I will be travelling to USA with prescribed medicine and I found vague information online. U.S. Customs and Border Protection website says:

A valid prescription or doctors note is required on all medication entering the U.S.

But there is no information on how a valid prescription looks like. What should the doctor's note contain?

Also, I'm not even sure that my doctor speaks english, what if she refuses to write me a note?

In my case, the pills are packaged like this:

enter image description here

The only difference is that the labels are in my local language. Do you think it would be possible that the customs officer would just wave me through? Do they really check every single piece of over the counter medication?

UPDATE: TSA didn't even look at my medicine, even though they did a full bag search for unrelated reasons. Immigration officer didn't ask for medicine either.

  • 1
    Realistically, nobody will ever look at your stuff, unless it is a potentially illegal substance in the US, and then they still would need to know about it.
    – Aganju
    Dec 13, 2017 at 12:22
  • If your doctor agrees to write a note but not in English or Spanish, you should get a certified translation of the note info English. But I agree with others that the note is probably unnecessary in most cases.
    – phoog
    Dec 13, 2017 at 12:32
  • If you need more of it while in EU, there is a list of international equivalencies at the bottom of the page, just incase you have to drop by a pharmacy while here. enjoy your stay : vademecum.es/medicamento-panadol_equivalencias_19243
    – CptEric
    Jan 8, 2018 at 7:09
  • 1
    panadol is paracetamol, it's available from supermarkets and pharmacies without a prescription...
    – jwenting
    Jan 8, 2018 at 9:22

2 Answers 2


I travelled recently with more complicated medication, and took the prescriptions my doctor gave us.

Nowadays they are printed in a computer and are pretty much standard in our country (think similar to a local NHS universal format, printed, not handwritten ). I do suspect officials might be slight familiar with the forms; the name of the several medicines do not need to be translated though, and it looks official enough (names of medicines, dosage, OCR codes, name of doctor and so on).

In the end, I was travelling with much more complicated medicines (a liquid container for asthma and another with powder), they just asked me for a visual inspection of the actual bottles at departure once. The medication was pretty familiar for them, I suspect, and I was not even asked for the prescriptions.

I would bet nobody will even look twice to a box of tablets. Most of them are packaged in a very similar way, despite the labels/tongue, and if it looks similar enough to a common medication, you might not even be asked for the prescription.

IMO, you can take your local doctor official prescription; if it is good enough for your local pharmacy/chemist, it will be good enough for them. I would venture that if they have strong doubts about wether something is official in your country, that they have the resources and people to find out the truth. If you look at the text you provide, they even mention

a copy of your prescription with you or a letter from your doctor


What I do recommend is carrying the medicine and the prescription in your hand luggage for easy inspection.

If you still have qualms about it, why not ringing your doctor instead of asking random people in the Internet?

  • 3
    Panadol is an over-the-counter medication and doesn't require a prescription in the US anyway. I think the image was just to illustrate how the medication was packaged -- eg in blister packs. Dec 13, 2017 at 12:30
  • Sorry, I am new to the site, and I realized I din't ask the question I wanted in my post - What should the doctor's note contain? . I have edited my post. Dec 13, 2017 at 12:31
  • 1
    @user2308001 I think you are overthinking this. I did what is asked, just put in my travelling backpack my official local prescriptions next to the medication. Dec 13, 2017 at 12:33
  • 2
    @RoddyoftheFrozenPeas You are correct, it was just for illustration, I corrected the answer. Dec 13, 2017 at 12:36
  • 1
    @phoog customs agents would know, or if not would have a list of things that are ok and paracetamol would certainly be on that.
    – jwenting
    Jan 8, 2018 at 9:24

I always travel with medications which require prescription, but I never had any prescription with me, since my doctor wouldn't be able to write them in english.

I declare them in the Customs Declaration Form, and no one ever cared about them.

I remember that in New Zealand I asked to the officer "do you want to see my medications?". No, he wasn't interested at all. In the US I didn't even ask.

  • 1
    I have been asked several times (randomly) to produce the actual medication, namely because it appears in the X-ray scan, but never been asked to show the prescriptions. Dec 13, 2017 at 13:02

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