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Wednesday, 3 October 2023


Of the 3,200 British Nationals imprisoned abroad, over a third are held for drug offences. There are concerns that a growing number of Britons, especially young people, are becoming involved in taking, carrying or dealing in drugs whilst on holiday.

Getting involved with drugs abroad: the risks

If you take drugs on holiday abroad or try to bring drugs back with you, it could cost you a lifetime in jail.

Remember that:

  • many countries outside the UK refuse to grant bail to those suspected of drugs offences before trial and often detain people in solitary confinement
  • you will get a criminal record in the UK if caught with drugs abroad
  • if you've been caught with drugs abroad, you're unlikely to ever be allowed to visit that country again
  • if you get injured or ill as a result of illicit drugs use, your holiday insurance may be invalidated and your tour operator can refuse to fly you home
  • in Cyprus, there is a zero tolerance policy towards drugs and possession, which usually leads to a hefty fine or even life imprisonment
  • in Spain, penalties are severe and sentences for carrying drugs can be up to 12 years
  • in Greece, possession of even small quantities of drugs can lead to lengthy prison terms and even life imprisonment
  • in Tunisia, possession of even a small amount of drugs could cost you a term in prison, and more serious charges may result in 20 years' imprisonment plus a fine
  • in Jamaica, drug offences result in large fines and mandatory prison sentences (possession of even small quantities can lead to imprisonment and prison conditions are harsh)
  • in Venezuela, drug carriers face minimum 10-year prison sentences in harsh conditions
  • Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Iran and Algeria can impose the death sentence for some drugs charges

If you get involved with drugs abroad, the British Consul cannot:

  • get you out of jail
  • get you better prison conditions than are provided for locals or other nationals
  • give legal advice

Don't be a victim of drugs abroad

To make sure you don't become a victim of drugs abroad, you should:

  • pack all luggage yourself and make sure it's securely fastened
  • keep your luggage with you at airports and other departure points to avoid the possibility of having drugs planted in it
  • be aware of approaches from people at airports - even seemingly innocent requests to look after someone's possessions can lead to problems
  • don't carry anything through customs for someone else - if drugs are found, you will be held responsible
  • for similar reasons don't cross borders with people you don't know or drive across borders with unknown companions
  • carry a doctor's prescription for any medication you may need to avoid unnecessary delays at customs and immigration checks
  • be very cautious when accepting gifts from people abroad - it's easy to hide drugs in items such as trainers, cosmetics and children's toys
  • don't allow yourself to be persuaded or coerced into carrying drugs - it's not worth risking your life or spending seven years or even life in prison for £2,000

Visit the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Travel Advice pages for information on drug laws and penalties country by country.

The drugs trade also has a worldwide environmental impact. To find out more about this and its economic and social effects on local communities, visit the Tourism Concern website. Tourism Concern is a charity campaigning for ethical and fairly traded tourism.

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