With currency, transfers, visas and much more to sort out before heading on holiday, it’s no wonder that thinking about our medicine is low on the list of priorities. In fact, half of us take prescription medicine on holiday, but only one in three look up the rules for taking prescribed medication abroad and just one in five do this for over-the-counter medicines.
But actually, a check of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s travel advice is key. On the gov.uk website, they’ll let readers know which medicines common in the UK could get confiscated abroad or in worse cases, could get you locked up. As we cast our travel nets wider and jet to far-flung places, it’s key to know how local laws affect us.
The warm and wondrous country of Greece expects 32 million tourists flocking to sites like Santorini, Athens and Rhodes this summer – their highest number yet. And while it’s an EU member too, don’t make the assumption that all laws are the same. In fact, commonly prescribed ‘Class C’ medicines like diazepam, tramadol and codeine are defined as controlled drugs in Greece. Even carrying small amounts can lead to a long prison sentence. If you’re heading to the ancient country for a trip and have a Class C drug prescribed to you, make an appointment with your GP to see what else can be done.
In countries like the UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, local laws and customs are very different from the UK and that’s reflected in the medicines allowed. In Qatar, over-the-counter medicines like cold and cough remedies need to be accompanied by a prescription. In the UAE, which has a zero-tolerance policy on drugs and a four-year minimum prison sentence for even the smallest amount, it’s wise to check the latest list of what’s allowed and what isn’t. And even if it’s allowed, carry a prescription just in case you need to show officials that it’s been signed off.
The Central American haven of Costa Rica increased its UK visitors by an impressive eight per cent last year, thanks to its plentiful natural wonders from rainforests to stunning beaches. It’s known for its liberal outlook, especially as it attracts backpackers and a diverse range of conservationists, but when it comes to medicine and drugs, it’s extra cautious. If you’re heading to the land of ‘Pura Vida’, doctors’ notes are a must. You’re only allowed to bring enough medication to last you the duration of your trip and the doctor’s note has to confirm this amount. You don’t want to be turned back at customs for this oversight, so get organise well in advance.
If you’re travelling to Asia, it’s important to check the laws for all countries you might be visiting as they’re different from the UK and also vary between themselves. In Singapore, you’ll need a license to carry sleeping pills, anti-anxiety pills and strong painkillers, while in Indonesia, many prescription medicines like codeine, sleeping pills and ADHD treatments are plain illegal. Similarly pseudoephedrine, which is found in common brands like Vicks, Sudafed and others, is banned in Japan. Meanwhile, if you’re heading to China, you’ll need to always carry a doctor’s note with any prescribed medicine.
And check what you bring back to the UK!
By the same principle, when you’re returning from a trip, think about what medicine you’ve purchased and are bringing back to the UK. This is because some drugs are banned at home even though they’re available over the counter elsewhere. So rather than buy strong medicine from the pharmacy abroad, see a doctor there and get a prescription or doctor’s note and only get the minimum supply you need. That way if you’re stopped at customs you’ll have evidence that a doctor gave it the go-ahead. It may be confiscated, but it’s unlikely to lead to any charges.
Wherever you’re planning to head to this year it’s good to know that Flexicover Travel Insurance is are committed to providing you with the highest level of protection to ensure you are safe and secure 24 hours a day when away.