Travelling with medication

Latest update: - Authors: Mieke Croughs, Ula Maniewski-Kelner

Take a medical certificate or medication summary with you, stating the generic names of the medicines that you need to take. This is useful if you need to consult a doctor, if you lose your medication or during a customs inspection.

Some medicines fall under the opium act and are considered as narcotics. This applies, for example, to sleeping pills, some painkillers and ADHD medication. The “List of  narcotic  drugs  under  international  control” tells you which medicines this applies to. If you take any of these medicines, then you need a specific medical declaration:  

  • In the case of Schengen countries this is a Schengen Declaration, completed and signed by your doctor.
  • For travel beyond the Schengen zone, it is best to contact the embassy of your destination country. Do this at least six weeks prior to departure, because it can take a long time to get all the documentation in order. Severe punishments apply for the illegal importation of these medicines in some countries, for example the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. 

If you need to carry injection needles with you, then you also need a signed security declaration from your doctor for air travel.

Take medicines with you in the original packaging. Divide your medication over various pieces of hand luggage, so that you have spare medication if some of your baggage is lost.

Some medicines cannot be stored at very high or low temperatures. Ask your pharmacist for advice.

The dose of some medicines must be adjusted if you are ill or in case of diarrhoea. Discuss this with your doctor.

Ointments, creams and suppositories can melt or freeze, making them unusable.

Take into consideration that fake medicines are sold in some countries. Only buy medication from reliable pharmacies. Contact your travel insurance company to find out more about where to go.

Ask your doctor whether your medication schedule needs to be adjusted as a result of air travel to the West or East.

Ask your doctor whether your medication schedule needs to be adjusted in the case of illness or diarrhoea.

Store medicines at temperatures that are not too hot or too cold. They may not be frozen. Never leave medication lying in a car if it is warm or very cold.  

Checklist for your travel pharmacy

Discuss with your doctor or pharmacist what you should take with you. This depends on factors such as the type of journey that you are undertaking.

  • Your maintenance medication, contraceptive pill.
  • Insect repellents, a cream to soothe the effect of insect bites, an impregnated mosquito net.
  • High factor sun cream, lip protection, an after-sun product.
  • Salt & sugar solution (ORS) to prevent dehydration caused by diarrhoea.
  • Anti-diarrhoea medication (loperamide).
  • Azithromycin antibiotic for severe diarrhoea (dysentery).
  • Malaria tablets
  • Tablets for altitude sickness
  • Take written instructions for travel-related medicines with you, such as malaria tablets and diarrhoea treatment.
  • Digital thermometer (not a mercury thermometer).
  • Bandages or adhesive bandages, sterile dressings, plasters for wounds and blisters, cotton balls, talcum powder, scissors, safety pins.
  • Disinfectants such as isobetadine or chlorhexidine (not mercurochrome or alcohol).
  • Disinfectant or filter for drinking water.
  • Alcohol hand sanitiser
  • Tweezers to remove ticks and splinters.
  • Condoms
  • Medicine to relieve pain and reduce fever, such as paracetamol (not aspirin).
  • Tablets and/or nose spray to reduce swelling of mucous membranes in the nose if you suffer from ear or sinus problems when travelling by air.
  • Medication to prevent motion sickness.
  • Antihistamine (for allergies)
  • Antacid (to treat heartburn)
  • Medication to treat vomiting.
  • Laxative
  • Soothing eye drops and/or disinfectant eye cream, sufficient contact lens products.
  • Short-acting sleeping tablets.
  • Product to treat fungal infections of the skin, feet or vagina.
  • Earplugs 

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