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Can you take medications overseas?

We explain the rules for taking medications to Bali, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Japan, China, the USA and Europe.

Packing medication for travel
Last updated: 05 November 2021
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The regulations for prescription and even over-the-counter medicine like painkillers and cold and flu tablets vary from country to country, so always check the rules for where you're travelling to.

When you travel, you should carry all medications (even vitamins) in their original packaging, along with the original prescription. It's also a good idea to carry a letter from your doctor explaining what the medications are (using generic names) and what they're for, as well as any dosage instructions.

If you're traveling to (or transiting through) countries with strict drug laws, check with the country's embassy to make sure your medication is not a restricted drug.

Bali and Indonesia

Some Australian prescription medications (including strong painkillers such as morphine and codeine, sleeping pills and medications for ADHD) are considered illegal narcotics under Indonesian law. Other medications such as paracetamol, antidiarrhoeals and antibiotics won't be a problem but if you're at all concerned about your medication, check with the Indonesian embassy

For a fee, they can write you a Certified Letter of Approved Medicines, but their website warns: 'The letter is neither for legality purpose nor providing guarantee that you will be exempted from any checks and legal consequences that may arise.'

Singapore

Many medications that are legal in Australia are restricted in Singapore. This includes some painkillers, cold and flu medications and ADHD medications. 

If you're only going through Singapore's transit zones, you don't need approval to carry medication, but if you're planning to stay there, check with Singapore's Health Sciences Authority. If approved, you can carry up to three months' supply of personal medication. 

Did you know you're not allowed to bring chewing gum into Singapore unless it's Singapore-registered medicinal chewing gum, like nicotine gum or oral dental gum?

Malaysia

You can bring medication into Malaysia as long as it's only for personal use and the supply doesn't exceed one month's use. If you're bringing anything unusual like syringes, strong painkillers or prescription sleeping pills, make sure you have a letter of explanation from your doctor.

Thailand

Thailand has very strict drug laws. A number of medications available in Australia, including some cold and flu drugs, strong painkillers and medication used to treat ADHD, are classed as narcotics or psychotropic substances under Thai law. If you're in any doubt, check with the Thai embassy

The Food and Drug Administration of Thailand has a list of controlled substances, some of which may be allowed into the country if you follow the correct procedures and don't bring in more than 90 days' supply.

Vietnam

Psychotropic medicines are restricted in Vietnam. This may include medicines that treat addiction, anxiety, depression, insomnia and other medical conditions. 

Some medications may be hard to find, and some may even be counterfeits. Bring all of your regular medication with you in its original packaging along with the original prescriptions.

Japan

Some common over-the-counter or prescription medicine, such as cold and flu or allergy treatments that contain codeine and pseudoephedrine, are restricted in Japan. If you're planning to travel with medication, make sure you check with the Japanese Embassy.

China

You may need documentation to prove the necessity of some medicines such as sleeping pills, strong painkillers and ADHD medication in China.

Otherwise you can bring in a 'reasonable amount of medication for personal use', which shouldn't exceed seven days' worth.

Europe

Medications that are legal in Australia may be restricted in some European countries. For example, codeine is considered a narcotic in Greece.

Check with the embassy of the country, or countries, you're travelling to (or transiting through), particularly if you're taking painkillers, sleeping pills, cold and flu drugs or ADHD medications with you.

USA

Some Australian medications may be illegal in the USA, particularly if they're not approved by the US Food and Drug Administration. Check the US Customs and Border Protection advice before you travel if you're concerned.

New Zealand

You'll need to declare any prescription medication to New Zealand customs, and medication must be carried in its original packaging, with the prescription or a letter from your doctor. You can take no more than three months' supply into New Zealand (a six-month supply of oral contraceptives is the exception).

Fiji

When travelling to Fiji, prescription medications or medicines considered a controlled drug, such as pethidine, codeine or morphine, will require a prescription from your doctor saying that it's being used under a doctor's direction.

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