Taking prescription medication abroad

Do you have a pre-existing medical condition and want to travel abroad? Or maybe you need to take prescription medication with you on holiday? This article will look at everything you need to know about taking prescription medication abroad, whether you need medical travel insurance and more.

travelling with prescription medication

Can I take prescription medication abroad?

In short, the answer is yes. You can take your prescription medication abroad if you need medication to help you manage a health condition. However, you must follow some rules and regulations regarding travel with prescription medication.

Planning ahead is your best way to prepare for travel with medication. In the first instance, always check with your airline and the country you are travelling to as some countries will have medications you cannot enter with. This is especially crucial if you are travelling to countries such as India, Pakistan, Turkey or the United Emirates.

Knowing if you are taking any medication listed in the UK's Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 can help you make preparations regarding travelling with your medication for your safety and avoid confiscation, fines or arrest.

You can find this information from your airline or the embassy. Get in touch with the embassy in your destination to find out more details about the medication you can travel with and any quantity restrictions imposed. You may also need documentation to prove you have to take this medication. If you book with a travel agent, they might have more information to hand to help you prepare for travel.

Do you need documentation?

Once you know this information, you can discuss it with your doctor to obtain any necessary documentation. This will include your prescription and a letter from your GP detailing why you need these medications and the drug's generic name and dose each day if you are subject to quantity restrictions. Be aware that GPs can charge for this service.

You should have this documentation with you to hand every time you fly to avoid delays and potential confiscation at the airport. Keep it with your travel insurance documents, as having travel insurance for pre-existing conditions is essential if you experience health complications abroad.

Lastly, you should always check if an English prescription will be accepted in the country you are visiting or if you need to have it translated. Again, contacting the embassy of the country you are travelling to can give you up-to-date information on the requirements regarding travelling with prescription medication.

Should it go in hand or hold luggage?

Your prescription medication should always go in your hand luggage. Check your airline's regulations before flying to confirm how they prefer you to travel with medicines and medical equipment to administer the medication, e.g. needles.

Always keep your medication and equipment in their original correctly labelled boxes and with a copy of your prescription and any travel documentation you need, such as holiday insurance.

If you need to keep your medication cool, you should travel with a flask, cool box, thermos or insulated pack to ensure it stays at the required temperature.

What medication can go in hand luggage?

The UK, like many other countries, has strict regulations about what you can put in your hand luggage; however, the following have been cleared for placement in both hand and hold luggage;

  • Tablets
  • Capsules
  • Medications in liquid form
  • Medical devices and equipment such as CPAP machines or TENS machine
  • Hypodermic syringes
  • Inhalers
  • Special foods and liquids required for medical conditions

If you need to travel with oxygen tanks, you should always consult your airline to ensure you can travel.

Getting through security with prescription medication

Those with pre-existing medical conditions often require larger quantities than the allowed 100mls. If you have your prescription, a copy, and a letter from your GP confirming you need this medication, then getting larger quantities through security won't be an issue.

For convenience and ease of processing, you should keep all your documentation with your medication and medical equipment ready for security checks, as medical equipment will be screened separately. Be aware that airport staff may need to open liquids to confirm contents.

Always carry more than you might need for emergencies or avoid trying to get a prescription filled abroad, especially for restricted medications. It can be helpful for you to include some medication in different bags if possible. If you lose one bag, you still have a supply in another bag.

Common medication and equipment people travel with

There are many different types of medication that people need to travel with for a range of various health conditions. Your airline will have procedures and policies for those travelling with pre-existing health conditions, such as:

  • Diabetes
  • Heart conditions
  • Asthma
  • Allergies
  • Cancer medication for pain relief
  • Mental health conditions
  • HIV
  • Neurological conditions
  • Arthritis

What else do you need to know about travelling with pre-existing medical conditions?

In all instances, you should make an appointment to visit your GP at least a month prior to your departure date. This will ensure you have all the relevant documentation required to fly and the right quantities of medication you need for your trip.

Having the appropriate travel insurance for any pre-existing medical conditions is essential. This can make sure you are fully protected when travelling abroad. Failing to take out travel insurance for pre-existing conditions or to declare all of your medical conditions can make your policy void, meaning you may have to pay for medical care and treatment outside of the UK yourself.

Total Travel Protection can cover all types of pre-existing medical conditions and includes cover for emergency medical expenses of up to £10 million, as well as prescription medication.


There is no reason why, with proper preparation, you cannot travel abroad with prescription medication. If you are in doubt, contact your airline, travel agent, or embassy to find out more details about travelling abroad with prescription medication.