The usual advice when traveling with prescription medicine is to bring it in the original packaging. I'm wondering exactly how strictly that is enforced.

The medicine I take come in big cardboard boxes which contain blister cards that hold 3 months worth of pills together. Taking that entire thing would waste scarce backpack space, and would also amount to bringing much more drugs than I need for my trip, which is also generally advised against.

So what I'm doing is that I bring enough blister cards to get me through the vacation, in a plastic bag, and then I have the empty cardboard boxes (with personalized pharmacy labels on them) folded flat at the bottom of my luggage.

This has not caused me any problems, for the trivial reason that I've never had my bags inspected by customs anyway. However, if I were to be picked out for a random customs inspection, would it create any problems that the original packaging I bring doesn't actually physically surround the pills, as first viewed by the inspector? Anyone have concrete experience with this?

[I'm not asking about any particular destination; most guidance I've found about particular countries are at the same level of generality, so presumably there are not wildly different interpretations of "in original packaging" among countries that require that].

  • 1
    i had a similar thing with antibiotics for two people - both blister sheets fit in one box, so I did that, and brought the other box folded flat. But nobody ever looked at it so I have no proof this was a successful strategy. Sep 5, 2015 at 13:35

2 Answers 2


Basically the same as me. Three months' supply would take up most of my backpack. So I compress them and overpack the cardboard boxes with the blister packs, and then do three things that have made inspection easy:

  1. Keep the original containers. As you've done, keep them in the blister packs / containers - do NOT put tablets in unmarked bottles. This will raise TONS of questions.
  2. Keep your original prescription and labels.
  3. Have a letter from your doctor describing your medical condition, requirements and prescription.

Numbers 1 and 2 have always been enough for me - I actually always declare my drugs because 1) I get worried someone will claim I'm trying to import restricted 'drugs' and 2) the declare line in NZ/Aus is often shorter :D Number 3 has come up twice, and been enough to satisfy anyone.

So long story short - you're doing the right things, but an additional letter can always be useful, especially with non-experienced police or officials in ... dodgier countries, to persuade them they've not found a drug mule (and are not getting a bribe out of you either!)

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    In some places (e.g., the UK) you don't have the original prescription (it's kept by the dispensing pharmacy).
    – gsnedders
    Sep 5, 2015 at 20:31
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    @gsnedders: But apparently this is a continuing prescription, so normally the pharmacy provide a note of what it is and when you next need a supply . Sep 6, 2015 at 0:03
  • That's correct. And also you don't have to have the original - that's just a suggestion if you do have it. The more documentation, the fewer unanswered questions, is the rule I follow.
    – Mark Mayo
    Sep 6, 2015 at 3:40
  • Some countries don't have the concept of a "continuing prescription" - not sure if that is the case in the UK, but there are definitely countries where you always need to get a new one from your doctor whenever you run of out of supplies. The pharmacy won't issue anything on paper except for the receipt in such a case.
    – DCTLib
    Sep 6, 2015 at 9:00
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    Here we don't even get prescriptions on paper anymore. It's just an electronic transmission from the doctor to the pharmacy, authorizing the latter to sell me such-and-such drugs. Sep 7, 2015 at 19:34

I have to take medication with me all the time. Five or six different kinds. The largest box contains twenty blister packs of 10 capsules each. It measures

16 x 6.5 x 16 (cm)

I do as follows...

  1. Remove the blister packs, separate what's needed
  2. Open all the flaps on the box and press it into a flat surface
  3. Pack the flattened boxes together in a travel wallet (for visualization purposes, I use the Victorinox Travel Wallet which you can see in a Google search, but I suppose any comparable travel wallet will do).
  4. Pack the blister packs in the side pocket of my hand luggage (for visualization purposes, I use a Lightspeed Gann, but any comparable product will do)
  5. Fold the prescription orders down to a small flat surface and put them with the blister packs.

Two of the medications I take are controlled substances and I am informed that they can be sold on the streets of NYC for USD 20 per capsule. So whether I'm asked or not I always make a big deal about it with customs. I bring it up first and tell them I have controlled substances with me. I travelled to Dallas last month and had to 'follow the blue line' to the customs desk and showed my blister packs and prescription orders, the fellow typed something (presumably Google) and dismissed me. In June I did the same thing in Russia (Stavropol) and had essentially the same result. Both times the process took about two minutes, and both times the agents did not want to inspect the boxes.

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