Lonely Planet Writer

Packing these basic medications could get you into trouble abroad

Next time you’re packing everything you need – and maybe even some things you don’t – for your next trip, take a second to figure out whether you can legally bring your medication along. In Japan, something simple like Sudafed could get you into trouble, while over-the-counter medicines such as cold and cough remedies could cause issues in Qatar.

Packing some simple medications could get you into trouble abroad. Image by FluxFactory/Getty Images

With the summer travel season upon us, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) is urging Brits who take medication to check the local laws of their travel destinations. The government branch that provides travel advice is warning the public that as more people travel abroad, there is a need to be aware of differences in laws when it comes to things like medication.

The FCO says that while nearly 75% of travellers check the weather before a trip, only 33% of get advice on taking medications abroad, despite nearly half the population taking some sort of prescription drugs. Less than one in five people (19%) say that they would remember to check the rules on non-prescriptions like over-the-counter cough syrups or allergy pills before they jet off.

Be careful about what you put in your backpack when travelling abroad. Image by ©sigurcamp/Getty Images

But it can be quite important – countries like Costa Rica and China require that travellers bring a doctor’s note along with their prescribed medications. In Japan, medicines that contain pseudoephedrine – which can be found in common products like Sudafed and Vicks – are banned. Sleeping pills, anti-anxiety pills and strong painkillers all require a licence in Singapore, according to the FCO, while many prescription medicines such as codeine, sleeping pills and treatments for ADHD are illegal in Indonesia. Some medicines that are commonly prescribed in some countries can be confiscated, or lead to more serious issues such as an arrest, fine or imprisonment.

The FCO recommends that travellers check out its travel advice pages for your destination country, which can help provide clarity. If this has you nervous about the laws you might encounter abroad organization has previously tried to help out travellers by warning them of 10 most unexpected laws around the world.