Different countries have different regulations when it comes to importing medicines. In this article, we’re going to be sharing our 10 top tips for traveling to the UK with drugs…

Most people these days, think nothing of popping a packet of painkillers or vitamins into their pocket or handbag before leaving the house. For many, traveling will involve the transportation of other necessary medicines.  

While we all know that class A drugs offenses can result in severe penalties, including jail time, some people are unaware of the fact that there may also be restrictions on bringing certain other medicines into the UK.

In this article, we’ll provide 10 tips for traveling to the UK with medicine, to avoid any nasty surprises. Take a look…

1. Get a Doctors Letter for Needles

Some medicines, such as those for diabetes, need to be administered intravenously, which means that you may need to carry hypodermic needles with you when traveling.  

While bringing diabetes medicine and needles into the UK is permitted, it’s a good idea to also bring with you a letter from your GP or healthcare professional stating that you need these items for medical reasons.

In many cases, hypodermic needles are associated with illegal drug use, so bringing relevant documentation with you will help to clear up any confusion. 

traveling with drugs in the UK

2. Carry Medicine in Hand Luggage

Where possible, you should carry any medicines and medical paraphernalia in your hand luggage when flying. This will help you to save time, as a search of your hold luggage in the event of detection of medicines may delay your journey. 

3. Liquid Rules Apply to Medicine 

Some medicines, such as insulin, are only available in liquid form as they need to be injected. The UK, as with other countries, has strict rules on liquids being brought onto aircraft and, in general, any containers of liquid over 100ml must be stored in your hold luggage.

Should you need to travel with your insulin in your handbag or hand luggage, you should also carry a note from your healthcare professional and should contact both your airline and airport in advance to give them a heads up about what you’re bringing.

4. Pack Plenty 

Before traveling, always make sure that you have enough medication for your entire trip, and more, to protect against loss or theft. This is important, as you may find it difficult to find the medicine that you need in a foreign country. 

5. Keep Medicines in Original Package 

Customs officials are trained to automatically question any medical substance which is not in its original packaging. This may lead to more intensive searches of your luggage and your person, and cause delays to your journey.

So, it’s important to always keep your medications and equipment in their original packaging when traveling, as this will enable customs officials to easily identify the medicines quickly.

traveling with drugs in the UK

6. Take a Translated Copy of Your Prescription 

If you’re carrying prescription medications with you on your travels, you should always bring a copy of the prescription with you for the avoidance of doubt.  

Also, if you’re visiting a country where the main language is different to your own, it’s wise to bring a translated copy of the prescription to make it easier should you need to renew your medicine in the event of a loss.

7. Check if Your Medicine is Legal 

As we’ve mentioned, different countries have different laws, and so you may find that, although a substance is legal in your country, it may not be legal in the UK. For example, Cannabis is restricted in the UK compared to some US states.

Bringing illegal substances into the UK can result in a fine, deportation, and even a jail term, so you should always check the rules before traveling.

8. Provide Proof of Controlled Medicines 

Some medications come under the term ‘controlled medicines’, which means that dispensing and carrying these medications is restricted. Controlled medicines may include strong painkillers, such as morphine or opiate substitutes, and these medicines are often used to alleviate the symptoms of serious and terminal illnesses.  

Before traveling to the UK, you must check to see if any of your medicines are included in this category. If so, you will need to carry with you proof from your GP or healthcare provider that you need this medication for your condition.

9. Prohibited Herbal Medications 

We’ve been talking a lot about medicines that are prescribed by a healthcare professional. However, these are not the only substances that are subject to restrictions.  

Some herbal medications, particularly those used widely in Asia, contain ingredients that are prohibited from importation into the UK, such as Belladonna, Mu tong, and Indian Snakeroot.  

It is your responsibility to check before traveling to ensure that none of your medications contain prohibited ingredients, as these will be confiscated by border control. 

10. Only Carry Your Own Medicine 

When traveling, you should never, of course, carry with you any medications that do not belong to you and which you are unable to identify. This means that you should never agree to transport medication for anybody else, even close family and friends. 

Don’t Wait to Get Caught Out at the Airport…

No country or government wants you to have to go without the medicine that you need to protect your health. But, it is important to make yourself familiar with the rules of your host country.

With most medicines, a letter or certificate from your GP or healthcare provider will usually suffice as proof that your medication is essential for your health.  If, however, your medication contains ingredients that are prohibited in the host country, these will almost certainly be taken off you.  

It’s up to you to check the ingredients of any alternative medicines, including steroids and hormone replacement treatment, and, if necessary, find alternatives for your trip.