Overseas travel/language issues with diabetes

I've only been out of the country once in my life, in high school, before I was diagnosed, and I'm finally taking the plunge next month.

I'll be in Germany and France, and I don't speak either language very well.  I'm looking for recommendations for learning/referring to key T1 related phrases?  I came across the Freedom to Travel series.  Has anyone had positive experiences with that, or would you recommend something else?

Any other advice, in general?  I'll be traveling with (or, rather, meeting) a friend who has lived in Europe for years and is fluent in multiple languages, so I'll have someone who has my back once I get there.  I contacted my doctor and, in addition to the travel letter and copies of prescriptions I always get when I travel, they're going to give me some extra bottles of insulin - I use a pump and apparently the shape of the vials is different in other countries, and might not be compatible with the reservoirs I use.  I've always had good luck going through airport security when flying domestically - are there any added challenges when going through customs and/or security in other countries?

Thanks for any input.

I've traveled to Europe twice with the pump and both times I didn't have any trouble getting through customs and security.  That's interesting about the different vial shapes - good thing to know.  As long as you have plenty of supplies for the trip, you should be fine.  Sorry I can't help you with type 1 related phrases, but hopefully everything will be fine and you can carry a list of any phrases you might need in an emergency.  Actually, if you have a medic alert bracelet, you could put the information in French/German so that other people will understand if anything happens.  

Good luck with your travels and have fun! :)

When I traveled to Germany about 10 years ago, I was amazed at how most people there spoke English very well. We Americans must have a look to us because 90% of the time when I was in a restaurant, store, hotel, etc, the people would start speaking to me in English before I could even get a word out. I think you will be surprised to find how many people there will be able to speak English.

I travel out of the country a lot and I have never had any problems. I am not on a pump so I am not sure what it is like to be in the airport with that, but I do get asked questions about my needle a lot. I just give them the paper from the doctor and I normally slide right on by. A digital translator makes it easy to communicate with the locals. I hope everybody's advice helps. Good Luck!

Hey John,

I traveled abroad to Italy for 10 days when I was 18, and I was (and still am) on the pump.  I read somewhere that it's a good idea to bring THREE TIMES the amount of supplies you think you'll need--that advice has DEFINITELY saved my butt while I was abroad.  I brought extra candy, batteries for my pump AND meter (always forget about those haha), infusion sets, insulin and a ice pack in case I need to keep it cold, strips, and needles just in case.  

I didn't have any issues whatsoever with security--they were nice about my pump and didn't even care that I brought insulin or needles onto the plane.  :D 

One thing I did find annoying was that my blood sugar was low when I was trying to board, and I had a regular soda, but they made me throw it out. :/ Thankfully they had soda on the plane, but that was just irritating.  I guess they don't care if you're diabetic..:/ 

Good luck (I'm super jealous you get to go to Europe)!


Both France and Germany will have many people who speak English (particulary if you ended up having to go to a hospital.) Probably a little easier in Germany, but shouldn't be a problem either place.

Agree with all others to pack much more than you think you'll need. Batteries are a good one not to forget. Cause you know when they'll decide to die. On the flight over or back. :)


Thanks, all, for the advice.

You'll be fine and have a great trip!  I spent a whole semester abroad in Italy (and went there speaking no Italian) and I was on the pump.  As many other people said, you'll be surprised at how many people there speak English.  I have never had any problem getting through airports as long as I had a doctor's note.  Just bring a lot of extra supplies, and have fun!