5 Things Not to Buy Overseas

by  Fran Golden | Mar 10, 2017
Las Ramblas in Barcelona
Las Ramblas in Barcelona / iStock / stefanopolitimarkovina

When you're traveling abroad — whether you're in Europe, Asia, or South America — it's not a big deal to replace a broken sandal or stained T-shirt. But there are some things you just won't want to be caught without, including these five items. Trust us — and learn from our mistakes.

1. Deodorant
Don't expect to find your favorite brand or even much choice in stick or roll-on varieties. In Europe (including Italy, France, and Spain), spray is more popular. It may also be hard to find an antiperspirant as opposed to a deodorant, and even if you do find a familiar brand, the strength is likely to be weaker. And be wary of trying something new — I once got a horrible rash from a perfumed deodorant in Thailand.

2. Dental floss
This may sound silly, but dental floss is relatively expensive in Europe and nearly impossible to find in some other countries. My husband once ran out in Shanghai and discovered that even in the city's largest pharmacy on the renowned Nanjing Dong Lu shopping street — where you can buy practically anything — there was no such thing as floss, in any flavor at all.

3. Feminine hygiene products
Be prepared, because if you're not, you'll enter a world of unfamiliar brands and shapes and sizes. Even figuring out which pharmacy or convenience store stocks supplies can be a challenge. I accidentally went to the counter in Paihia, New Zealand, with what I thought I was looking for but turned out to be the Kiwi equivalent of Depends. Fortunately, the friendly pharmacist recognized my mistake and pointed me in the right direction.

4. Sunscreen 
While I am doing true confessions … in Spain I purchased what I thought, based on using my rudimentary Spanish to translate the label, was regular sunscreen. It turned out to be self tanner, and it turned me a very strange shade of orange. I then spent several days of my cruise looking like a creature from outer space. Don't let this be you.

5. Medications 
Be sure to pack enough of any prescription or over-the-counter medications you may need. It's likely that the brands you're used to will not be available, and you may not be able to find the same doses — 75 milligram baby aspirin, for instance, is not common in some countries. But most concerning is that what you buy overseas won't be FDA approved, which means that the medication may not meet the same safety and effectiveness standards as at home. Labels written in a foreign language won't help, either.

Rendering of The Manor nightclub on Scarlet Lady
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