Banned Abroad: How to Be Safe When Travelling With Medication

Banned Abroad: How to Be Safe When Travelling With Medication

Travelling abroad comes with its own list of considerations but you’d be forgiven for thinking that the risk of imprisonment should not be something topping your list of concerns. When it comes to travelling and carrying medication (essential or elective), recent cautionary tales played out in the press have shown that we should all be far more vigilant about what we are carrying, to where, and under what circumstances. Many medicines which we recognise as completely legal within the UK, may be controlled or illegal in your country of destination and may carry a risk of confiscation, deportation, jail time, or in extreme cases, the death sentence.

Travelling with medication – No two rules

The key here is to recognise that every country is different. No two destinations have exactly the same legislative parameters and what we may regard as completely normal, may be completely restricted elsewhere. Commonly purchased over the counter medications such as Vicks and Sudafed are, for example, prohibited in Japan; in Singapore a license is required for anti-anxiety medication and sleeping pills; and widely used forms of codeine and Tramadol are illegal in many countries including Hong Kong, Greece, and Egypt. From the United Arab Emirates to India, Australia to Greece, the list of medications any visitor is permitted to cross the border with varies enormously. In most instances, it’s understood that travellers will avoid serious consequences when travelling with small amounts limited only to personal use however with lines blurred from country to country, we suggest being hyper vigilant before you travel to avoid any unnecessary complications.


Here are some essential tips to consider before you travel with medication:

Do Your Homework

You know you’re planning to travel. Take the time before you go to consult your doctor on any medications you plan to cross the border with. It can also be helpful to contact the local Embassy of the country you plan to travel to, just to confirm if the medications you hope to bring are permitted or whether they carry any additional requirements.

Paper Trail

Assume you need everything. Bring copies of every prescription and make sure the name on the prescription matches the full name on the passport or ID you are carrying. If at all possible, ask your Doctor for a confirmatory letter, listing your name, the medications prescribed, specific dosage and why you require them. A bonus here would be to have your papers translated into the destination language but that won’t always be necessary.

Be Your Own Expert

Make sure you understand what it is exactly you’re bringing with you. You might know the brand name of your medication but do you know what it contains? It’s these internal ingredients that you need to check on. Cross check the ingredients of your medications with the list of prohibited medications in the location you are travelling to.

Make It Simple

Be clear and don’t hide anything. Organise your medications into their original marked containers, or decant into clear labelled plastic containers and keep them with you in your carry-on luggage. Do not try to secrete them and ensure that every medication has your name, prescription, and dosage listed.

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