Traveling with Medication: How to Get Them Through Customs

Traveling with medication doesn't need to be a stressful experience. Find out how to get your meds through customs with these tips.


A woman does a finger prick blood test Photo © Getty Images/Azman Jaka

IMPORTANT NOTE: If you are planning to take any medication with you while traveling, please contact the relevant country's embassy which can best advise you on whether the medication is considered illegal or not, plus any further information or permits you may need in order to travel with your medications.

Some prescription medicines, which may be safe at home, can be illegal in other countries. By following a few easy tips, you'll breeze through customs in no time. Note, countries including Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Japan, China, USA, New Zealand, Fiji  and some countries in Europe have their own restrictions and rules around traveling with medication. 

Pre-trip medication tips

  • Make sure you travel with enough medication for the length of your trip; you might also want to carry a couple of extras in case of delays to your trip, or if one accidentally takes a dive down the sink
  • If you're on an extended trip and taking more than one month's supply (three months in some countries), you may need to explain why you are carrying so much. A copy of your itinerary or return airline ticket should do
  • Prescriptions written by your doctor at home will not be valid overseas and cannot be refilled using that prescription in another country
  • Carry medicines in their original packaging with prescription labels showing your name 
  • Ask your doctor to write a letter verifying they are for your personal use, stating what the drug is (not brand name), what you're taking them for, and in what dosage
  • If you have to administer any medication with a syringe, make sure it is also noted and that it's for personal use only.

Special rules for the United Arab Emirates

The government of the United Arab Emirates requires ALL passengers, including those in transit, to register online if they are carrying any medications. There is a long list of narcotics and psychotropics that will require registration. It includes codeine, a drug commonly prescribed in many countries.

To see a list of medication requiring registration and to register them, go to the Ministry of Health and Prevention's webpage.

During your trip tips

Always carry your medication, doctor's letter and permits in your carry-on luggage in case your checked-in bag goes missing, is delayed or stolen, but also for convenience's sake as illness could strike at any time while traveling.

Declare any syringes you may have with you for medical reasons to customs.

Try to keep your medication cool and dry. Heat and moisture can damage medication which reduces their effectiveness.

Over-the-counter medication

Something as simple as a cold and flu tablet containing pseudoephedrine can get you into trouble. Over-the-counter medication is illegal in some countries or there may be limits on how much you can bring in.

Carry a doctor's letter outlining its use and make sure the medication is in its original packaging. If in doubt, give the relevant embassy a call and check with them.

Traveling with painkillers

Most Western nations have removed codeine from over-the-counter medicines in pharmacies.

If there is codeine in medicine, you'll need a prescription to get it, so the rules above apply.

If you use strong, opioid (morphine-based) painkillers, or treatment for addiction (methadone, for example), many countries require you to get a special permit before you arrive.

This may include codeine-based medicines. You may also need a letter from your doctor that outlines which painkillers you are taking and their dosage.

Contact the relevant embassy in your country for details, should you have any questions before traveling.

Traveling with vitamins

Any vitamins and supplements should be carried in their original packaging so their contents can be identified. It may also be worth getting them added to your doctor's letter. Boosting your immune system is one way to prevent falling ill overseas, so consider packing vitamins to prevent immune system weakness.

Buying medication while traveling

  • Be careful when buying medications while traveling overseas. The medication can be of poor quality, counterfeit or expired e.g fake medications have contributed to the continued presence of malaria in many developing nations
  • It's also important to check the dosage of the medication before taking it as it may be more or less than your usual supply. You could risk overdosing or not getting relief from the condition you have
  • Check the packaging of the medication, is it sealed and intact? Does the package printing and imagery look dodgy?
  • The medication you normally take may be known by another name in a different country. If in doubt, ask the pharmacist
  • If you have an allergic reaction to the medication, cease taking it and seek immediate medical assistance.

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  • ben howell said

    hi,im planning on traveling to srilanka with my partner and her daughter,her daughter is on 100mg of methedone,will she be able to travel with us,


    • Jacqueline montoya said

      I plan on traveling to Lagos, Nigeria, to be married. I also plan on living there if I can get all my daily medication. I am on 85mg of methadone I also take Clonazepam for anxiety also take U-500 for diabetes. What do I need to take a one months supply from the State ofNew Mexico in the United States. I also need to know how I can find a doctor who can perscribe me my medication legally. Thank you


      • Paul said

        Can I travel to Brazil with methadon. And what do I need to do to be able with my medication.


  • vicki cushing said

    I am a UK Citizen going to visit my son in Canada for 30 days (May 15-June12) & take strong opiates for severe medical conditions (ZoMorph tabs/codeine tabs/diazepam (severe anxiety/PTSD) I have a Drs letter explaining what these are for (1 month supply) and the strengths/amounts etc. Will I encounter any problems entering Calgary Canada?


