Do you Need to Pack Medicine? Health Concerns While Traveling

I’m not a medical professional. I’m just a person who’s travelled a lot. Don’t blame me if my advice leads to you getting sick or crapping yourself.

pharmacyPacking light is an art form that’s been studied by many a travel-guru. Even though it has the potential for amazing sounds, you probably don’t want raging diarrhea to ruin your trip. At the same time, loading up your bathroom travel kit with everything behind the mirror seems a little much. Instead, while you’re abroad you could head to a local pharmacy to get what you need, and a little adventure while you’re there.

When I travel, I usually just bring a small pack of Ibuprofen. Any other medications I might need I can likely get overseas for much less.

You’ll read that you can’t trust the medicine in other countries, but I’ve never had a problem and I generally think that statement is either a lie to sell more meds, or just racist.

I don’t condone taking anti-malaria pills (I’ve heard more bad stories about them than malaria cases), but for someone to say you should buy them before you go to the malaria-troubled country is crazy. A malaria pill in Canada costs $5 — for one. In Thailand, it’s possible to get imported (likely made in Europe) anti-malarials for 50 cents each. Of course they have anti-malarials in countries that get malaria. I mean, screw you Dr. Dollar Sign.

I’ve been to pharmacies in four different continents and I’ve never had a problem communicating what I want. In fact, the pharmacist usually speaks enough English to provide me with more customer service than I expected or needed. There have been a few cases where the pharmacist spoke no English and I had to write down or mime things out, but this can be avoided by doing some Google searches ahead of time. An international hospital will always have a pharmacy and some English speakers around.

Of course, I absolutely do my research ahead of time. Overseas pharmacists might not have any training at all and screwing up doses can be fatal. Luckily, there are many great websites out there to help you figure out what you need and how much you should take.

If you’re worried about matching up your medication with the same dosage as your original, try this site out It allows you to search for your brand of drug and see what the alternatives are for various countries. For example, if on my trip to India I wanted to leave my jumbo pack of Viagra at home, I can do a quick search for Viagara on the site and see that in India the equivalent to it is called WAVEGRA… and it’s only $0.13 a pill?! I might as well stock up while I’m there. Anything to claim, sir?
[Insert boner joke here]

This can be really useful if you are traveling for a long time and your pharmacy has a limit on how much medication you can get. In some countries, the meds you usually need a prescription for can be bought over-the-counter (does anyone else think that the term ‘over-the-counter’ should refer to meds you get from the pharmacist who’s working on the OTHER SIDE OF A COUNTER?!). Birth control is a great example of this. The majority of countries in the world allow you to buy birth control over-the-counter. After a quick Google search you can confirm that the place you are traveling to does. Then head to and type in your brand — that way you can get a product with a similar dose and not risk conceiving a baby in Middelfart, Denmark (in which case you’d be obliged to name your baby Middelfart).

For self-diagnosing, WebMD is a great site (they also have reviews for medications), but I like to get a second opinion on most things so I’ll also check out the Mayo Clinic, Healthline, and a plethora of Google searches.

Of course, not every place in the world has the medication you will need, or even a pharmacy in general, but if you use your common sense and you have access to a computer there is a ton of information out there that can save you space in your luggage and even some money.