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Travelling With Medication

  • 25th July 2022
  • 4 min read

If you have a pre-existing medical condition, such as asthma, diabetes, high blood pressure, or heart problems, it is likely you will take prescription medication when you go abroad.

Having a medical condition and carrying prescription medication shouldn’t stop you from enjoying your trip. However, it does mean you might have to take some extra steps to ensure your medication is kept safe and that you are allowed to carry it with you.

Are you taking a controlled drug?

It is common for drugs that are legal in Canada to be considered illegal in some countries, to require a prescription, or to cause suspicion among local officials and the customs and immigration authorities.

Many strong painkillers, sleeping tablets, anxiety medicines, ADHD tablets, and some other medicines are classed as controlled drugs. If you’re taking regular medicines, check with your physician if any of them are controlled drugs.

Different countries have different regulations for which medications they allow into the country and the maximum amount you can carry. This applies to controlled drugs, but also to some medicines which aren’t controlled and even some medicines available over the counter.

For example, Ritalin is banned in Dubai, and strong painkillers such as Tramadol are banned in some states in the USA and other parts of the world. Diazepam (first marketed as Valium) is banned in Greece, Japan, and the UAE and all codeine products are banned in Greece, Hong Kong, and Indonesia. Perhaps most surprising, decongestants that you can get for a common cold, are actually banned in Japan.

It is always best to contact the foreign government offices accredited to Canada of the country you plan to visit to confirm the status of your medication.

Can you take medication in your carry-on baggage? 

You should always pack all your medications in your carry-on baggage. Check-in baggage can be lost or delayed, so carrying it with you is always safer.

It is very important that you don’t try and combine your medications into a single container. You should also carry your medications in their original, labeled containers to facilitate airport security and customs screening.

It is also advisable to carry a letter from your doctor with your name, the countries you’re visiting, and details of all the medication you’re taking and why. Regardless of what medication you’re taking (including tablets and inhalers), you should take a copy of your prescription in case of loss or theft.

You also do not need to worry about liquid restrictions when it comes to prescription medication as it is exempt. It must be presented to airport security separately from your baggage.

A man takes his medication

Top tips for travelling with prescription medication 

  1. Be prepared - check with your pharmacist or physician if you are taking a controlled drug.
  2. Remember some drugs, including non-prescription medicines, are forbidden in certain countries.
  3. Always keep your medication in its original packaging and keep a copy of your prescription in case it is lost or stolen.
  4. Carry a letter from your doctor with your name, the countries you’re visiting, and the details of all the medication you’re taking and why.
  5. Keep your medication in your carry-on baggage but consider packing a spare supply of medication in your hold luggage.
  6. Take enough medication with you for the whole trip - medication bought abroad can be counterfeit.
Tommy Lloyd
Author: Tommy Lloyd, Managing Director

Tommy has over 15 years experience within the insurance industry, having worked with some of the worlds largest insurers. Tommy’s primary focus has been developing the best possible online experience for travellers looking to compare travel insurance rates. Music and travel are two of Tommy's greatest interests, and even better when he can combine the two together!


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