Travelling with Medications

There is a lot to try and remember when travelling overseas, but if you need to take medications with you, there are a few more preparations you need to add to your pre-flight checklist to avoid potential troubles overseas.

When planning your trip, it is vital that you ensure in advance that any drugs you need to take with you are legal in the countries you will be transiting through and visiting. Being in possession of drugs that are available by prescription or over the counter in Australia may have serious legal ramifications, including jail, whilst abroad. For example, Greece lists Codeine as a narcotic on the same schedule as heroin, resulting in severe criminal consequences for tourists found carrying headache tablets without the strict legal compliance documentation required by law.

Travelling with Medications Check-list

1. Contact the Country's Local Embassy

If you are unsure at all about the legal status of your medications in the country you are travelling to, it is important that you contact the country's local embassy or consulate to make sure you won't be breaking any laws travelling with your medication.

Even if you have travelled to that country with your medications in the past, it's still a good idea to get fresh advice from the country's embassy as laws do change.

When you contact the embassy or consulate, include both the Trade name (eg. Ritalin) of the drug you are taking as well as the pharmaceutical name (Methylphenidate Hydrochloride) to avoid any confusion.

A full list of foreign embassies and consulates in Australia is accessible via the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website.

2. Get a Letter From Your Doctor

Obtain an original, hand-signed letter from the doctor who prescribes your medication. Make sure that the letter clearly states your name, the name of the medication that you are taking and the dosage, what the medication is being prescribed for and the doctor's contact details and clinic address. Keep the letter on your person at all times, avoid misplacing it (treat it like an extension to your passport), and ensure you have several photocopies of it on hand.

3. Use the Original Packaging and Labels

Only take medication that is in the original pharmacy packaging with the original pharmacy stickers that should have your name printed on them. Don't try and cram more medication into one box than is stated on the label. Do not break your medication’s blister packaging.

4. Take a Script for the Medication

Retain a photocopy of your most recent prescription, and keep it with you will travelling and passing through border checks. Medication you are carrying must be for you only and must be for personal use only. It is an Australian offence for PBS medications to be taken overseas unless it is by the person they have been prescribed for. Some embassies will advise that you take an original copy of your prescription with you to verify your entitlement to carry the medication for personal use (eg. Nepal).

5. Carry Your Own Medication Only

It doesn’t matter how good looking he is, or how intensely the sparkle in her eye distracts you, if you are travelling with other people, do not put your medication in anyone else's luggage or allow anyone else to put their medications in your luggage. No exceptions.

Discuss with your doctor prior to your departure what options are available to you if your medications are lost or stolen while you are away. With a little bit of planning, travelling with medication needn't be a hassle.

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