Medications & Vaccinations

Before traveling internationally, you should ensure you have taken the necessary steps to take care of your healthcare abroad, including considering your prescription medicaton and vaccination needs.  The availability and legality of certain medications varies by country, as do the vaccination requirements to be granted entry.  


Medical Marijuana

Never travel internationally with any amount of medical marijuana. Marijuana is illegal in many countries. Students with a US prescription for marijuana can be arrested, prosecuted and deported if in possession of any illegal substance.

Airports and airplanes are federal jurisdictions. You can be detained and arrested when going through security. Federal authorities do not recognize the medical marijuana laws or cards of any state. 

Prescription Medications

Be aware - medication brand names, strengths, applications, etc. may vary in different countries. What is over the counter in the U.S. may not even be legally sold in your host country. Our international insurance provider, United Healthcare Global, provides useful online tools to look up the local names of many medications, as well as whether it is legal to bring specific medications with you from the United States to your destination country.

  • Take an adequate supply of any needed prescription medications with you in the original, labeled containers.
  • Obtain a letter from a doctor including a description of the problem, the generic name(s) of the required medication, and the prescribed dosage.
  • If you need a medication containing habit-forming or narcotic drugs, carry a doctor's certificate attesting to this need to avoid problems with customs agents and police abroad.
  • Students who require injections for a specific health concern (e.g., diabetes) should obtain a doctor's letter explaining the need to carry needles and/or syringes.
  • Before traveling, find out if necessary medications are legal/available in the host country.  Tools for researching specific medications are available through United Healthcare Global.
  • Go to the Prescriptions section of the State Department's "Students Abroad" website for more information.
  • If you wear glasses, bring an extra pair and, if you wear contacts, it is best to bring enough for the duration of your time abroad.
  • It is wise to bring copies of prescriptions for glasses, contacts and any other medications.


Some countries may require you to have certain vaccinations prior to entry. Visit the Penn State Travel Clinic (or another health care provider) as soon as possible to get required immunizations and other pre-travel medical and health advice. It is important to make this appointment early, as some vaccinations must be administered over a period of days, weeks, or even months in some cases.

Resources for information on vaccinations for international travel