My wife and I are flying out to Kuala Lumpur this evening (well, 01:30 tomorrow morning). I came down with a nasty cough, fever, etc. for the last three days. My doc has just diagnosed me with bronchitis, which, while annoying, isn't contagious, and will go away on it's own.

I don't want to be coughing the whole trip (who wants to sit next to that guy?), so I asked him for a prescription for codeine based cough syrup, and he cautioned me that flying into Asia with opiate derived drugs is rarely a good idea. With that in mind, he wrote me a second prescription to be filled in Malaysia once we're there. He also wrote me a prescription for Zithromax in case my symptoms worsen (bronchitis is usually a virus, so antibiotics are useless).

I've spent about half an hour Googling around trying to find out if either TPE or KUL customs is going to much care about a 120ml bottle of codeine based cough syrup (especially partially used by the time they see it, the flight to TPE from SEA is nearly 13 hours, TPE to KUL is another 4-1/2). The only results I seem to get are for Singapore, where we won't be going this trip.

As far as TSA goes, my understanding is that liquid prescriptions that go over the 3oz limit are still allowed.

I generally do a lot more research before asking a question, but I'm beat and want to take a nap before our ride picks us up in a few hours, can you guys do some research for me?


I figure at worst, take about half a bottle with me, take one last dose and ditch it before entering TPE, even though we'll only be there for about 75 minutes or so.


Your doctor is correct that it is not a good idea (in terms of hassle).

However if you are only flying through TPE and not clearing immigration there, you will not go through the customs there. Thus so there will be no customs officers to look into your carry-on bags.

In KUL you would go through customs. All luggage and carry-on is screened there through an x-ray scanner. This seems to be very cursory check and I have never seen anyone stopped there so I have no idea what they're looking for. However legally it seems like you cannot bring them to Malaysia:

Prescribed drugs can only be imported into or exported from the country by virtue of a licence issued by the Ministry of Health, Malaysia.

Finally, your prescription from a non-Malaysian doctor is likely to be useless in Malaysia. I have tried my US prescription in different European countries, and it was never honored; you either need a prescription from a local doctor, or no prescription at all.

So to be safe, finish and ditch your bottle before clearing Malaysian customs. Hopefully you'll get well and won't need anything extra, but if you do, at least some Malaysian doctors speak good English and the visit is not expensive (by US standards).

  • Thanks for the answer, I'm aware that the US prescription won't be filled, but having it will tell a Malaysian MD that it's legit, or at least that's the hope. – delliottg Mar 27 '18 at 3:09
  • Good luck! The climate there is also good for lungs, its hot and humid (and seasonal forest fires in Indonesia haven't started yet). – George Y. Mar 27 '18 at 3:22

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