Can I take my medicine abroad?

You need to check what rules apply to taking your medicine:

  • out of the UK, and
  • into the country that you're going to

Plan well ahead

If you need prescribed medication for your health condition, talk to your GP or practice nurse about your travel plans at least two months before your departure date. They can tell you if you need to make any special arrangements.

Checking what's allowed

Check the rules for all the countries you're going to, including countries that you're just passing through. Different countries have different rules and regulations about:

  • the types of medicine they allow to be taken into the country
  • the maximum quantity you can take in

Some medicines available over the counter in the UK may be controlled in other countries and vice versa.

Countries such as India, Pakistan and Turkey have a list of medicines that they won't allow into the country. International rules vary – contact the embassy for the country you're visiting. The GOV.UK website has a full list of foreign embassies in the UK.

Travelling with your medicines

Always carry medicines and medical equipment (needles, syringes and so on) each in their original, correctly labelled packages. Carry your medication in your hand luggage (airline regulations permitting – check these prior to travel) with a copy of your prescription.

Pack a spare supply of medication in your suitcase or hold luggage (along with another copy of your prescription) in case you lose your hand luggage. Check that the expiry dates of your medicines will be valid for the duration of your visit abroad.

Some medicines need to be kept at room temperature (below 25ºC) or stored in the fridge. If you're travelling to a warm country, get advice from your pharmacist about storing your medicine. For example, to keep your medicine at the right temperature, you may need to store it using:

  • a thermos flask
  • an ice pack
  • a cool bag
  • an insulated pouch

Taking health information with you

It's a good idea to travel with a copy of your prescription and a letter from your GP giving:

  • details of your medication, including its generic name (not just the brand name)
  • the name of the health condition that you need the medication for

As well as helping you avoid any problems at customs, this will be useful if you need medical help while you're away. It may be worth getting the information translated into the language of the country or countries that you're visiting.

Be advised that your GP practice may charge for writing such a letter, as GPs are not obliged to provide the service under the NHS.

Controlled medicines

Some prescribed medicines contain drugs that are controlled under the Misuse of Drugs legislation in the UK. This means that extra legal controls apply to these medicines.

You may need a personal licence to take controlled medicines abroad. Specific requirements also apply to:

  • the information that you must take with you
  • how you carry your controlled medicines

For more information, see Can I take controlled medicines abroad?

Further information:

Travel health

A simple guide to health precautions when travelling abroad, including vaccinations, taking condoms and a first aid kit, and being careful about drinking water.

Media last reviewed: 02/10/2013

Next review due: 02/10/2015

Page last reviewed: 08/11/2013

Next review due: 07/11/2015