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  • Writer's pictureMaria

How to Get Medicine and Other Pharmacy Items in Europe

Updated: 4 days ago

Disaster! You're jet lagged, hungry, tired, feet ache, pits smell and you think you're coming down with something you caught on the airplane to Europe. Mom told you to bring some DayQuil but you didn't listen, because it's Mom and you obviously know better than Mom, right?

And yet, Mom is always right. What's with that? This is a common scenario for me, even with my best packing judgements and foresight. Countless times I've overlooked the simplest of things - nose strips that I desperately need to subdue the effects of the lack of humidity I'm used to, or maybe a random ulcer/canker sore pops up due to the stress of travel - good luck finding those abroad.

In desperation, I recently scoured all the airport convenience stores for some DayQuil, only to be greeted by a slim amount of options including primarily digestive medication and condoms. What gives?

In the United States your local CVS, Walgreens or even the 7-11 carry all the drugs you need in a pinch. It's like candy sales, anything you want is pretty much at your finger tips, so why would it be different in Europe? Well it's time for a newsflash - it IS different, so you have to be prepared.

Note: Always Pack Tissues represents many tried and tested travel sites as what is called an 'affiliate' partner. That means if you click on my ads I may get a commission from a resulting sale.

"Me duele la cabeza" I said in Spanish to an Italian pharmacist. Uhhh...dolor de...mi testa?? I tried to correct. I was clueless and Google Translate was definitely not a thing at the time. I needed Ibuprofen. Simple Ibuprofen, and I had to go explaining my pain to a pharmacist to get the goods. I also cannot easily forget the "tit cream" story in Spain, or one of my favorites told by a family member recently was someone needing hemorrhoid cream and the pharmacists' response was..."for da butt?" in an Italian accent. How embarassing!

In Europe you HAVE to see a pharmacist for anything typically over the counter. Lose your contact lenses? You have to see an optometrist. Need some pepto? Cold meds? The pharmacy will dole out paracetamol. Then you have to fiddle with the box, whose instructions are in a foreign language, and all shell out a good bit of extra cash in comparison to the states.

My advice? Take a photo of all of your prescriptions or be able to access them in an online portal to show the pharmacist in the foreign country. Prescriptions for meds may require extra doctor's notes - I really don't know - but the over the counter basic stuff you should be able to get just by explaining (probably using Google Translate) what your ailments are.

Or, do yourself a favor and listen to Mom and pack what you need in advance. She usually knows what's best.

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