Taking drugs on holiday

Holiday is a time to relax and forget about your troubles, some might link that feeling to drugs. While both can give you a similar vibe, mixing the two creates a WORLD of problems. From sniffer dogs to nosy parents - there’s a tonne that could go wrong if you decide to pack that ounce in your carry-on.

A young, blonde woman is looking at her phone. She is researching taking drugs on holiday. She looks concerned. This is a close-up image.

What happens if I get caught taking drugs on holiday? 

  • Many countries outside the UK refuse to grant bail before trial and can detain people in solitary confinement for taking drugs on holiday
  • Being caught by UK customs with a small amount of class C drugs, for personal use only, may just get you a financial penalty rather than a court case. But that doesn’t mean you get off scot-free. You’ll get a customs record, and the next time you do it, it’s a criminal prosecution. If someone you are travelling with is caught with drugs, you’ll probably get searched and questioned too. If you have drugs on you as well, no matter how small the amount, you’ll both get the same legal penalties. As Sharpay would say, we’re all in this together.
  • You’ll still end up with a criminal record in the UK if you carry drugs through airport security (UK), which won’t look too good on the CV. It could also mean that you are refused a visa for some countries, including the USA.
  • If you’ve been caught with drugs abroad, you’re probably never going back there again. 
  • If you get injured or ill as a result of drugs, it won’t be covered by travel insurance (and they’ll probably drop you). Your tour operator can also refuse to fly you home.

Countries not to take drugs to: 

Death penalty countries: 

  • Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Bali, Indonesia and Iran (Pretty self-explanatory what’ll happen if you do) 

Heavy prison sentence countries: 

  • Cyprus: zero tolerance policy towards drugs and possession. You’ll usually get a hefty fine – some have even faced life imprisonment.
  • Greece: possession of even small quantities of drugs can lead to lengthy (up to and including your entire life span) imprisonment
  • South East Asia: sentences of 40 to 50 years are not uncommon

Harsh sentence countries: 

  • India: 10 years for smoking cannabis
  • Italy: Up to 20 years imprisonment
  • Jamaica: Drug offences result in mandatory prison sentences and large fines. Possession of even small quantities can lead to imprisonment
  • Morocco: Maximum of 10 years imprisonment plus a fine
  • Spain: Sentences for carrying can be up to 12 years
  • Tunisia: Possession of even a small amount of drugs could cost you a term in prison, while more serious charges may even result in 20 years imprisonment plus a fine
  • Turkey: Up to 20 years imprisonment
  • Venezuela: Drug carriers face minimum 10-year prison sentences in harsh conditions

How to protect yourself from people planting drugs on you 

  • Pack your luggage yourself, making sure it is fastened securely. Be sure to keep your luggage with you at all times before check-in.
  • Carry a doctor’s prescription for any medication you may need to avoid unnecessary delays at customs and immigration checks. Taking legal drugs through airport security (UK) will be fine if you’ve seen your doctor beforehand.
  • Be aware of people trying to approach you at airports, no matter how innocent they seem. Also be cautious when accepting gifts from people abroad; it’s easy to hide drugs in items such as trainers, cosmetics and children’s toys.
  • Fairly obvious really – Don’t allow yourself to be persuaded or coerced into carrying drugs either across borders or through customs. The money won’t mean a thing if you end up with a sentence for life imprisonment. For similar reasons don’t cross borders with strangers or drive across borders with unknown companions. If they are carrying drugs, or the vehicle contains drugs, you could become accomplice.

Information provided by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office.

Next Steps

  • Release offers free and confidential advice on everything to do with drugs and drugs law. 0845 4500 215
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By Nishika Melwani

Updated on 13-Aug-2021