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As I’ve recently mentioned, I’ll be doing a cruise soon on Oceana from Dubai. This means that I shall be flying into and out of Dubai and need to take account of UAE laws regarding the carriage of medicines while I’m in the country. I know from posts in various places that there is uncertainty and concern about this aspect of travelling to the UAE, especially for passengers who may be older and carrying several medications. So I’ve done some digging into the issue, and I’ve included my findings, as they apply to me, below. Needless to say, you need to check these issues for yourself – the post below is for interest only, it must not be taken as guidance or advice.

The situation seems to me to be as follows:-

  1. There are lots of medicines that are widely available in the UK that are prohibited or Restricted in the UAE;
  2. If your medications are Prohibited, then that’s that – you can’t get approval for them, and if you’re caught with them on arrival you could be hit with stiff penaltie
  3. But if your prescribed medications are Restricted, you can use an e-service and obtain prior approval for them. Or if you can’t do that, you can declare them on arrival. Either way, you will need significant amounts of documentation to get the carriage of these Restricted medicines approved for your use;
  4. If you have medicines, either prescription or over-the-counter, that are not Prohibited or Restricted in the UAE then you don’t have to do anything with regard to those medicines;
  5. But if you have non-prescription medicines (in the UK) that are restricted or prohibited in the UAE then you should leave these at home – there doesn’t seem to be any way of getting approval for them.

I’m certain that arguing at immigration that you’re just taking your restricted meds, whether prescription or over-the-counter, from the airport to the ship will not achieve anything. You are in fact entering the UAE, and their laws will apply. Indeed, the law says that even someone in transit through the airport is subject to it. You could incur significant penalties if the immigration official decides he doesn’t like the cut of your jib.

So onto some specifics. I registered with the UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention (MOHAP) some time ago, so what I’ve found out is based on the information available to those who have registered. Here’s the link to the relevant MOHAP Services registration page. If you’ve registered and logged-in, you’ll get to a page (the MOHAP Portal Page)with this summery:

Dear Traveler,
The eService of obtaining prior approval to carry personal medicine is available for narcotics psychotropic and controlled medications ONLY as per UAE definitions presented in the link
http://www.mohap.gov.ae/en/services/Pages/361.aspx
Service is available to those arriving in the country and wishing to obtain prior electronic approvals this is an optional service available for the comfort and you can always have the option to declare upon arrivals to the UAE ports of travelers who could use the electronic service or declare their medicines upon arrival to the UAE

The traveler is not obliged to obtain electronic prior approvals for other drugs

Then follow the link on that page (highlighted above). (That page might come up in Arabic. There’s an ‘En’ active link in the header that will open an english version.) On that page you’ll find two further links: a) to the Travellers Guideline.pdf ; and b) to the Annex to the Travellers Guidelines.

The Travellers Guideline summarises the laws and regulations, over three pages. Then the Annex lists all the medicines and compounds, in alphabetical order, that are Prohibited or Restricted; defines which specific Regulation and/or Schedule catches them; and finally lists the “Allowed Quantities & Documents to be kept with the traveller. There seem to be two possibilities in this section – the first is “Prohibited“, and the second says “Quantity for the period of stay or a maximum one month use whichever is less. Medical prescription and attested medical report is required“. Note that according to this, a simple prescription alone isn’t enough – you have to have an ‘attested medical report’ as well. And Prohibited means prohibited!

If you have Restricted prescription medicines that are in the list and you want to obtain pre-approval for them, you should click on the ‘NEXT’ button on the MOHAP Portal page. However, if your prescription medicines are not on the list then “the traveller is not obliged to obtain electronic prior approvals for other drugs“. So in my case, my blood pressure meds are OK – they’re not in the list. (It was to check these that I did this research.)

So that’s prescription medicines. There is one further area that could cause problems – non-prescription medicines that are available in the UK but which are Restricted, or Prohibited, in the UAE. Since they’re non-prescription in the UK we won’t have a prescription for them, let alone an ‘attested medical report’, and this means that we won’t be able to get clearance, either in advance or on entry, because we won’t have the required documentation. As an example, one medicine that would fall into this category would be Cocodamol, because it contains codeine which is on the list. So we’ll need to leave the cocodamol at home.

Once again, I must stress that this post is for interest, and I did the research for my own purposes. It must not be taken as advice or guidance – anyone needing to take medications (either prescription or over-the-counter) with them to the UAE, should do their own research. Nonetheless, I hope readers will have found this interesting.

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