Travelling to the Emirates? Here’s What You Need To Know To Avoid Having Your Medication Seized At Customs

With numerous stories hitting the headlines over recent years of UK nationals being detained for carrying supposedly legal medication into the Emirates, it has become starkly apparent that people travelling to places such as Dubai and Abu Dhabi simply do not know what they can and cannot pack for the trip and are failing to research the information before flying.

Pharmacy store on airport in Doha – By T-I-H-I Courtesy of Shutterstock

Strict rules at customs very often result in jail time such as in the case of 61-year-old Perry Cop-pins, who, despite carrying tablets which were considered legal in the UAE, was still arrested at Fujairah seaport for having “too many drugs”.

So if you are planning on a trip to the Emirates here is what you need to know to avoid your medicines being seized, or worse still, finding yourself detained at customs.

1. According to the UAE’s Ministry of Health’s assistant undersecretary for Licensing and Public Health Policy, Dr Ameen Hussain Al Amiri, the amount of medication being brought into the Emirates, even with proof of a personal prescription, can be as vital to you getting through customs without a hold up as what type of substance it is.  The amount you can carry into the country varies from one month to three months depending on the medicine in question.  The ministry of health has an extensive list of unapproved drugs available on its website here, and it would be wise for anyone heading to the Emirates to look through this and check it against their prescription before travelling.

Emirates Boeing 777 By Markus Mainka Courtesy of Shutterstock

2. As of the end of 2018, both residents and those travelling to the United Arab Emirates with some form of personal medication will be required to complete an online form known as the Import of Personal Medication service.  The form, which can be downloaded here for free includes the submission of certain documents including:

•    passport details or Emirates ID

•    the duration of your stay

•    a prescription from your doctor

•    a further form of ID as requested

Your information will be reviewed, and if approved, the medicines you have requested to bring with you will be checked through at your entry port by an inspector from the Ministry of Health.  This one-form process is the simplest way yet to travel to the Emirates safely and without fear of having your essential medication seized.  In some more special cases, you may require additional permission from the Drug Control Department of the UAE Ministry of Health, the details of which can be found here.

3. More in-depth guidelines for travellers needing to carry personal medication to the UAE can be found here, and it is indeed wise to look through to either make sure your medicine (or amount of drugs) is legal or else to ensure you have gained approval for it before travel. 

4. It’s crucial to bear in mind that even over-the-counter medicines which are very commonly prescribed in the UK such as codeine are considered to be banned substances in the UAE because they contain narcotic-like ingredients.  As such they are deemed to be illegal and at the very least would most certainly be seized if you were found to possess them at customs.

UAE pre-flight inspection zone at airport By BestPhotoPlus Courtesy of Shutterstock

5. CBD, which is one of 104 compounds found in the cannabis plant, has recently been made available on the high street in oil form.  As such, there is a risk that people using it for its health benefits such as to lower anxiety or as pain relief, could accidentally try to carry it through without considering its legality.  Though it is not psychoactive as with the more widely known cannabis chemical compound THC, it is still considered a narcotic in the Emirates and would, therefore, be illegal, which could cause severe problems if discovered in your possession at customs.

6. Travellers who are going through the Emirates on their way to another country such as Africa must be careful when considering carrying their anti-malaria medication through.  The experts at Click Pharmacy who supply anti-malarial explain that this type of medicine must be started anywhere up to 3 weeks before your travels, leaving you plenty of time to do your research.  The main issue though is that you must continue to take them throughout your trip to any high-risk area.  As such, speaking to someone at Click Pharmacy before you travel will help you assess what medication you should take and which of its ingredients may be classed as banned or restricted.  The Ministry of Health must approve Even life-saving medicines such as this via this online form.

Medicine pills and money on map for travel By nanantachoke Courtesy of Shutterstock

7. In all cases where you need to carry your medicines into the UAE, it is worth taking an up to date, detailed medical report for each one which has been attested by the treating hospital or GP.  This report should include:

•    your details

•    the diagnosis which requires the medication

•    the treatment you are undergoing

•    the duration of said treatment

•    the prescription itself including a list of the drugs, their scientific names, dosage and schedule.

CEO of ‘Detained in Dubai’ Radha Stirling has stated: “Even with the best intentions of observing local laws, it is far too easy to find oneself inadvertently in breach, and the punishments for such mistakes can often be devastating.”

Shockingly, one man is currently serving a jail term due to poppy seeds found on his clothing from a sandwich he had eaten at Heathrow before travelling to the Emirates.  Poppy seeds are considered to be narcotics in the UAE so even though many of these seven steps may feel like much effort; it is worth it to keep hold of your life-saving medications or also avoid finding yourself detained. 

So before you even consider travelling through the incredibly strict Emirates customs with your medicines and avoid having them seized you must:

•    do your research fully

•    fill in the online medication form

•    book an appointment to speak to the experts at Click Pharmacyto confirm precisely which ingredients you may have within your medications

•    prepare your medical report with your GP or doctor.

If you need help understanding your medication then book a confidential appointment in the comfort of your home with a Click Pharmacy expert today.

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Author: Sam

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