7 things you should know before taking medication on your next holiday

Before all the fun and excitement of travelling can begin, considerations need to be made for what to do with your vital medicines. It isn’t as easy as popping them in your bag and jetting off – there is some planning involved.

Depending on the country, there may be restrictions on what you can and cannot bring through customs.

Here are a few tips to get you started when it comes to packing medications.

1. Do I put my medications in my carry on or checked bag?

Depending on what airline you’re travelling with, you might need to check it. But you should always aim to put medications in your carry on as you never know what might happen to your bags. You might be also asked to provide evidence of your prescription.

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Over‐the‐counter medications and vitamins, should be fine to be left in your checked luggage.

2. Make sure you bring the written prescription

It’s a good idea to bring the written prescription with dosage from your doctor if you’ll be travelling for a while or if you need it immediately. That way, you can walk into a pharmacy and show it to the employees to get the same medication, or a close version.

Some countries, however, won’t accept your foreign prescription, but might be willing to give you an over‐the‐counter version available there. Otherwise, bring enough to cover your trip.

3. Keep medicine in its original box with the prescription sticker

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It can be tempting to take all your medications out of boxes to save space but this could be the difference between keeping your meds and having them taking out of your bag as there’s no proof what they are or who has the prescription.

4. Carry a letter from your doctor

This should include the name of the medicine, how much you are taking or sending, and state that the medicine is for your personal use.

5. Only pack your own medications

Carrying PBS medicines that are not for your own personal use or for the use of someone travelling from Australia with you is illegal and can attract a penalty of up to $5000 and/or 2 years imprisonment. Customs authorities have the power to detain any medication which they suspect is being illegally exported.

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6. Cold medications

If your medicine needs to be kept cold before the flight, contact the airline to see if this is possible in flight. Otherwise, gel-based ice packs or flasks stay cold for a long time, or you can take some snap-lock bags and ask the flight attendants for ice.

7. What to do if your medication is running out and you need more

If your trip has been extended and you need more medicine while you are away, you have two options available:

  1. Contact your doctor in Australia, and if appropriate, get a non-PBS prescription for the medicine. This non-subsidised prescription medicine can be supplied by a pharmacist in Australia and arranged to be sent to you. If you do this, we suggest you contact:
    • the Australian Customs Service before the medicine is sent or taken overseas to ensure the medicine is not a prohibited export and can be legally exported
    • the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country the medicine is being sent to, to make sure the medicine can be legally imported into that country.
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So Customs know the medicine is not a PBS medicine, you can ask your pharmacist to include a letter stating the medicine has not been subsidised.

  1. Go to a doctor in the country you are in and get your medicine there. The Australian Government has Reciprocal Health Care Agreements with certain countries to help cover the cost of some medical treatment.

Do you have any other tips to add?