and take several daily meds, the only one I think could be a problem as it is for pain is tramadol. Do you know if it allowable there?

      AvatarFinder
      JhezelynAugust 25, 2018Finder

      Hi Pete,

      Thank you for your comment.

      To bring your medications in the Philippines, pack any these in their original containers. Check that all their labels are easy to read. Bring a signed and dated letter from your personal physician, confirming your current medication needs.

      Upon checking, Tramadol is an opioid. You can take it to the counter of a pharmacy, with the prescription or a note containing the drug name, the dose and the quantity and it will be filled for you, assuming they have the drug in stock and if it’s available in the Philippines.

      Should you wish to have real-time answers to your questions, try our chat box on the lower right corner of our page.

      Regards,
      Jhezelyn

    Default Gravatar
    MelindaMarch 19, 2018

    Travelling to Thailand and am taking cyklokapron will I need a doctors note? Bottle is labelled

      AvatarFinder
      JoanneMarch 24, 2018Finder

      Hi Melinda,

      Thanks for your inquiry.

      Some prescription medications available in Australia have controlled substances in Thailand, even if prescribed by an Australian doctor. If you plan to bring prescription or non-prescription medication into Thailand, you may need to contact the closest Thai Embassy or Consulate to confirm it’s legal. Should you decide to contact the embassy, it would be best to do so at least a month in advance.

      Alternatively, you may want to speak to your doctor or a travel doctor. They will often be able to tell you whether you can bring certain medications into a specific country.

      Cheers,
      Joanne

    Default Gravatar
    BrendaAugust 24, 2017

    Am travelling from Singapore to Phuket for 4 day’s, have prescription meds that contain codeine, oxazepam and prednisone (have a letter from my doctor) I will only take enough for the four days so do i need to fill out a application (their Web page keeps telling me my email is invalid) Many Thanks in advance for your time and trouble.

      Default Gravatar
      ArnoldAugust 25, 2017

      Hi Brenda,

      Thanks for your inquiry.

      You only have to declare the medications you are bringing at the airport for them not to be confiscated, as long as you bring the doctor’s note with you there shouldn’t be a problem.

      Hope this information helped.

      Cheers,
      Arnold

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