43

Instead of plain old coffee, I sometimes like to get my daily caffeine ration from other drinks, e.g. fruit juice. For this purpose I have bought some pure caffeine, which takes the form of white powder.

Now I'd like to take some of that on a journey where I go by plane. I don't want to take the big glass jar of caffeine with me, so the best thing I found is a small transparent bag. It looks somewhat like this.

powder

Now I assume this must look pretty suspicious, so I was wondering if your average European airport has the means to identify this as something harmless quickly or if I could expect hours of trouble if this bag were be detected.

  • 4
    I traveled with a similar bag with baking soda that I use as a toothpaste and had no problems in airports through europe, north america and central america. – Herman Toothrot Aug 27 '15 at 10:11
  • 19
    Not an answer to your question but one alternative is to get some caffeine in pill form. Aside from being less suspicious when travelling you're also less likely to kill yourself with an accidental overdose which is exceedingly easy when it comes to pure caffeine. – Lilienthal Aug 27 '15 at 21:25
  • 2
    I have flown in Europe with various white consumable powders in very smilar bags and nobody has seemed to care. Presumably even if someone did take a look, they have ways of differentiating between drugs and random powder. What I can advise you is to double bag your powder - in case the bag rubs against something and breaks, you still have another bag inside, so less likely to have a spill all over the inside of your luggage. – Sander Aug 28 '15 at 6:13
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    @user4050 - To be honest, depending on your race & color of skin and racial profiling bias in the minds of authorities it can be luck of the draw. So, the answer I posted will help who might get pulled to the side – Alex S Aug 28 '15 at 7:15
  • 4
    the simple bottom line is carry labelled, packaged stuff to avoid headaches – Fattie Aug 28 '15 at 16:19
59

That bag would show orange color on an x-ray machine which is the color for organic material (on most machines) and it would be very obvious even between layers of clothing which are also organic but would show a different shade(powder bag would be a very dark shade of orange). If I looked at your bag for a fraction of a second I would most likely pull it out for physical inspection and then it really depends on the person who would deal with you and ask questions.

The amount of time you spend there really depends a lot on your profile (like it or not but that is how it works) and the answers you provide if your bag gets pulled out for further investigation.

My advise to you would be to carry your coffee powder in the manufacturer's packaging. Keep it sealed if possible.

Source : I worked for North West Airlines as a Ground security coordinator in the past.

25

It's possible that it might cause some concern given that it's unlabelled and white (that dodgy anthrax scare a few years back has done so much damage to air travel...sigh).

However, most airports in Europe you just stroll through and don't have to get checked, quite often. If asked to declare, I'd be up front about it and mention it, rather than have them find it and cause concern.

As far as scanning goes, they've been scanning powder for years. I can't find an equivalent EU document, but the USA's TSA blog has an entire post about travelling with powder. It's worth a read.

Short version: travelling with powder is common. They have easy ways to test it for explosives. Inspections on powder are few and far between, and there is NO ban on travelling with powder.

Hope that helps!

  • 7
    I was worried less about explosives, I think the amount is too small for anyone to care. But I guess it could get mistaken for cocaine or something like that. – helm Aug 27 '15 at 0:57
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    @helm yeah, I travel with a lot of medicines, and always just declare them (often as 'drugs' which gets attention!). 95% of the time they don't even want to look at them, they're happy to just wave me through. – Mark Mayo Aug 27 '15 at 1:07
  • New link to TSA post – topshot May 16 at 15:24
10

Hard to tell. I do take a bunch of prescription drugs that I have consolidated into a single small zip lock bag for travel and that really looked fairly suspicious. No problems whatsoever in a 100+ domestic+international flights.

Then again, your bag looks even more suspicious and a lot depends on how you may show up against expectations and profiles. This may be easier to pull off when you are a frequent flyer middle aged fat white guy than if you are a first ticket dark skinned young adult from the middle east or mexico.

Best bet would be to check with the airline first and be really upfront about it in security: Toss the bag into a large bin on it's own and then be prepared to answer the questions you'll get.

  • 3
    It really depends on what country you're in. I don't know about Europe but if you're flying through the Middle East with a bag full of unlabeled, mixed pills, you stand a high chance of at least getting fined and the pills confiscated, and there's a chance you could be arrested. Some countries take that way more seriously than others. – thanby Aug 27 '15 at 5:59
4

I would avoid bringing samples of pure caffeine on aircraft because caffeine is somewhat toxic (1-10 g) and therefore is probably prohibited by flight regulations.

Source: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/05/18/caffeine-powder-poses-deadly-risks-2/

4

The average European airport security is only marginally more patient than the TSA. That is to say, they are mini-dictators in their little realm. On top of that, they're paranoid, overworked and hated by all. It's not a productive mix.

If they see this —and they will— they will inspect it. Some might buy that it's caffeine. Some wont. Nobody can tell you how many that number will be but flights are expensive so it really only takes one guard having a bad day to ruin yours.

If you get stopped by that guard, do you really expect they'll submit it to a substance test before they decide whether or not to pull you off your flight? No. You'll be arrested on suspicion and held while it is tested.

If you need caffeine regularly, buy some tablets (ie Pro Plus) and leave them in their blister-packs, in their boxes. Take them whole or crush them when you get to the other side. Otherwise just wait until you get to a pharmacy and buy new supplies.

3

Always carry:

  • Labels
  • Prescriptions

Even if its in weird packets.

I traveled quite a bit with herbal medicines that always raise issues:

  • Powders
  • Unmarked brownish/ olive/ sandy colored Pills in similar small plastic
  • Herbal oils

So, I carry:

  • labels inside/ stuck on each little plastic sachet or bottle
  • Detailed written Prescription from doctors
  • Printed & signed detailed affidavit letter from doctor
  • Smaller legit looking plastic bottles/ cases/ packets

From Parminders answer:

My advise to you would be to carry your coffee powder in the manufacturer's packaging. Keep it sealed if possible.

Exactly the reason why printed labels and such will help.

Usually this wont cause issues but having all this helps calm down the authorities.

1

I've carried on a container of white powder in the US and China, nobody has taken note of it. I've also carried multiple pounds of white powder still sealed in properly labeled manufactures packaging.

That being said, I wouldn't bring a bag of powder, period. Put it in something more substantial!

protected by mindcorrosive Sep 22 '15 at 11:55

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