I plan to travel to California and stay more than one month.

I'm an insulin-dependant Diabetic. I am able to bring enough insulin with me to last the entire duration of my visit, but the issue is I'd like to hire a car and drive around the state. This means no access to a fridge on the days I'll be driving (and potentially the nights too, depending on where I stay in between driving days) which means I'll have to store the insulin in a cooling wallet.

Unfortunately in the cooling wallet the maximum lifespan of the insulin is four weeks (in a fridge it's months). Meaning no matter how much I take with me, the most I'm going to be able to use is four weeks' worth, before needing to obtain a 'fresh' supply.

So, what are my options for obtaining insulin as a foreign tourist in California? I'm a UK citizen if that's relevant, though I doubt it. I have travel insurance for the US but as far as I know it doesn't cover trips to the doctor for anything non-emergency, if indeed a doctor's prescription will be required.

Can it be done? Or am I basically limited to either staying less than a month, or ditching the driving plan? I really, really don't want to give up on this plan :-)

  • 7
    Have you considered a portable refrigerator that you can plug in to your car? Looks like Walmart sells some for about $50. Jul 15, 2015 at 20:15
  • @GregHewgill that is a good shout - will investigate!
    – techpacker
    Jul 15, 2015 at 20:20
  • 3
    Regardless of fridge, (+1 for that) knowing how to get insulin is needed. Even when you do bring enough for your whole stay, something can go wrong like dropping your last bottle, near the end of your trip. Happened to someone I traveled with, we did not mind the delay to get replacement as it was life saving for her.
    – Willeke
    Jul 15, 2015 at 20:23
  • @GregHewgill Beware that the cheap portable refrigerators have a limited temperature range and will not fare well if left in a hot car. Mar 24, 2023 at 1:52

2 Answers 2


You may be able to obtain a prescription from an Urgent Care facility like Cal Urgent Care or an emergency room in the hospital but it may be much simpler to get a portable refrigerator like Mobicool or Koolatron that you can keep the insulin in and have it plugged in while in the car or with the adapter in any room with an electrical outlet.

  • Thanks, I'm going to look into the travel fridges - didn't think of that! But just for info, do you know what costs would be involved in getting a prescription from an emergency room or urgent care facility?
    – techpacker
    Jul 15, 2015 at 20:22
  • 1
    @techpacker Urgent Care facilities costs vary so do Emergency Rooms but insulin at a pharmacy may cost you quite a bit depending on the amount of supply. Normally a visit to a facility by me will run about $50-$75 a visit for routine stuff.
    – Karlson
    Jul 15, 2015 at 20:25
  • @techpacker, no need for thanks, please read stackoverflow.com/help/someone-answers
    – Gayot Fow
    Jul 15, 2015 at 22:25
  • 2
    I wouldn't even consider going to an emergency room. Without insurance, going to an ER in the U.S. as a patient will cost you thousands of dollars. An urgent care clinic might work but you'd probably be better off asking your doctor in the UK for a paper prescription to take with you. I'm assuming that your insulin is non-prescription in the UK but he should still be able to write you one. Note also that specific insulins may have different names in different countries.
    – DoxyLover
    Jul 16, 2015 at 6:27
  • 2
    @DoxyLover Pharmacy more then likely not take the foreign script.
    – Karlson
    Jul 16, 2015 at 13:37

Some forms of insulin are available Over-The-Counter (OTC), i.e., without a prescription, in the USA. Also see this article.

Insulin syringes are also available OTC, and Walgreens (a major pharmacy chain in the USA) mentions that California is one of those states that permit it.

Before relying on OTC insulin, speak with your physician about what kind of insulin you need and make sure you can get that specific type in California. Don't get caught without the medications that you need.

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