    • Mindy said

      I'm going to be travelling to the USA from Canada for approx 4 - 6 months. I take prescription Nabilone. Can I carry this much medication with me?


  • Dannah said

    I am flying from Chicago to Japan and then on to manila, philippines next month. I will be gone about a month. Will I be able to take a multivitamin, probiotic, and vitamin c /magnesium in my carryon? Whether it's in the original container or baggies, should I have a problem?


  • Adrienne atkin said

    Travelling to Sri Lanka and Maldives shortly. I have some medication drugs which I am taking my prescriptions. I was advised by the GP some time ago to take parectomol over the counter as it's cheaper than on prescription. I take very few a day but on adverse 2 to 4. Am I allowed to take in parectomol without problems


  • Dee Dee Kearney said

    We are traveling to Barbados June 2018. I am on methadone liquid. Will I be able to make it through customs as long as the bottles have my and my info on them?


  • Mark said

    I'm living in UK. Born there. I am moving to live in France. I'm trying to find out if I can still get my medication.
    And other mess


  • victoria said

    my partner is on 90ml of methdone a day and we are flying to tenerife from uk this year and need to know where we put does it go in hold luggage and keep perscription and letter from perscriber in hand luggage.does he need a licence aswell we are only going for 7 days


    • Kerrina Clarke said

      Anyone with a UK methadone script will be given methadone tablets rather than liquid for duration of the stay so you can take in hand luggage. Your physician should provide you with a letter but I've never been asked to provide it. Most drug and alcohol services want at least a month notice but I give them two so they have time for general mess ups that happen.


  • Annmarie Clark said

    I am travelling to Mexico in August.. I take tramadol for pain relief will this be OK


    • Graham said

      I am travelling to Prague, Czech Republic and Bulgaria in July. I very low doses of Effexor and Clonazepam. I have a doctors prescription and a medical certificate to carry with me.

      Do I need anything else?


  • Debbie Klein said

    Hi im going to the Dominican republic soon and have to take codeine based psin killers for a chronic back condition do i have to have a doctors letter


  • lorraine melrose said

    I am going to the Philipines next year I am on morphine for pain can I take it with me


  • Caren said

    I'm on 75mls methadone im planning to go to Bahrain for 1 month to be with my husband as he's working there do I need a license or just the letter from the prescriber?? I already traveled to Pakistan 9 months ago with no problems I just took the letter from the prescribed.


    • julie said

      I went to saudi arabia in 2013 for 1 month. Took physeptone tablets as methadone liquid not allowed. No problems whatsoever. I was on 120mg liquid so i took 360 tablets of physeptone instead. Must be in original packaging and original script plus cover letter from prescribing doctor. No one blinked an eye. I came from Australia to saudi. I had overnight stay in dubai on return trip. I would think bahrain would be the same.


  • Christine said

    I'm travelling to Sydney via stopover 3 nights in Luala Lumpur. any advice on travelling with prescription medicines - I'm on a nerve painkiller which is an opiate, and also paracetamol. I will be getting a letter and written updated prescription from my GP. Need to know restrictions for both Malasia and Australia [I'm an Australian citizen and long-term resident of UK].

    Any advice on this would be most welcome, thanks


  • kaitlin fogarty said

    are you aware of any issues regarding methadone in spain?

    traveling in february 2019, valid prescription in my name



  • Diane said

    Hi I'm travelling to Turkey next year and on 24mils of methadone and other meds like diazepam and nitrazapam ate these ok in Turkey I've been trying to contact the embassy and not getting any where is there any body that could let me now plz thanks.. I will have a drs letter and repeat prescription of all my meds thanks


  • Michael V Howard said

    I'm travelling to Mexico in 10 days. I have prescription 15mg morphine sulpher (MS Contin). Is there any problem crossing the border (flying into Baja California). Is this safe? or who do I need to check with? Thanks.


  • Rachael Futch said

    Hi there. I’m traveling to Dominican Republic from USA in August 2019 and I’m on liquid methadone 80 MGs daily currently... possibly going down before trip. I am really trying to figure out if I can just pack them up in my lock box and go in my carry on, or do I need to do something more. I’ve done some research and I’m having a hard time finding out specially if methadone is illegal in DR BUT I DONT THINK IT IS SO FAR THAT IVE SEEN. any help would be much appreciated as I am going on trip for surgery and need to go. Thank you!!!!


  • william said

    I am on tramadol for severe back and leg pains. I am travelling to Romania for a few nights do you think I will encounter any issues if I have the tablets with me?


  • Paul Braham said

    Hi am traveling to saliu for 5 day's i am 90mg of methadone am i ok carrying it as long as it goes in the hole and i declare it


  • Rachel Fisher said

    Me and my live in partner are on methadone do I need a letter to travel with enough supply for both of us staying 14 day


  • Enelson said

    Hi, i am traveling to Ecuador in October and will be there for 30 days. I am on methadone and wondering what i need to do to bring a 30 day supply with me.


