Avoid fines when taking UK prescription medication abroad

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Everyone wants to feel their best when they travel but some common medications which are freely available in the UK are restricted in other countries.  That means if you have such medications in your bag when you enter certain countries, you could find yourself in serious trouble. Travelling with strong painkillers contained opioids is particularly likely to land you in hot water in some parts of the world but in others, even over the counter medications are restricted.


One Woman’s Plight

A recent case has seen a 33 year old woman from Hull being imprisoned in Egypt for bringing the prescription painkiller Tramadol into the country. The drug was banned in the country in 2015 as authorities believed it was being used as a cheap heroin alternative. Laura Plummer brought the medication over from the UK for her Egyptian partner who suffers with back pain but was stopped at customs and detained. She has recently been refused bail so could wait for up to three months in jail for her case to be heard. Prosecution in this instance could see Ms Plummer facing the death penalty or a very lengthy prison sentence. Egypt is not the only country with such restrictions and other countries ban similar substances and/or require doctors’ notes for others.



The supply of stimulants is very restricted in Japan so a number of medications which are available over the counter in the UK are not allowed into the country. These include medicines for allergies including Vicks inhalers and medicines for sinus problems plus some medications for ADHD contain ingredients which are banned in Japan. Painkillers containing codeine are also not allowed.




The most common and seemingly innocuous over the counter medication which is restricted in this country is Benylin cough syrup as it contains diphenhydramine which is a mild sedative illegal in Zambia.


United Arab Emirates

Like Egypt, stronger painkillers containing opioid ingredients are banned in the United Arab Emirates and holiday makers travelling to popular places like Dubai will need a doctor’s note and permission from the county’s Ministry of Health to bring them into the country legally.



If you’re travelling to China with any sort of medication for personal use, it’s best to get a doctor’s note. This allows customs officials to verify that the amount you have with you is appropriate for your condition and the length of time you are staying in the country.



Many off the shelf remedies are controlled substances in Qatar so people travelling there will need a prescription to bring them into the country whereas many types of painkillers, sleeping pills and anti-depressants are banned completely.



Although this is a country well known for tourists taking recreational drugs, many prescriptions drugs will require a permit such as codeine, morphine and fentanyl.

Other countries have other restrictions on other drugs so it is always worth checking before you travel.  There is information online about which restrictions might apply but it is a good idea to contact the country’s embassy to check if you are in any doubt that the medication you are taking is legal in that country. For other concerns about travelling with medical conditions, see our advice pages here or click here for a quote for pre-existing medical condition travel insurance.




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