Travelling Australia? Applying For Your Medicare Card Is Easy as 1,2,3

Travelling to Australia can be daunting enough without the added worry of where to get your diabetic supplies. Before I left England, I wrote a post outlining my confusion around how to get a Medicare Card and receive cheaper prescriptions. This blog will give you a simple 3 step process and a piece of mind that I didn’t have before arriving in Australia. I’ll also give you a rough price that you should expect to pay for your meds.

What is Medicare & why should I join?Medicare

Medicare is essentially the Australian equivalent of the NHS, with the exception that the NHS will issue medication for free, whereas the former is simply a “discount membership card” if you will allowing you to save money on your prescription drugs.

As a UK citizen, you are entitled to join Medicare under the reciprocal agreement between us and the Aussies.

How much money will you save with a Medicare Card?

I can only speak for the medication that I am on, though the percentages will be similar I am sure for other insulin / blood glucose control products.

Typically 100 Freestyle Lite strips will cost you anywhere between $50 & $70 without a Medicare card – with one, just $35.

The savings are even better for Novorapid & Levemir. For 5 packs (5 pens in each pack = 25 pens), expect to pay around $150 without cover, or just $35 with a card.

To put things simply, your prescription will either cost around $350 without or $100 with a Medicare Card.

How to apply for a Medicare Card**:

It really as easy as 1.2.3 to enrol into Medicare and get your membership number. I did steps 1-3 in less than 30 minutes.

  1. Walk into any Medicare centre. There are hundreds across Australia & you can find your closest one using this link. You’ll need a couple of things before you go. Your passport & proof of visa (Australian bank account details are handy but you can apply for one without this)
  2. Complete the Medicare Application form. you can also download one here & come pre-prepared.
  3. You’ll be issued with a temporary Medicare Card. You can now get discount on your prescriptions and save your money for the fun things like dining out or travelling the country!
How to get your prescription:Novorapid Insulin Pen
You’ll need to see the doctor first as you can’t buy insulin over the counter (you can get your freestyle lite strips & needles without a Medicare Card but you’ll pay top dollar). Simply go to any medical centre – you can ask in the Medicare centre for the closest / cheapest practice, & book an appointment with a doctor. This will cost between $25 & $35 for an appointment, but you’ll be seen within the hour and the service is second to none – better than the NHS (maybe). He / she will issue you with a prescription & you’re ready to pick up your discounted supplies!
What about the needle tops?;

You’ll notice that I haven’t mentioned the screw on needle tops. These are not covered by Medicare & you need to register as a member to Diabetes Australia to receive these for free, else you’ll be paying $30 for a pack of 100. Some chemists won’t sell the needle caps without a card, so be prepared for a little hunt around, though it won’t be long before you find one that is ok with it.

I hope this blog post has clarified a few details for any diabetics concerned about getting a prescription down under. If you have any questions / thoughts, pop them in the comment box below & I’ll get back to you asap.

** All hyperlinks were checked and corrected as of 03/10/2013. As the forms are updated regularly, links often change and may result in errors, if this is the case, please message me below and I’ll amend it asap.

48 thoughts on “Travelling Australia? Applying For Your Medicare Card Is Easy as 1,2,3

  1. Pingback: Diabetic Travelling Australia « Jesus was a Road Runner…

    • Hey Susannah,

      As I’m from the UK, I can’t confirm whether the process is exactly the same. I’m pretty sure that NZ has the same reciprocal agreement as the UK though.

      Which part of Australia are you coming to? You can find your nearest Medicare centre by visiting this link.

      They’re really helpful and providing you bring your Visa / passport with you – you’ll be able to sort your Medicare card on the spot.

      If you have any further questions, don’t hesitate to ask πŸ™‚

  2. Great info. I’m type 1 and going to Oz feb 2013 for 12 months backpacking. I’m on the same insulin as you. I was wondering how to go about this. I will start off in Sydney. Really looking forward to it and your blog has made me a little less worried about the process of getting the meds I need.

    Thanks dude!

    • Hey Chris,

      Thanks for taking the time to message. Sydney is great, you’ll love it. We’re actually leaving next week to see a bit more of the world, but I’m certain we’ll be back in no time.

      If you’d like any advice on hotels or hostels, just drop me a message & I’d be happy to help. Also, if you’re looking for any kind of work, Gumtree is huge out here & caters for all levels of jobs from seasonal work to copywriting jobs such as mine.