  • Adam said

    Hi I am trying to travel to Hungary, from Toronto Ontario Canada for one month exactly. I am on 85 mg Methadone and 36 mg Concerta. Does anyone know if I am able to bring the medication into the country legally without any issues? I don't know which country I will be passing through. There's Good chance that I will stop in Germany or Netherlands, as I can't find a one-way flight from country to country, not with my budget anyway.
    So if you have additional information on any of those two countries also I will very much appreciate that as well as any help of course.

    I'd like to wish anyone else traveling with or without serious medications as I'm traveling with a very safe flight to wherever you are going and also a safe stay! Stay clean and healthy! God bless!


    • Adelitas TJ said

      I get my medication at your typical "clinic." So you never see an actual prescription beyond the little labels they print out and stick to the individual bottles they fill. Because of that, before I go on any international trips, I have the people at the clinic print something out that shows I am a patient of whoever the clinic doctor is at that moment, and that he has prescribed me the medication . If your clinic is like most of them in the U.S., the clinic doctor seems like it changes every couple of months! I've never had to show the paper, but I do feel more at ease having it on me when I travel.

      When I go through security with my medicine I take it out of my carry on and put it in one of the plastic bins. Oddly enough, I've never even had them ask about it or take it out of the ziploc bags. It makes me feel like they've seen it (or medication like it) a million times before.

      Lastly...if you are going to a country like, hmmm....say Indonesia, or something similar. Make sure you declare, declare, declare. Also, with places like that it's worth reaching out to an embassy or consulate and trying to get someone there to get a paper trail going. There are a small handful of countries out there (even ones where it's legal w/ Rx and sealed/labeled bottles) where this would be a good practice. You know, the kind of places where they cane you if you steal, or lock you away for a decade if you have a joint.


  • Ava said

    Do I have to take my methadone in a locked case when I get on the plane or can I just be in a courtside Ziploc baggie


  • Adelitas TJ said

    Hi Ava,
    I'm from Los Angels and I've travelled extensively all over the world with Methadone. In those travels I have never bothered with a locked case. I do keep it on my person (carry on luggage) though to avoid the catastrophe that losing it would cause. You could certainly use a lock box, but I'd worry that it would just cause issues when going through security.

    Internationally, I've traveled to Africa (several times), Central America, South America, all over Europe, and to Central Asia. I get 27 take home doses at a time, so I keep my trips to under 4 weeks! I can't go on any more of the 6-18 month backpacking trips I used to take when I was still a youngster.

    Oddly enough, out of all the trips I've taken with Methadone, I've only had customs look closely at my bottles once (in Europe). In Zimbabwe they would have looked closely and made things difficult (even though it is allowed there with an Rx), but I smoothed things over/sped things up with a 20 US dollar bill, which kept them from emptying out the contents of my bags. I wouldn't normally offer up a bribe, but when you're going on safari (with the gear that entails), and also have methadone, 20 USD is a bargain!

    Put yourself at ease. Make sure they go easy on the water when filling your bottles (airplane pressure). Also, be sure to double bag each of your doses individually (with another ziplock over those). I use one of those small (jewelry) sized ziploc bags, then a ziploc sandwich bag over that for each individual bottle. Then I put between 4-6 of those in another bigger ziploc and then I roll all 4 or so of those up and stuff them into a gallon sized ziploc or two. Use the best bags you can find, as its not a good time to go with the cheap stuff! I know it sounds crazy, like a total waste. It's worth it though for insurance and peace of mind. I've had leaks and I have had a couple different bottles break/burst while traveling. Because I stored them like this I was able to salvage the medication.


  • Lance said

    Hi I’m planning on flying to Egypt for 3 or 4 weeks from Australia and I’m on 80mg methadone liquid prescribed and can get doctors letter and 1 months supply , can I travel to Egypt with my methadone and is there anything else I need to do to get it in without problems thank you


    • Alisha said

      My husband and I are planning on going to the Bahamas in 18 days. I double checked the research my husband did to see if we would need anything for him to be able to bring his methadone into the country. Will come to find out we have to have a letter from the chief medical officer. Does anyone know what all information you need to send to their chief medical officer. To get this letter for him to be able to carry his methadone into the country? I am kind of freaking out and need all the help I can get!! PLEASE SOMEONE HELP!!!


  • ashu maxwel said

    Ever tried online pharmacies?


  • Liz said

    I’m traveling to Sint maartens and I take methodone. Do I need a permit to get into the country with that medicine. If someone could let me k ow asap I leave Thursday 10.20


  • Christian said

    I’m traveling to Saint Martin Virgin Islands in January and I’m on suboxone will I be able to travel there with my suboxone prescription?


  • Adie said

    I'm travelling to uganda, can I take my multi vitamins , atorvastatin and ramapril medication with me


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