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I am French, male, travelling alone.

I'm planning to go on a 2 month trip across Hong-Kong (~2 weeks), Japan (~3 weeks) and Thaïland (~2 weeks).

I'm currently taking prescription drugs daily (3 pills each morning). The problem is that for a 2 month stay, if I were to bring all I need from France, I would cross the borders with 180 pills (6 boxes).

Those are not controversial drugs like amphetamines or opiates, so I'm mostly concerned about the amount of pills I'd have to bring, which could raise red flags at customs (especially for Hong Kong or Thailand).

I've checked several websites, and they seem to be sold locally, but with a prescription only (same as France).

What would be the best course of action?

  1. Cross the border with everything + my prescription as proof, but still risk looking like a drug dealer?
  2. Bring the prescription translated in English, with the scientific name of the medication, and buy it locally?

NB: not taking them is a big no-no. Withdrawal will start with a lot of nasty side effects, and if I'm ~8h late taking them, that's a one-way ticket to the ER.

NB2: my health insurance should cover expenses even outside of France, so this shouldn't be a problem

NB3: I have a lot of earrings (10). I feel like this could play against me and prompt officers to ask more questions / be less lenient

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    You still need to check if your medicines are legal in every country you're entering, not all medicines are legal everywhere, even the most benign that you may find in France Dec 14, 2022 at 12:14
  • @NicolasFormichella I've seen medical studies about those medicine in Japanese and Cantonese. You're right that I should be 100% sure before my trip though
    – Aserre
    Dec 14, 2022 at 12:17
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    Note that many drugs have different names in different countries, so it's a good idea to find out the local name, and check their status based on that name as well.
    – jcaron
    Dec 14, 2022 at 13:10
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    I've flown a lot with medication with needles that has to be brought into the cabin, with big ice packs. I've not been to Japan/Hong Kong or Thailand, but my default rules are: Everything in original packaging, in an official looking bag (I have a blue refrigerator bag for this), with a doctor's letter with contact details in the little pocket on the outside, along with any paperwork I need, and nothing else in the bag. It seems to work pretty well, and switch customs from the "you are trying to smuggle something weird" mode to "this is something official I need to look at" mode.
    – lupe
    Dec 15, 2022 at 12:27
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    oh, and other tip is to pro-actively talk to customs officials about it - I show up with my bag to security and say "hey, got a medical bag with ice packs and medication with sharps here, anything special I should do with it? Doctor's letter is on the side" - same at customs, but talking to them about the medication. Basically, don't act like someone who is trying to get away with something, but someone armed with all the official paperwork, who can show they have every right to bring this through, but understands they might need to check it
    – lupe
    Dec 15, 2022 at 12:37

1 Answer 1

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Hong Kong customs states :

Pharmaceutical products and medicines imported in the personal baggage of a person entering Hong Kong and which are accompanied by him and in a reasonable quantity for his personal use may be exempted from licensing requirement.

You take 3 pills a day, and you have a long trip, it is perfectly expectable that you will not have issues having a 2-month stock on arrival. Although this is and will still be at the mercy of the customs officer that will process you

Please, make sure that your medicines aren't in the Dangerous Drugs list

If they are, you will need a permit :

Importation of dangerous drugs requires an import licence and import certificate issued by the Department of Health. A valid export authorization or diversion certificate from the exporting country will also be required.


Japan's

You can bring your personal medicines into Japan once certain procedures are completed. This is because there are patients who need continuous medication and travelers who need medicines as belongings, however, when you bring narcotics and psychotropic described in 4, please note that importing them from overseas is subject to control by other laws and rules.

To be more specific, when you bring your personal medicines into Japan, you have to apply for so called "Yunyu Kakunin-sho", a kind of import certificate, and receive it before you leave home, and declare it to the officer at customs.

When you bring your personal medicines into Japan up to the amount described below, you do not have to apply for "Yunyu Kakunin-sho", instead the officers at customs check the amount of your bringing medicines, and then you can bring them into Japan.

  • Poison, Deadly poison, Prescription drug : Up to 1 month supply
  • Drug for external use (excluding Poison, Deadly poison, Prescription drug) : Up to 24 per one item
  • Injectable drug and Syringe for the drug: Up to 1 month supply * Only "Pre-filled Syringe" or "Self-injection Kit"
  • Other Drugs, Quasi drugs : Up to 2 month supply

In addition, no product containing the designated pharmaceutical ingredients (see linked table)(57KB), which is sold in foreign countries/regions with advertisement on enhancing cerebral function and other mental effects, shall be imported, unless use of such a product is complying with doctor’s prescription or instruction. However, it would be permissible for foreign travelers to bring such a medicinal product into Japan by his/her self, in the purpose of self-medication during his/her stay.

Regardless of the description above, you cannot bring prohibited drugs and controlled drugs into Japan.

Regarding details about application for "Yunyu Kakunin-sho", please check "Q&A for those who are bringing medicines into Japan", which includes application forms.

"Q&A for those who are bringing medicines into Japan": WORD(149KB) PDF(529KB)

For Japan, you will have less than 2 months worth of supply, which will not require a permit

EDIT: The phrase above is totally false (thanks @jcaron), you will need a "Yunyu Kakunin-sho" for your medication because you will have a stock of above a month of prescription drugs at the time you enter Japan, everything in explained in the linked site

Make sure to have your prescription ready and if possible in English and the permit, especially in case your medicine is mentioned in this paragraph and as usual check for controlled/prohibited substances

In addition, no product containing the designated pharmaceutical ingredients (see linked table)(57KB), which is sold in foreign countries/regions with advertisement on enhancing cerebral function and other mental effects, shall be imported, unless use of such a product is complying with doctor’s prescription or instruction. However, it would be permissible for foreign travelers to bring such a medicinal product into Japan by his/her self, in the purpose of self-medication during his/her stay.


The Thai embassy in DC states :

thaiimg

You will have way less than a 30-day supply, provided you don't need or have applied for the respective permit, you are fine, after a check on the mentioned website of the legality of the drug


Going by the official language, you will have no foreseeable issues

Make sure to have the original prescription and if possible an English translation for it, that may help, and also.

As a general rule, never carry pills without being in a clearly labled container (usually the medicine box), this is the recipe for being treated for a drug-dealer

This is extremely well explained here


If you have still some medication on the return flight to France, make sure to also check the import rule of France, which are here

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    "For Japan, you will have less than 2 months worth of supply, which will not require a permit": not if the drug is in the "prescription drug" category, in which case it's limited to 1 month per the quote above.
    – jcaron
    Dec 14, 2022 at 13:09
  • Oh, s*, yeah, editing, thank's for pointing out Dec 14, 2022 at 13:10
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    Yep, not sure if that's the translation or what, but the "Poison, Deadly poison, Prescription drug" category is quite peculiar!
    – jcaron
    Dec 14, 2022 at 13:11
  • Indeed, pretty sure you don't want a month supply of deadly poison :) Dec 14, 2022 at 13:14
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    @NicolasFormichella - a month's supply of deadly poison is not that much...
    – Jon Custer
    Dec 14, 2022 at 21:09

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