Foreign travel checklist: The Foreign Office is warning British tourists to be careful when packing
Foreign Office travel advice is to check local laws before travelling as some medicines – even perfectly innocuous ones by UK standards – might well be illegal in that country, potentially leading to deportation or detention.
Even basic pharmacy medicines such as Vicks and Sudafed could land British tourists in very hot water – both are banned in Japan.
As more Britons than ever head further afield to exotic destinations, so grows the concern that holidaymakers might end up in trouble.
Forty eight per cent of the UK population take prescription medicine (excluding contraception and nicotine replacement therapy) according to figures from the heath survey for England.
Although over-the-counter drugs may also prove a problem in certain countries.
Foreign Office latest advice on carrying prescription drugs
In Quatar, for instance, cold and cough remedies are considered controlled substances and users must have a prescription.
Also in the UAE – and other countries including Greece – Diazepam, Tramadol, codeine and a number of other commonly prescribed medicines are ‘controlled drugs’.
Consequently it’s vital you check the requirements for that country before you travel as failure to comply could result in a fine, an arrest or imprisonment.
The laws and customs in many Asian countries are also very different to those at home.
Strong painkillers, sleeping pills and anti-anxiety pills all require a licence in Singapore.
Foreign travel checklist: Forty eight per cent of the UK population take prescription medicine
In Indonesia, many prescription medicines such as codeine, sleeping pills and treatments for ADHD are illegal.
Meanwhile, anything containing decongestant pseudoephedrine is banned in Japan.
Regulation is even stricter in China and you’ll need a doctor’s note for any personal medicine you carry if visiting there.
Over in Costa Rica, visitors should only take with them enough medicine to cover the length of their stay and no more. A doctor’s note will also be needed to prove that this is the correct amount.
Around 25 million Britons are expected to travel abroad on a summer holiday this year.
Foreign travel checklist: You’ll need a doctor’s note for any personal medicine in China
Yet a survey by the FCO has shown that just one in three people currently research the rules for taking their prescribed medication abroad, while only one in five do so for over-the-counter medicines.
“We can see that British people are more likely to research the weather before their holidays than research the local laws and customs,” Julia Longbottom, FCO Consular Director told the Telegraph.
“So 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 join the 16 million people a year who check our Travel Advice, to ensure they are properly prepared for their trip and avoid any potential trouble.”
It’s advisable to contact your GP four to six weeks ahead of a trip to check if your prescribed medication contains any ‘controlled drugs’, and any local requirements for bringing in medication.