      Take Care – Terence

      • Thanks for the Gumtree tip.. I’m sure I’ll have a million questions closer to the time so I might take you up on that offer!

        Hope you enjoy your travels

  3. Thank you so much for this post! I have been saving for a year long working holiday to Australia, I hope to go some time next year. I asked at the doctors on friday what I needed to do and they said nothing was stopping me from taking 6 months worth of insulin and then searching for a place once over there, but this has helped a lot!

    Did you find that it was pre filled pens or cartridges? A previous encounter with a pre filled pen has put me off using them, i found them very stiff to press!

    • Hey, I’m glad that the post has been of use to you.

      I used the pre-filled pens in the UK and requested them from the doctors in Oz. I don’t have the email address but I’m sure if you emailed diabetes Australia, they’d let you know if the country stocks your specific medicine.

      That said, the pre-filled pens had a redesign about 5 years ago which made them much easier to press. I’m not sure when your bad experience was.

      If you’d like any more advice on travelling Oz, don’t hesitate to drop me a message…

      • Oh my experience was probably 10 years ago now! Good to hear they have had a redesign I may have to give them ago!

        I’m in the planning and money calculation stage at the moment. Thanks for the offer of help, although you will probably regret it once I start spamming you!

  4. Hi me and my partner are travelling to Australia but I have looked into getting travel insurance, would it be work just getting a Medicare Card instead ?

    • Hey Robbie,

      A Medicare card and travel insurance are essentially two different things. Put simply, if you have an accident in Oz, a Medicare card will help you get cheaper medication, travel insurance would pay for the cost of any treatment that you needed.

      How long are you travelling for? I’d only recommend a Medicare card if it’s over 3 months.

      Hope this helps – have a great trip.

  5. Hi,

    I wonder if you can give me some advice. My boyfriend and I are going to apply for 12 month working holiday visas for Australia (we live in the uk). My boyfriend has type 1 diabetes. Do you have to declare this on your visa application?

    There is a question that asks: do you expect to incur any medical cost from any of the following conditions or diseases.

    It lists a whole bunch of diseases but diabetes is not one of them. Does he have to declare it?

    Any advice would be great!


    • Hey Vikki,

      How exciting eh! It’s been some time now since I completed the form, but I’ve just had another look and I’d probably select yes (in regards to the “other” option) and write Type 1 Diabetes in the box below.

      It shouldn’t affect the application either way, whether you choose to declare it or not as there are so many people travelling with diabetes these days, however, if you are worried about it, Diabetes Australia should be able to offer advice / the answer.

      I hope that I’ve been of some help, and if you have any more questions or concerns, please feel free to drop me another message.

      All the best & happy travels, Terence

    • Great post from who ever set up this page.

      Im doing the 12 month visa. I know this was a while back you did this but it has been very helpful. I have type one diabetes, so i will definitely need a fridge in the camper van. Not bad news though, cold beers!

      Anyways, I have written this here because I have the exact same problem on my Visa application for the ‘do you expect to incur medical costs’ section.

      I have put ‘no’, but i am worried this may have been a bad move. What did you guys do?

      Any advice would be great.

      Thanks for reading.

      • Hi Chris,

        Thanks for getting in touch.

        I bet you can’t wait to get out there. I’m pretty jealous to be honest. Especially as I’ve been back in the UK for three years.

        In response to your question about the visa application, I really can’t remember which box I ticked. I wouldn’t worry though as i doubt it will affect your application (nor ability to claim back expenses upon departure).

        Have a great trip and stay safe, Terence

  6. Hi, just wanted to say thank you to you for writing this as trying to get any kind of help from medical professionals in the UK as regards to travelling to Oz has been almost impossible!! Like you i’m a Type 1 on Novorapid and Levemir and im heading to Australia to travel and work for a year in Feb, just wanted to make sure both insulins still have the same name over there? also did you need to take a prescription with you from your UK doctor to ‘prove’ your diabetes? Thanks πŸ™‚

    • Thanks Chloe,

      That’s exactly why I wrote the post as neither professionals in the UK or Oz would offer any advice other than “You’ll have to ask when you get there”.

      Anyway, in answer to your questions, yes I took a prescription slip from the UK and also a doctors note (just to be safe). Both insulins have the same name and are readily available from most pharmacies.

