You’ve just set your suitcase down at your room on your long-awaited trip to Mexico, then realized you left your medication at home. Or perhaps you’re in the middle of a road trip through the American Southwest when your daily medication runs out – but you didn’t pack a refill.
If this sort of thing has happened to you, you’re not alone, and you know that it certainly can dampen the excitement of your travel adventure.
Around 48% of American adults take at least one prescription medication regularly, according to the CDC. Yet getting access to prescription medication while on vacation can be tricky.
It's important to do your due diligence beforehand. Talk to your doctor before you leave. Stop by your pharmacy to make sure you are stocked up. Do some basic research on what options you have in the place you're traveling to.
Whether you’re on vacation in the US or on a dream trip abroad, getting prescriptions while traveling can be a complicated and frustrating process.
Follow our advice to help get the medication you need while on the road.
How to get prescriptions while traveling in the US
For American travelers, accessing medication while in the US is a lot easier than getting prescription medication abroad.
The best way to fill prescriptions while traveling is to contact your regular doctor or pharmacist and ask them to provide a new prescription to a local pharmacy close to you. This can be easier if you already use a larger chain pharmacy, as they should be able to redirect your prescription pickup to an alternate store location.
A good travel tip is to make sure to bring copies of your prescriptions and doctor’s contact information in case your prescription is lost or stolen.
This won’t work for every prescription, however.
“For controlled substances, those medications which have an addictive quality to them, the situation is more complex,” says Dr. West Conner, a pharmacist in Nashville, Tenn.
“The rules change depending on the individual state, medication, and comfort level of the pharmacist. Some states do not allow controlled substances to be transferred in from another state. If the pharmacist cannot transfer your prescription for any reason, you will have to visit a local clinic or see a local doctor to get your medication,” West says.
How to get prescriptions abroad
Getting prescription medication abroad can be a lot more complicated than while traveling in the US. Depending on your destination, access to medical services may be limited, there may be language barriers, and medications can vary from country to country – what you take usually may not be available, and alternative brands may have different ingredients or dosages than you’re used to.
It can also be very expensive to visit a doctor while traveling, and getting prescription medication abroad may cost a lot more than you’re used to – which is why it’s important to get travel insurance before departing.
How to get prescriptions abroad if you have travel insurance:
Contact your travel insurance company, who will direct you to a recommended doctor in your current or nearby area
Visit the local doctor and explain your situation. Ideally, you’ll have your important medical information with you to communicate your condition and the prescription required
The doctor will be able to prescribe your medication, or a similar medication, in most cases
Obtain receipts for any costs or payments made, as you may be able to claim this with your travel insurance
If you purchase travel protection from Travelex Insurance Services (TIS), our travel assistance and concierge services provided by On Call International will assist you with replacing medications that are lost, stolen or spoiled during your covered trip. This includes getting them from a local pharmacy, or if necessary, sending them to you via courier. If you run out however, this is not something TIS policies would cover.
If you don’t have travel insurance:
Visit www.usembassy.gov to contact your local embassy or consulate
Ask for list of local doctors so you can make an appointment
Keep in mind you will have to pay out-of-pocket for expenses
More tips for prescriptions while traveling
It’s wise to be prepared ahead of your trip if you take medication regularly.
Make an appointment with your doctor 6-8 weeks ahead of your trip to ensure you’re fit to travel and all your prescriptions are up to date
Talk to a pharmacist before leaving to discuss possible alternatives to prescriptions abroad, such as over-the-counter medicines or herbal remedies
Ensure your prescription medications are legal in the country you’re visiting, as laws differ around the world
Fill your prescriptions so you have enough medication to last throughout your trip, particularly if you will be traveling for a long period of time
Carry a letter from your doctor or pharmacist outlining the prescription and your medical condition. This is especially important if you’ll be travelling with a larger quantity of prescription medication.
If your travels require time-zone changes, it can be helpful to set alarms or reminders to take medication so that you don’t accidentally forget
Compile your health information ahead of time into a medical portfolio, so that you have what you need in case you need to see a doctor or pharmacist while overseas. Here’s how to create one.
By taking the time to plan ahead and be prepared for prescriptions while traveling, you can make sure that you are able to get the medications you need when you need them. If you have any questions about prescriptions abroad, contact your doctor or pharmacist for more information.
By following these tips, you can ensure that your prescriptions are taken care of while traveling!
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