Undergraduate Medical Education

What to Pack

Print out and check off list as you prepare. Many items can be bought once overseas (usually things like toothpaste, shampoo, toilet paper) so you only need to take enough to get you settled. Sometimes you'll pay a higher price for foreign made goods but the price is worth the weight. Remember weight limit on transcontinental international flights is usually two 30 kg bags (70 lbs/bag), but local flight weight limits may be 15 to 20 kg (~35-45 lbs) total! Use this opportunity to take medical donations abroad: 1 bag of your stuff and 1 bag of donations. Contact your local site and ask them what they need. Good adventure travel stores are Campmor (www.campmor.comExternal Site / New Window) and REI-outlet (www.rei-outlet.comExternal Site / New Window)


  • Passports(with enough blank pages left for all your travels. See Passport Tips)
  • Visas (Take extra passport-size photos of yourself for unexpected visas.)
  • Traveler's Checks (Separate the number slips and keep separate.)
  • Credit Cards (Do not use for cash advances.  Use your ATM card to obtain local currency.)
  • ATM card (Change your PIN to only 4 digits-some int'l tellers won't take >4 digits. Credit card and ATM exchange rates are usually better than local exchange places. Check before using if 2-4% fee per transaction, better to make fewer larger transactions than many $20 ones.)
  • Foreign Currency (at least enough for telephone calls, 2-3 nights hotel if arriving during the weekend or local holiday, taxis, then check out the best exchange place. Large denomination cash will usually give the best rate, Traveler's Checks the lowest.) For currency exchange rates, check out: http://finance.yahoo.com/m3?u
  • US Cash (Take several denominations. Store the $100 bills in separate secret pouches.)
  • 2 blank personal checks
  • Airline Tickets
  • Health Documentation (Vaccination cards and health insurance forms for claims and emergency phone)
  • Int'l Driver's License (Even if not driving, serves as an extra I.D.)
  • Student ID/Int'l discount cards/Hostelling cards/Calling cards
  • Emergency Information (medical, itinerary, relatives)
  • Photocopies of important documents (passport, driver's license, airplane ticket. Keep separate from originals! Leave a set at home with emergency contact.)
  • Collect phone/toll free numbers for credit cards, travel insurance, bank, airline agency in case documents lost. Some countries do not place toll free calls so dial regular phone collect.


  • Prescription for med refills, stating doses. (Tablets travel better than syrups or gel caps)
  • Birth Control/ Condoms
  • Blister Kit (mole skin)
  • Band Aids (Bigger ones are better and can be cut)
  • Adhesive Tape
  • Compression Bandage Antiseptic/Iodine wipes (Can refill smaller bottle carried in Fanny pack)
  • Antibiotic Cream
  • Insect Repellent (DEET, place in plastic zip lock, it can dissolve some materials!)
  • Antihistamine Cream/Tabs (for insect bites/allergies)
  • Anti-fungal cream
  • Sunscreen (SPF 30 or above)
  • Lip Balm
  • Tweezers
  • Scissors
  • Antacid
  • Diarrhea Medicine (a few courses of Cipro and Septra may be advised, plus Immodium)
  • Malaria Pills (Check with Travel Clinic)
  • NSAIDs
  • Cold Medicine (Azithro)/ asthma meds/ vitamins/ nausea meds
  • Laxative
  • Tampons/Pads
  • Spare eyeglasses in hard case
  • Diamox (=Acetazolamide- Consider if you want to take it for high altitude sickness prophylaxis)


  • Soap with container (or small bag)
  • Shampoo/Conditioner or Leave-on Conditioner (for when there is no hot water!)
  • Deodorant
  • Travel Wash or detergent soap for clothes (powder becomes messy!)
  • Clothesline (Fishing nylon line or braided surgical rubber and tuck clothes corners in between braid)
  • Shaving Kit/disposable razors
  • Toothbrush, Paste, Floss
  • Sink Stopper or collapsible bucket
  • Mirror (unbreakable type)
  • Towel (compact type, or use local kanga/pareu/beach wrap)
  • Contact Lens Supplies
  • Lotions/Skin Creams
  • Comb/Brush
  • Toilet Paper
  • Fingernail Clippers

CLOTHING: Take less of what you think you'll need!! Many local markets have great bargains. Think what is culturally appropriate (?? sleeveless shirts, short skirts/shorts, jeans or slacks for women). Think of layers, and colors that mix-match and don't show dirt easily (two color schemes). Bright colors will fade with bad detergents. Insects are attracted to bright yellows/orange and Tse-tse flies to dark blue. Avoid military style patterns and colors. New synthetics like Coolmax dry faster, keep you fresher and warmer when wet than cotton. You can give clothes away or barter them when you leave.

