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Taking Medication on Holiday

Advice for Travellers with Pre-existing Medical Conditions

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

Having a pre-existing medical condition and having to carry prescription medication with you shouldn’t stop you from enjoying a holiday abroad, but it does mean that you might have to take some extra steps to ensure your medication is kept safe and that you are allowed carry it with you.

You might be concerned that enhanced airport security measures concerning the quantities of liquids which you can carry aboard an aircraft will prevent you from taking your medication on flights. This needn't be a worry - if your medication is accompanied by the relevant documentation from your doctor then you are entitled to take it with you on board your flight.

Do you need a Doctor’s Note to Take Medication Abroad?

You might be concerned that enhanced airport security measures concerning the quantities of liquids which you can carry aboard an aircraft will prevent you from taking your medication on flights.

You needn’t worry - provided your medication is accompanied by the relevant documentation from your doctor (a doctor’s note or letter should be fine), you are entitled to take it with you on board your flight.

We would always advise you to research the rules around taking your medication to your destination country and what proof of treatment you’re expected to bring with you. For example, you can avoid any issues at airport customs in Spain by having your prescription drugs and doctor’s letter readily available. However, not all European countries have the same regulations.

Can You Take Medication in Your Hand Luggage?

One of the most common questions we get asked by our customers is whether you are allowed to carry your prescription drugs in your hand luggage.

The answer is yes - subject to you having the proper paperwork for your medication (as listed above).

Wherever possible, we would always advise you to carry your medication in your hand luggage or on your person. By storing your pills, tablets or medication in your checked-in baggage, you run the risk of your luggage being lost or delayed by the airline.

How Much Medication Can You Take on a Plane?

The government states that you are permitted to take medication of more than 100ml onto the plane with you in your hand luggage.

Take enough of your prescription medication to last your whole trip and carry some spares in case of emergencies or you need to extend your stay.

If you’re unsure if your medicine will be acceptable to take on a plane, be sure to consult the government guide on hand luggage restrictions for medical equipment.   

10 More Tips for Taking Prescription Medication Abroad

  • Be prepared to be questioned at airport security about the medication you are carrying
  • As mentioned above, get a letter from your doctor outlining your entitlement to the prescription medication. Carry it in your hand luggage with your medication at all times, as you may need to show this at airport security.
  • Always keep your medication in its proper packaging and keep a separate note of the name in case yours is lost or stolen and you need to purchase more while you are away
  • Your prescription medication might be illegal in some countries. Visit the travel section of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) website for details or contact the embassy in the country you are planning to visit to find out before you travel.
  • There is a limit to the quantity of controlled drugs that you can carry with you abroad. If you need to take more than the authorised amount, you will need to contact the Home Office to apply for a personal licence. You can find out more about controlled drugs and how to apply for a license to take them abroad on the government’s official page.
  • Consider how hot or cold climates might affect your medication and ask your pharmacist about how you should store your medication during your trip.
  • If you have diabetes, take a cool bag to store your insulin in if you are visiting a hot country. If you don’t have a cool bag, you could also store your medicine in a thermos flask or wrapped in an ice pack.
  • Find out what your medicine is called in the country you are visiting so that you know what to ask for if you need to buy more. It might have a different name overseas
  • Ask at your local pharmacy for brochures about taking medication abroad
  • Buy travel insurance which covers the loss of prescription medication, so that you can make a claim to recoup the cost if you do have to buy replacement medication if yours is lost or stolen.

Your medication is an important part of your daily life at home, and it's equally important when you go on holiday, so it’s important to do some research and be prepared so that your holiday goes smoothly.


Written by Daniel Wright.

Daniel is a copywriter at Medical Travel Compared. He writes about travel and health, and is passionate about raising awareness for charitable causes.

Published on 18th September 2018.

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