Whether you’re traveling on vacation or for business making sure you have enough of your prescription medications with you is always an important part of trip planning. Once you cross the boarders, getting refills can be next to impossible if not completely impossible and finding a foreign doctor to write you a prescription can be a challenge as well. Some countries don’t require prescriptions for medications that you might need one for in the US/Canada, but you may not find the same brands, strengths or quality of medications. Your best bet is not to run out by planning ahead.
The first thing to check is if your insurance company allows you to fill a prescription via mail/pharmacy for several months (many allow for 3 month or 6 months at a time, if prescribed that way.) If that’s not an option, some insurance companies allow for travel overrides on many medications. Your pharmacy can call the insurance company and request an override for an extra month of medicine (assuming you have the refills on the prescription.) If you can’t get a travel override, you can also request an override from your company or insurance agent directly.
Since I can be on the road for 30 or 60 days at a time, this is something that I have to discuss with my doctors and plan for. For things like prescription allergy medicine, my doctor writes a 6 month prescription and my HR department calls in an override to the local pharmacy (I can’t wait on the mail usually.) For over-the-counter medicines I usually consider the countries I’ll be visiting before stocking up. If I’m going to Europe (counties where English is prevalent) or Australia I usually will buy things like ibuprofen while I’m there if needed. When I’m in Asian countries I tend to pack what I think I’ll need. I’ve been in pharmacies in Thailand where someone speaks English very well and can help me figure out what to buy and I’ve also been in pharmacies where no English was spoken. I remember one trip where I needed some type of mosquito bite ointment. I didn’t recognize any of the brands and couldn’t figure out from the labels what I needed to buy. The staff at the pharmacy spoke no English and so the clerk ended up calling someone (I have no idea who) on her cell phone who translated for me. I ended up with a great ointment that helped the itching – but I have no idea what it was to this day!
When traveling with medicines, over-the-counter or prescription, it’s a good idea to keep it in its original packaging (in case you get inspected at customs). For prescription medications, make sure you have the pharmacy label on or with the medicine. I use a nasal spray for allergies and since the label is on the box, not on the sprayer, I either peel the label off and tape it to the sprayer or ask the pharmacist to do it for me.
What should you pack?
- All of your prescription medications
- Tylenol or ibuprofen for aches and pains
- Neosporin or something for cuts/scrapes
- Cold medicine
- Calamine lotion or something similar for bug bites
- Imodium or something similar for stomach upset
Always be prepared – and pack if you have any doubt.
I’ve gotten some great tips from readers; here’s what they’re saying:
- MiffSC says “I get an extra label from the pharmacist and put it on a plastic snack-sized bag to save space”
- FlyDonkey says “Check if prescriptions are legal in countries you’re traveling too”
- Hulagrrl210 says “some narcotics that are easy to get with prescription in the US aren’t welcome in some countries, like Japan” and Bill added “check for restrictions on quantities as well.”