This is a checklist of 10 travel rules for medicine that savvy world travelers observe.

In more than 200 countries on the planet, medicines commonly prescribed in the USA are sold over the counter without a prescription. We only need to walk into the pharmacy, request the medicine we desire, and they will sell it to us, about the same as buying aspirin inside the USA.

There are approximately 50 over-developed countries on the planet where we will have major problems buying medicines.

Strangely, traveling in the 200 poorer countries is often medically safer because we can afford the medicines and buy them easily. The risk is that we can misuse or abuse the medicines.

USA Passport Emergency Passport Page

These rules of medicine prepare you to communicate with pharmacists and doctors abroad. In the event you are robbed or becoming incapacitated, other people will be able to assist you quickly.

Please do not worry: There are medicines available in almost any country on the planet; the pharmaceutical companies sell everywhere. And they lower or increase the prices so that locals can buy the drugs. Escaping the financial chokehold of the U.S. medical community will be a freedom you will love.

After 15 years of living outside the USA, if I had a major medical problem inside the USA, I would fly to foreign countries for treatment. What costs me 50 USD inside the USA only costs 5 USD in the 200 normal countries - same medicines, just adjusted down to the cheaper countries’ ability to pay. It feels good to buy fairly priced medicines.

Non-Negotiable Travel Rules for Medicines

1. Assume when you travel abroad that you will become confused, disoriented and incapable of thinking for yourself. You need to assist people around you to know your medical needs, whether the ailments or the medicines. They need this information when you are not capable of explaining. There is gossip that people will just let you die. That is an oversimplification of a difficult situation. The world wants to know how you are going to pay for the hospital and doctor. You need to make them aware; this is your responsibility not theirs.

Fortunately, 99 percent of travel health problems you can be solved by walking into a pharmacy, explaining the problem, and receiving the medicine with little or no fuss and no prescription needed.

2. Take photos of all your medicines and store the photos in email folder so you can access them from anywhere on planet. Pharmacist can read the labels and figure out what medicines you need.

3. Carry 10 day’s more medicine than the number of days of your trip. If, for example, you are going on 10-day cruise, carry 20 days of the prescribed medicines you need. Then, if you were injured and needed to stay in a hospital for five days, there would be no disruption in your meds.

4. Buy malaria medicine in countries with malaria and carry it home with you. In the event you suddenly feel like a wet rag and you cannot move, take the medicine. U.S. doctors are not prepared to deal with malaria.

5. Do not assume you are talking with a licensed, educated pharmacist abroad; often it is just a normal person off the street. The solution is to go to 3-4 pharmacies, and keep asking questions until you feel safe

6. Know that health insurance generally does not pay for medicines in countries where there is a consular warning to not visit. (See the fine print in your policy.)

Wikipedia Translated into Languages

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Comments 11


I do not take any prescription medicines on a regular basis, yet I do now carry both malaria and antibiotic, and sinus medicines. Yet, I have met many American with big plastic bags full of medicines. Preparing the information you need to travel abroad for older people is taxing, if for some reason one of my readers wishes, you can pay me 35 dollars per hour, and I will call you on the telephone in the USA, and help you create all the necessary information in the languages needed. I am fluent in Spanish and French, but know how to find the correct pages in many of the major foreign languages. We could work up a very good packages to carry with you on a trip, and send by e-mail to family members, in 2-3 language, and of course English. There is a paypal thing below. Just a thought, Andy Graham, I know my parents could not store information on the internet. There are times when all your luggage is stolen, you need medical assistance, and it is really an emergency.


Write your BLOOD TYPE (A-) in Passport ! and any allergies such Morphine, anti-biotics ETC.... Have it translated to local language on a index card placed in Passport.

Chuck WoW


Yes Chuck, did you look at this CDC PDF I put as advisable?

We are going to make a whole seciton on your profile, whereby all this could be posted .Then, only members or people you want could have access.


Hi Andy

Great article!

A caution Id give is putting personal details in your passport of your family/friends/address/phone numbers. Anyone that finds or steals/copies your passport could use that info to extort money from those people, by telling them you are in need of medical care and they must send money.

Better to put the Hospital you have been treated in or a family doctor.

I have in mine (as I am a veteran) that my medical details are with the VA Administration and their contact details which can be reached 24/7. The VA will also (along with Medicare) fly you back to the USA for emergency treatment. Medicare will pay for emergency ambulance transportation in an airplane or helicopter if your health condition requires immediate and rapid ambulance transportation that ground transportation cant provide.

I also am signed up with the State Departments STEP
and list that in my passport.

There are also FREE online sites that will let you put in your medical details to be accessed in case of an emergency any where in the world with a computer.

Take care


I think if you register with the USA they track you in stupid ways, not that this is not sometimes a good idea, War Zones.

The bottom line, somehow in the passport, we need to have a person to contact, if there is nobody that they can find, you will have problems.

The Passport applications have tons of information, and the USA governments in embassies can see this, but old passports are out of date. We tried in Lago Atitlan.


Good info. Another thing people need to be looking out for in many of the other countries is there are a lot of counterfeit meds that are even sold in pharmacies.
Definitely need to check them out.

I found a way to travel with my meds, 6 and 1 a day vitamin. I use old small film roll holders/canisters and fill them up with a days supply. Easy to keep track of and not have to open 7 different bottles of different sizes each day. I also do the same at home by filling 30 or so up for use a month at a time.
But be sure to carry your prescription info with you as well.


I am trying to figure out ways to say this as rules. Is there a rule to follow that identifies meds as fake?


Fake meds: Not really, other than asking who and where is the really honest local pharmacy.
Ask more than one and then take your chances in some countries.
When in China I came across one of mine in a local market on the shelves.
It was in a plain bottle with a poorly printed label so I guessed it was probably not the real thing, but this was China ??
Obviously take yours with you and as you said an extra 10 days. But we both know there are some very without a clue travelers.


If possible buy Meds from the Hospital Pharmacy to avoid fakes. A bit more expensive but results could save your life.


For sure go to a hospital pharmacy.

I used a local farmacia in CR and they changed my Rx from ace inhibitors to beta blockers w/o telling me. I had used them before w/o a problem so I didnt check. I wound up having the same symptoms as if I was having a TIA. I saw a CR doctor and she caught the change. She wanted to put me into a CR hospital to keep an eye on me but instead I flew back to Texas and checked myself into the VA Hospital. I wasnt going to take a chance at a second error. The hospitals in CR are fantastic, but I lost confidence in CR care.


Hospital Pharmacies, that is good idea to avoid, or minimize the chance of fake medicines. I would be making decisions on how badly need the medicine also.

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