Thinking of packing Vicks for your trip to Japan or painkillers containing codeine to Greece? You might want to think again as these, along with a number of over-the-counter medicines, are banned in certain places and could land you in trouble abroad.
In a warning to Britons travelling for their summer holidays, the Foreign Office (FCO) is urging tourists who take medication to check the local laws of the area they wish to travel to before taking off. This follows new figures showing an increase in the numbers of UK travellers heading further afield to places such as Sri Lanka and the UAE, which have different laws on medicines.
With nearly half the population in England alone on prescribed medication, around 21 million people in the UK could be risking difficulties at foreign borders if they don’t do their research on their destination.
In addition to this, fewer than one in five (19%) would think to check rules on non-prescription medication, such as cough syrups and some allergy medication, before travelling, even though these are banned in some countries such as Japan. Some countries including Costa Rica and China also require visitors to bring a doctor’s note with their prescribed medication.
7 little-known facts on carrying medication abroad:
1. Medication containing pseudoephedrine – found in the likes of Sudafed and Vicks – is banned in Japan.
2. Diazepam, Tramadol, codeine and a number of other commonly prescribed medicines are ‘controlled drugs’ so you should always check what the requirements are for taking them into the country you wish to visit, as failing to comply may result in arrest, a fine or imprisonment in many countries, including Greece and the UAE.
3. Sleeping pills, anti-anxiety pills and strong painkillers all require a licence in Singapore.
4. In Costa Rica, you should only take enough medication for the length of your stay, with a doctor’s note to confirm that this is the right amount.
5. In Indonesia, many prescription medicines such as codeine, sleeping pills and treatments for ADHD are illegal.
6. In Qatar, over-the-counter medicines such as cold and cough remedies are controlled substances and must be accompanied by a prescription.
7. Tourists should always carry a doctor’s note with any personal medicine when visiting China.
Despite the potential consequences of having their medication confiscated or being arrested, 75% of British people currently prioritise checking the weather at their destination, planning what they’re going to wear on holiday (59%) and buying new clothes (49%) over seeking information on taking their prescribed medication abroad (33%).
Julia Longbottom, FCO Consular Director said: “While you’re online checking out whether or not to pack sunscreen, we’d strongly encourage you to check whether taking medication into a country is okay or not. You should also read our travel advice.
“The FCO can’t give legal advice or get people out of prison, so we are urging those heading off on their summer break to check our Travel Advice, to ensure they are properly prepared for their trip and avoid any potential trouble.”
The Foreign Office advises contacting your GP at least six weeks before you travel to check if you need any vaccinations and if any of your prescribed medication contains ‘controlled drugs’ like codeine, while also recommending travellers check the entry requirements page of the destination they are visiting.
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