There’s no central place on the Internet or on paper that lists which prescription and non-prescription medications are legal and illegal by country. Which makes international travel with meds…a little nerve-racking. I’ve heard and read the horror stories of tourists with legal opiate prescriptions being detained and imprisoned in the United Arab Emirates (UAE)/Dubai.
So I decided to create a list here. It’s woefully incomplete, but it’s better than anything else I’ve found. But what you’ve really got to do is contact the embassy of
IMPORTANT SAFETY TIP: This list does NOT substitute for contacting the embassy of the countries you’re visiting and getting the latest legal information from them about traveling with medications. I take NO legal responsibility for anyone traveling with medications of any kind.
Oh, and if you’re stupid enough to travel carrying illegal drugs (which includes medical marijuana, pretty much worldwide) you’re so totally on your own. Be aware that if you’re caught with illegal drugs in another country, your passport will get you precisely squat in the way of legal protection.
Painkillers with codeine are prescription-0nly items in the USA. If you’re from Canada, the U.K., or another country that sells codeine OTC, be aware that you will NOT find your meds OTC in the U.S. You’re permitted to carry these pills, but you’ll want to have your passport with you any time you’ve got your pills on your person as it is NOT legal for US citizens to carry OTC codeine.
United Arab Emirates/Dubai
All narcotic painkillers (that is, anything with codeine or oxycodone or any other opiate derivative or synthetic opioid) are banned in the UAE. To carry a prescription opioid into the UAE, you’ve got to carry a doctor’s letter and prescription information, both of which must be notarized and registered both with your home country’s State Department and the UAE consulate.* If this sounds like way too much work, I’d consider thinking about whether you really need or want to travel to Dubai or elsewhere in the UAE.
While I’ve seen plenty of individual reports online of travelers who have not been searched or questioned about their meds when they’ve entered the UAE, here at TWP I recommend NOT just hoping that you’ll get lucky. ‘Cause in this case, UNlucky = years in a foreign prison. Don’t go there.
* I haven’t been able to verify this statement.
You’ll need to carry your prescription meds in their original bottles with labels AND have copies of the original prescriptions available to show Chinese authorities if asked. Yes, that’s a lot more liberal than many of the other countries on this list. Live and learn.
Cosmopolitan though it is, Japan’s policy on “importing” drugs and medication is draconian. Japan’s got restrictions on OTCs that contain pseudoephedrine and codeine. They’re not fond of people who try to mail or Fedex in their meds either–if you need to mail yourself meds, be sure to get a Yakkan-Syoumei certificate from the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare.
You need to get permission IN ADVANCE from the Japanese Consulate to bring prescription opiates, psychotropics, injectables and syringes (including insulin). Your prescription and a doctor’s note are NOT enough.
If you get caught with a banned medication and no documentation for it, Japanese customs or police can detain you for several weeks. You can be convicted of a drug offense in Japan based only on a urine or blood test.
Seriously, if you’re traveling to Japan, contact the Japanese Embassy in your home country and learn whether your meds are allowed and what documentation you need to carry them–and do this weeks before you leave home.
You can hand carry your meds into Mexico legally, though they advise that you have your prescription info with you. (Which you should always do anyhow.) Mexico does permit visitors to ship personal-use medications into Mexico provided that you do some paperwork beforehand. For a fee, you can go through a broker to get your paperwork expedited. Check the link to the State Department for more info about that.
You’ll find a lot of “pharmacies” selling antibiotics, pseudo-Viagra, and who-knows-what-all…especially in heavily traveled tourist areas. Buy from these places at your own SERIOUS risk. TWP recommendation: don’t buy “medications” from “pharmacies” at Mexico’s tourist traps. You don’t know what’s in them.
You can bring up to 30 days worth of medication to Thailand.
Be aware that if you get caught in a drug sting at a club or party, you’ll be arrested if your urine tests positive for drugs. So if you’re taking prescription opioids, consider avoiding the club & rave scene. Yes, I know that’s the main reason lots of people go to Thailand, especially Bangkok. But please consider the ramifications of ending up in a Thai prison, and just go to Burning Man or an ecstatic dance weekend if you’ve really got to do the rave thing.
That’s it for now. I’ll add Parts 2, 3, etc. as I have time to do the research for y’all. Which brings up the question…What countries would you like info about medication/drug laws for?