      Also, my doctor from the UK was able to issue 3 months worth of medication before I left. If you speak to your doctor, I’m sure he / she can do the same. That’ll also buy you time before you need supplies out there.

      If you have any other questions nearer the time or even when you’re in Oz, please don’t hesitate to pop a message on here.

      Enjoy your travels,


  7. Hello!

    I am 23y old from Slovenia, Europe. My plan is to travel New Zealand, Australia, etc.
    However, I suffer from cronic disease – juvenile idiopatic arthritis and I am taking biologic drugs, Etanercept (brand name Enbrel).

    I need to inject myself 1 per week.
    In my country, my medicine is covered by my health insurance (monthly cost is around 1500€).

    I am planning to travel for at least a year, perhaps more.
    Noone can guarantee me, that my medical insurance will cover the medicine in another country, since they are here covered from ”sumpplemental/additional health insurance”.

    My personal rheumatologist states, that she could only give me a half a year supply, which would not be enough.

    Would medicare take care of my problems?

    • Hey Anja,

      After a little research, it would appear that Slovenia and Australia have a similar reciprocal agreement to the one that UK residents have.

      Here’s what I found from the Australian Government website:

      As a resident of one of these countries, the United Kingdom, Sweden, the Netherlands, Finland, Belgium, Norway, Slovenia, Malta and Italy, you are entitled to the following health or injury treatments while you are in Australia:

    • free treatment as a public in-patient or out-patient in a public hospital
      subsidised medicine under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS)
      Medicare benefits for out-of-hospital treatment provided by a doctor.
    • So, in summary, it would appear that you can get subsidised medication whilst in Australia (with a Medicare card). Plus if you collect receipts for your medicine, you may be able to claim back the full costs incurred when you depart the country (though I’m not sure on that one).

      Here’s a bit more detail about the relationship between Slovenia and Australia and what it entitles you to:

      You may also benefit from contacting someone like Arthritis Australia for more specialised answers:

      I hope this has been of some help to you.

      All the best, Terence

  8. Pingback: 16th June: Shopping in Perth | Andie & Em's Big Trip

  9. Hi there,

    I am travelling to Melbourne on 1st September for a year and trying to get my head around it all/finalise details. Saw in your post you mentioned letters are needed from your GP to get through customs? I normally carry a letter stating I am carrying my pump etc, needles. Is this enough? Also did you take quite a lot of medication with you from home? As am a bit worried they may not let it all through.

    I currently work in Marketing in London, and noticed you work in the same field, was it easy to find work? And you can only stay at one company for a period of time i believe?

    Thanks so much


    • Hey Rachel,

      I’m sure that any sort of letter detailing that you are diabetic and need to carry your medicine will be fine. As you’ll probably know from going on holiday, you rarely get checked, it’s just nice having that piece of mind.

      If you speak to your doctor he / she should be able to prescribe 3 months worth of medication. They will let it through at customs. Just think that there are so many type ones doing the same thing – they probably see this sort of thing on a daily basis.

      I can only speak for myself, but yes, I’d say compared to finding a comparable job in the UK, it is easier down under. Be sure to check out Gumtree for opportunities. Uhhh, yes, I think its 3 or 6 months, but your employer will probably find a loophole for you if they deem that you are good enough. I still work remotely for the company I worked for in Sydney – that’s been about 3 years now…

      Hope that you have a great time – and if you have any questions, feel free to reach out.

    • hi there rachel, this is abit of a long shot because you wrote this last year, but im type 1 diabetic and im on a metronic pump, i use he vials for nova rapid to fill the pump, how did you get supplies out in australia? and how did you get your pump supplies. thankyou very much if you can reply. πŸ™‚ mat..

  10. Hey!

    Im travelling to Australia with WHV for a 2-year time. Im from Estonia and type-I diabetic needing daily injections of Lantus and Humalog. I have read that my country is not eligible for Health Care card and therefore have to pay the full price for those medications. Can you tell me how much costs one pack of Lantus and Humalog insulin (5 cartridges *3 ml) and some insulin needles (assuming I do have a prescription)

    Thank you so much!


    • Hey Birgitt,

      For 5 packs (5 pens in each pack = 25 pens), expect to pay around $150 without medicare cover.

