Travelling with kids is exciting! But did you know that some common medicines could get you into trouble in other countries?

Over-the-counter medications including cold and flu tablets, children’s pain relief and the contraceptive pill could get you fined or even jailed.

Insurance comparison website comparethemarket.com.au crunched the drug laws for some of the most popular holiday destinations for Australian families. Here’s what you need to know before you take off with the kids!


The common medicines that could get you into trouble

Travel insurance expert Abigail Koch recommends parent get a letter from their doctor for any drugs they need to take on the trip, even those which are available over-the-counter here in Australia.

“Even medications that are legal in Australia can attract heavy fines overseas or, in extreme cases, jail sentences in prison environments that might be much harsher than at home.” Abigail Koch.

“In these instances, travel insurance may not cover you if you are carrying or using drugs that are classified as illegal overseas,” she says.

Top 10 countries that restrict certain medicines

1. United States

You’ll need to check the restrictions on bringing in potentially addictive or narcotic medicines including antidepressants and sleeping pills.

2. United Arab Emirates

Check the rules for all medicines you plan to take as many medications are banned and possession can lead to jail. There are restrictions on some contraceptive pills, nicotine lozenges, children’s Advil and Panadol, and anything containing codeine, Valium or Ritalin.

3. Thailand

Avoid trouble at the airport and check the restrictions on ADHD medicines and those that contain codeine.

4. Hong Kong

Take a doctor’s note for sleeping tablets and medication to treat anxiety or erectile dysfunction.

5. Singapore

Nicotine gum is banned and you’ll need a doctor’s note for anti-anxiety pills, sleeping pills and strong painkillers. Plus you can only take a three month’s supply of some common medicines, such as for diabetes or high cholesterol.

common medications banned overseas

6. Japan

You can be detained for bringing in ADHD medicine containing Dexamphetamine or cold and flu tablets containing pseudoephedrine. You’ll also need a Narcotic Certificate for other medicines containing codeine or morphine.

7. China

You’ll need a doctor’s note for every medication you take. Any amount over a seven day supply needs to have a prescription, including strong painkillers, sleeping pills and ADHD medication.

8. Greece

You must have a detailed prescription for codeine that says why you need it and how much you’re taking.

9. South Korea

You’ll need prior approval and a prescription for narcotic medications.

10. Russia

You’ll need a doctor’s letter for medicines containing codeine, and a prescription for other over-the-counter medications including cold and flu.

Need some ideas on where to head for your next holiday? Here are some great kid-friendly destinations. And remember, it’s best to always check with customs authorities before you travel to find out all the dos and don’ts about any medicines you need to take with you. Safe travels!

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I love my three country kids - and all things writing! Like most mums, I wear lots of hats - writer, children's author, organisational psychologist and the pairer of the odd socks!

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