It is often said that ignorance is no defence.
This is certainly accurate and nowhere more true than when travelling – especially overseas. Standing in front of a security official saying “Sorry I didn’t know” doesn’t wash.
With all travel, preparation prior to departure can certainly help you avoid stressful and potentially serious situations.
Those who travel regularly on airlines are aware of the increasing number of restrictions on what can and cannot be carried in hand luggage and hold baggage; however, there are some items such as prescribed medications that are acceptable in the UK that are actually illegal in other countries.
If you use prescribed medications, ensure you contact your doctor prior to departure and request a letter of authority to carry all medication/needles you are intending to take with you. If you carry ‘’just in case’’ over the counter medications as a matter of course whilst travelling; consider not doing so. If medication is required whilst you are oversees (for headache or gastric upset etc), seek medical advice or purchase over the counter medications there. Be aware, medication purchased or prescribed overseas may contain substances that, whilst not illegal in the Country you have visited, can cause adverse indications in some drugs tests in the UK. It would be advisable to bear this in mind if you work for a company, or organisation that has a drug testing policy.
Research prior to departure is the key to avoiding potential arrest at immigration points.
As an instructor, I have travelled extensively throughout the Middle East and Africa. Whilst transiting through the UAE in 2008, it was necessary to have a 3 day layover which required me to clear immigration and customs. Having collected my baggage from the carousel, I exited the arrivals area and was confronted by an extremely polite security officer (some are not so polite!!). The officer ‘’invited’’ me over to a baggage X Ray Unit. Without hesitation I complied, knowing I had nothing in my baggage that was illegal – or so I thought.
My baggage was duly scanned and knowing I had nothing in my baggage that was illegal – or so I thought – I picked up my box, smiled, said thank you and went to put the wheels of the box into action towards the exit.
The security officer had other ideas and informed me that there was an illegal item in my luggage!!!! I was absolutely stunned and immediately thought my baggage had been tampered with. Now what? How on earth had my secure box been broken in to without leaving traces? Had someone hidden drugs or weapons in there? Was I going to Gaol? A million questions going through my head!!
Thankfully it was none of these, it was simply my laser pointer – legal in the UK – not in the UAE. I always travel with a laser pointer for teaching purposes and it is always transported in my hold baggage.
I was escorted to a security holding area where I was required to open my baggage, hand over the laser pointer and undergo an interview before being allowed to enter the country.
Do your research on prohibited articles for your destination; there are vast amounts of information available on government, travel and airline websites relating to the subject. Alternatively, contact the embassy or consulate of your destination country for further advice.
Take my word for it – Holding Areas are not happy places to be – DO NOT find out the hard way!!!!
BP Associates have a range of tried and tested services that can help you prepare for overseas travel. Please contact us for more information.