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Advice About Medicines When Travelling

The traveller is responsible for finding out regulation of the countries they are visiting and the airlines there are travelling on regarding all medication. Your doctor will not have this information nor are they responsible for providing this. This applies to prescribed AND over-the-counter medications. Patients should do this well in advance: Local regulations (e.g. in Turkey, China and Singapore) may require them to get a licence for carriage of ANY personal medication. They may need a doctor’s letter and to get this translated by an authorised body for any medication to be carried.


Letters provided for travel are not part of the GP NHS service but your GP may be willing to provide this for a fee (check with reception) or if they are too busy may redirect to a private travel clinic.

The following are not available on an NHS prescription (private travel clinics can help with these):

  • Malaria prophylaxis
  • Vaccines for Japanese encephalitis, Tick-borne encephalitis, Yellow fever, Rabies (unless the person is at occupational risk e.g. bat handler or is having post exposure prophylaxis, in which case this is provided under the NHS).
  • Sunscreens (these are only prescribable on the NHS to patients with specific medical conditions e..g vitiligo, genetic disorders, radiotherapy, chronic or recurrent herpes simplex labialis”

Controlled drugs

Within Europe Government advice is that a patient must be able to prove controlled medication belongs to them to travel into or out of the UK. This requires a letter outlining use and countersigned by ‘the person who prescribed the drugs’. If carrying more than 3 months’ supply, they will also need a Home Office licence:

Requests for extra supplies of medication for patients who wish to travel abroad

For visit longer than 3 months the patient should be advised to register with a local practitioner. Check with the manufacturer that medicines required are available in the country being visited. Some medicines can be purchased without a prescription from pharmacies in some countries. They are entitled to an NHS Prescription to cover the time until they get to the destination and find an alternative supply of that medication abroad. This will never be for more than 3 months.

Just in case medicines

GPs are not responsible for the prescribing of ‘just in case’ items for conditions which may arise while abroad or travelling. Travellers are advised to purchase medication they may need or if is a prescription only item this may be issued at the discretion of the doctor on a private prescription.

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