Don’t Let Medication Be a Burden
Don’t get caught short
You’ve planned your route, bought your tickets and started applying for visas. Planning to go travelling can be time-consuming and sometimes stressful, and if you take regular medication for a pre-existing condition, you might have additional concerns about hitting the road. However, there’s no need for sleepless nights – as long as you prepare well in advance. Otherwise, you might end up stuck in the middle of nowhere with the local witch doctor looking like your best option. As someone who will soon be carrying medication through Asia, Australia and America, I’ve finished my research and put together a few points to help guide you in the right direction if you’re trying to find out more about travelling with medication.
Start your research early and see your doctor at least two months before departure
Try to obtain sufficient quantities of your medication to last the duration of the journey. This seems obvious, but most British doctors will only prescribe a maximum of three months’ medication for travel purposes. So, if you’re struggling, try asking your consultant or specialist for a prescription (if you have one); I managed to get a six-month supply this way.
Certain countries have regulations and restrictions on the amounts and types of medicines that can be brought in. Check your medication with the embassy of the country you are visiting – all contact details are on the Foreign and Commonwealth website or call Home Office Drugs Branch on 020 7273 3806.
If you are taking medicines containing controlled drugs (e.g. morphine), then you need to have a licence from the Home Office, in order to take them out of the country – ask your doctor about this.
Obtain supplies abroad
If you can’t get a prescription for long enough, and need to obtain supplies abroad, plan ahead and try to time it so you can get your prescription and medication in a more ‘westernised’ country, rather than a developing country like Cambodia. Your doctor or pharmacist should be able to advise you on whether your medication is available in that country, or if it’s used under a different name. Contact the embassy of the country you are visiting about obtaining medication there and registering with a local doctor.
Get someone at home to post out your medication
If you’ve got sufficient supplies of your medication and know you’ll be in one destination for quite a long time, then smile sweetly at your parents or a friend and arrange for some to be posted out to you at an agreed address.
Avoiding problems at customs
For customs, you should carry all your medication in your hand luggage, with a letter from your doctor, explaining what it’s for, the dosage and stating that it’s for personal use only – just in case you have any problems with a fussy customs official. Getting the letter translated into another language can also be useful. Keep everything in the correct, labelled packaging and don’t try to save space by cramming extra supplies into one box, or putting all the tablets into one container. Small coolbags are useful for medicine that needs to be kept at a certain temperature.
Try not to lose it!
Once you’ve arrived, split your medication up and get your travel buddies to carry some. Divide it between your daypack, your backpack and your friends; if you do then lose some medication at least it’ll give you time to make arrangements to obtain more. Remember to take copies of your prescription with you and it’s also worth carrying a written record of your medical history, so you will have your health details handy in case anything does happen.
Note: always seek personal professional medical advice before you travel with a medical condition.