Photo Credit: Alex Dodd


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Most of us, when preparing to travel, don’t take a bathroom cabinet of drugs and potions with us on holiday. This is because we either believe we won’t get ill or that we’ll be able to furnish ourselves with the necessary medications on arrival, in-country and only if and when the need arises.

A combination of these two schools of thought is advisable in our opinion. Relying solely on your destination of choice to provide an unending choice of safe drugs can sometimes be misguided but it really does depend on where you are going. If heading for the Med, you should find no end of suitable hangover cures. If you’re jetting off to Japan, a phrasebook and dictionary will make invaluable companions.

Be Prepared

If you take regular medication, an NHS doctor can prescribe you with up to a three month’s supply. If you’re worried about it getting lost, stolen or confiscated, ensure you take a prescription and doctor’s letter with you making it easier to find the same stuff abroad. Having the original packaging to hand can also help enormously in identifying the correct prescription, as company and brand names can vary from country to country. Be sure to ask your doctor, pre-travel, whether your particular medication comes under any other name in your destination as well as for comparable alternatives should yours be unavailable.

Procuring Minor Medication

If an unexpected headache or bout of ‘Delhi belly’ gets you mid-holiday, it should be fairly easy to obtain the necessary remedies locally. If you’ve booked flights to Tenerife, you should have no problems getting your hands on paracetamol, asprin, diarrhoea tablets and the like. However, if you’ve booked flights to Goa, getting your hands on these could prove a little trickier. Rather than chancing your arm in a local store, ask advice of hotel staff to see if there is a travel clinic you could attend to seek professional advice.

The Pitfalls of Foreign Medication

Whatever you do, carefully inspect any medication you intend to purchase before buying it, particularly the expiry date. If you are unsure you are being sold the correct drugs, there are pill identification websites ( that provide pictures that can be useful for comparison. Make sure that whoever you are buying from is familiar with your ailment, particularly if there is a language barrier. If you are unsure they have understood you, go elsewhere and seek alternative advice.

Home and Away

Try and be informed about what you’re taking in and out of different countries as rules and amounts vary considerably from country to country. Sometimes even special licences are needed. The embassy of your destination should be able to provide this information. Also remember that liquid medication has to go in hold luggage if it’s over 100ml, otherwise you’ll lose it.

All that’s really required when buying medication abroad is a little common sense. Forward planning and pre-travel research can help avoid many a close-call. The higher the country’s risk of illness or lack of available healthcare options, the more prepared you should be.