      I hope that this helps. Just as a side note, having written this post a couple of years back, prices may have risen a little.

      Enjoy your travels.

  11. I am an Australian citizen who frequently hosts international travelers to this country and have great conversations on the great experiences they have had and the great Australians they have met.
    One such conversation touched on the availability of Medicare Cards to UK citizens and some limitations that they had incurred at the Center in Cairns. It appears that they were told that they could not be given a card unless they required immediate medical assistance and to confirm that was asked what was medically wrong with them.
    I have researched the application documentation and found no such limitation and such a question would broach a persons privacy in the worst way as the staff member was not a medical practitioner.
    Could you please enlighten me as to the requirements expected from an overseas visitor as my own opinion is there is something drastically wrong for this behavior towards our overseas visitors

  12. hello there, my names matt.. im travelling to Australia in september this year, im type 1 diabetic and im on an insulin pump, i litterally have no idea how to get supplies out there or if they even have the vials for my pump. do you have any advice for me??

    • Hi Matthew, so sorry for the late reply! you are probably in Aus now then? They have all the vials. Join medicare when you get there. Join the NDSS- then they send you a card- then you can get discounted test strips, needles and pump consumables. They have all the same stuff. When you have joined Medicare you then book a GP appointment, and get a prescription for the insulin. You need to ask for a bulk billed appointment, as this has no cost to you and the doctor claims the cost from Medicare. If you have any more questions feel free to ask!

      • Hi Rachel. I was just wondering if you could share your experience of applying for a WHV? What exactly did you put on your application (and where) and were you asked to provide any extra information/documents?

      • Hi. Sorry to contact again! I have completed my online visa and straight away it told me I had to complete some questions (on e-medical). I’ve read a case officer then tell you what medical examinations you need to take. Did you experience this too? Did you complete the e-medical and then they granted it after that with no further questions?

  13. What were people’s experiences like when applying for a visa? When you declared you had Type 1 Diabetes, were you required to undergo a medical examination?

    • Hey Hannah,

      There were no issues with me getting a visa. I just completed the necessary paperwork and that was all πŸ™‚ There are so many diabetics in the world, you rarely even get questioned at customs these days.

      All the best, T

    • Hi Hannah

      Yep no problem either, I just said I was type 1. I also just got approved for my second year whv, in which I attached a cover letter saying I had type 1 and self funded. So no need to worry! I found getting supplies in Aus easier too!

      Have fun!


      • Hi. Sorry to ask more questions. I’m only going for 5 months and I’m about to apply for my WHV. I assume you put under “do you expect to incur any medical costs?” about being diabetic. I was just planning on putting “type 1 diabetic with no complications. Will take enough medicine to last my 5 months in Australia but in case I need any more I will need to obtain a prescription but all medicines will be paid for out of my own money” – or something along those lines? So once you sent off your visa application, did it get approved with no further questions (like the next time you heard anything was them telling you your visa had been approved?)

  14. Hey Terence!
    I just wanted to say a massive thank you for writing this, I’m moving to Aus (Perth) in a few weeks and this has taken a massive load off my mind, I’d looked online before and found out about medicare… But no mention about how much would be discounted, so I was not looking forward to paying loads after being used to the NHS haha, any way thanks again!
    Best regards,

  15. Hey Terence!
    This article is great help in understanding the procedure.
    I will be arriving in sydney soon. So just preparing the things. I heard that a number of medicare centres now even have a wait period for temporary medicare card/number. Can anyone help me out in this? Is this an issue? If yes which medicare centre is likely to have less wait period or instant issuance of temporary medicare care/number?

    Thanks and Best Regards,

  16. Hello Terrance, thank you for a very detailed post in explaining the Medicare system in Australia! For backpackers who are looking to go on a working holiday, even if you are eligible to apply for a medicare card it is still very important to obtain a travel insurance that covers you in emergency situations whilst in Australia. Whilst Medicare offers free or subsidised treatment and consultations by health professionals such as doctors, optometrists and specialists, it does not cover the costs of requesting emergency services. Since it is expected that you will be constantly travelling, you should be prepared of any emergency situations that arouse. Potential situations may include losing your passport or having to call an ambulance or be airlifted by a helicopter after injuring yourself in the outback (this is priced at $20,000). Getting a travel insurances is probably a smart idea given that you will be travelling for at least one year.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s