Don’t get caught out with these banned items while travelling abroad


When you’re travelling abroad it can be tricky to know what medication, food or even clothes are acceptable to take to various countries. It’s so important to do your research on banned items before you set off, as an ounce of preparation can save you an embarrassing delay at customs, a fine or even in extreme cases, a prison sentence.


Medication that contains opiates or opioids (such as codeine) is banned in Greece, Thailand, Japan and many Islamic countries such as Abu Dhabi, Egypt and Dubai.

Japan’s anti-stimulant laws mean that a variety of drugs are banned, from Sudafed to Vicks inhalers. Any medicines designed to prevent allergic reactions are also regulated and should definitely be researched by tourists before travelling.

It isn’t just prescription medication that can cause a problem for travellers. The over the counter medicine pseudoephedrine (the main ingredient in most cold or flu capsules) will be confiscated in Japan as well as Bali and the United Arab Emirates.

If you’re travelling to Singapore, make sure you leave your chewing gum at home. Only medicated gums, such as those designed to protect tooth enamel, are legal and these are only sold by dentists or pharmacists. If you’re planning on taking your dental or nicotine gum to Singapore, research which brands are allowed.

If you’re travelling to Singapore, make sure you leave your chewing gum at home.

It is also illegal to vape in many countries, including:

  1. Hong Kong
  2. Austria
  3. Argentina
  4. Belgium
  5. Thailand
  6. Brunei
  7. Malaysia
  8. Indonesia
  9. Venezuela
  10. Turkey
  11. Mexico
  12. Dubai
  13. Brazil
  14. Egypt

Tourists caught vaping or carrying eLiquid, vape pens or any other equipment in these countries, could be imprisoned for up to ten years. Even if you’re travelling to a vape-friendly country, make sure that you abide by the usual restrictions about taking liquids on planes and stick to a bottle of e-liquid of 100ml or less.


Visitors to historic sites in Greece are not allowed to wear high heeled shoes, particularly those with a thin heel such as stilettos, because they can chip away at the ancient stone and cause damage. Heeled shoes that distribute weight evenly such as platforms and flatforms are fine.

In North Korea blue denim is banned due to its association with the West. As a tourist you won’t be stopped for wearing it, but you definitely won’t be allowed to visit any sites of historical or political significance such as the Kim II Sung and Kim Jong II memorials. Denim lovers can rest at ease though as black jeans are fine.

There are also many clothing restrictions that relate to ‘modesty’. In Qatar it is not acceptable for tourists to wear leggings instead of trousers, but they can be worn under tunics and dresses. In Spain tourists are not allowed to wear swimsuits anywhere other than the beach or the poolside. In the Vatican, tourists must cover their legs and shoulders.

In Qatar it is not acceptable for tourists to wear leggings instead of trousers

Military-style clothing is also likely to be considered alarming or offensive in Barbados, Jamaica, Malaysia and Saudi Arabia.


Due to the ban on food with ‘embedded non-nutritive objects’ which are considered choking hazards, Kinder Surprise eggs have been outlawed in the USA. Kinder lovers needn’t worry though –  a different variety known as Kinder Joys (with the chocolate and the toy packaged separately) are sold there.

In Russia there is a ban on importing food from the EU. This means that European tourists must be very careful about bringing any food into the country. If you have a dietary requirement that makes it important to bring your own food when you travel, sticking to a limit of 50 kg is a smart move.

Although they aren’t banned anywhere, tourists should be careful about travelling with mangoes in their suitcases. The smell of these fruits as they ripen can prove very confusing to drug detecting dogs, who are notorious for confusing them with cannabis.

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