  • Socks- thin cotton, thermal, wool, liners for hiking to avoid blisters.
  • Gaiters
  • Hat or Visor- better if crushable, with tie around neck for wind, wide brims, ear cover if cold
  • Gloves/Scarf/Multi-purpose bandana
  • Comfortable Shorts with pockets
  • Skirt with pockets
  • Sunday dress
  • Trousers with pockets, Trousers that become shorts
  • Belt (lightweight nylon or canvas, useful for attaching binocular/sunglass cases)
  • Cotton Tights or Thermal Underwear
  • Rainwear (waterproof things before you leave, umbrella vs. poncho that covers backpack)
  • Sandals or Tevas (which can double as shower shoes), Boots, Walking Shoes (one pair of each)
  • 2-4 T-shirts or shirts. (May be easily bought anywhere as souvenirs)
  • Swimsuit
  • Underwear
  • Jacket/windbreaker
  • White coat for the hospital with name tag


  • Travel Luggage (make sure wheels work)
  • Hiking Backpack with padded hip belt
  • Fanny Pack/ Day pack
  • Large duffel bag (to pack Hiking Backpack inside when checking it in on planes)
  • Several Padlocks- (combination style preferred.) Cable lock. Bungee cords (to secure to train racks or secure doors.)
  • Label all bags/gear inside and outside with indelible/waterproof markers. Take markers with you. Write destination address, not home address when leaving. Use school's address or business instead of home.
  • Money Belts (hidden from view, under clothes)
  • Pouch for Passport, Tickets & Cash (hidden from view, can waterproof / sweat-proof inside with plastic bag)
  • Camera & Accessories
  • Film (if ASA >400 get X-ray protection bag)
  • Extra Batteries
  • Water Purifier or Iodine Tablets
  • Water Bottles (Nalgene best, or collapsible type)
  • Large plastic garbage bags to waterproof/dustproof inside or outside of travel bags (can be used to protect your feet from questionable shower floors)
  • Personal protection items such as whistle or maze spray. Maze spray is illegal in some countries and will be confiscated (i.e. if passing through London check with luggage and not in carry-on).
  • Travel Alarm/Watch (smallest available, not expensive)
  • Medical instruments (stethoscope at least which can also be used as your reflex hammer, Snellen card with ruler, otoscope (with extra eartips), a box of gloves, thermometer if you're not sure of the ancillary services, BP cuff maybe, neuro kit not that useful)

MISCELLANEOUS: Adjust list according to destination and extra activities.

  • Flashlight & Extra Bulbs/Batteries. (Don't get the sliding switch on/off that easily gets slipped to on. If small can be your hospital examining light.)
  • Headlamp
  • Sunglasses with HARD Case and head Strap, Lens cleaning fluid
  • Ear Plugs and Eye mask for sleeping
  • Inflatable airplane/bus pillow
  • Voltage Adapter and Converter
  • Swiss Army Knife or Leatherman tool (at least with scissors, pliers, tweezers, knife, small screwdriver)
  • Plastic Ziploc Bags
  • Sewing Kit (with large needle that fits dental floss)/Thread/Safety pins (for hems, closing curtains, hanging clothes to dry, etc)
  • Lighter (careful at airplane safety inspection points)/Matches
  • Pocket solar Calculator
  • Binoculars
  • Compass
  • Journal (keep in Ziploc bag)
  • Pens (MANY to give away)
  • Novels (can later be given away or exchanged)
  • Travel Guides/Maps (Can photocopy sections or break sections apart. Keep in Ziploc bag.)
  • Language/phrase Books
  • Medical Books (Can donate at the end)
  • Multi-purpose Duct Tape (Seal holes, put up mosquito nets, etc.)
  • Extra nylon string (put up mosquito net, clothes line, etc)
  • Warm, stuffable sleeping bag/ insulating bag/ mattress/ sleeping sheet
  • Light backpacking tent (seam seal for waterproof before you leave)
  • Mosquito net (the rectangular style is more versatile to set-up than the teepee style)
  • Durable lightweight eating utensils (spoon/fork/chopsticks)


  • Photos of your friends/family/school
  • Photos of yourself to give away
  • Your favorite music to give away
  • Your favorite recipe book to give away
  • Donations of instruments/ medicines (Contact MAP-International for Travel Pack medicine kits prepared for donations. E-mail: mapus@map.org or call (800) 225-8550 or Interchurch Medical Assistance-Medical Box Program. (410) 635-8720 E-mail: I_M_A@Ecunet.org ) / medical books (OB EDC wheels, plastic measuring tapes, past Pharmacopoeias and Sanford Guides, etc.) and your not-exactly-stolen scrubs.

Adapted from www.oratory.com/travel/External Site / New Window by Doug Dyment, http://www.budgettravel.com/External Site / New Window, and from personal experience.

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