The UAE issued new rules last month stating visitors carrying prescribed and over-the-counter drugs it classed as “narcotic, psychotropic, controlled or semi-controlled” would need approval.
In response on October 22, the FCO wrongly stated on its website “all tourists” wanting to take medication falling under the above categories would be required to complete an electronic form “prior to entering the country”.
Tony Mann, director of Idle Travel in Bradford, told TTG the information contradicted that sent to him on an operational bulletin from Abta, citing a statement from the UAE Ministry of Health suggesting the online form was “optional”.
As a result of the “mixed messages”, Mann said his agency missed out on a Thailand booking worth almost £6,000 using Emirates flights via Dubai, as the family due to travel was unsure about using the online system.
“We weren’t sure what to tell them,” Mann said. “I had to go with the FCO advice. There was so much misinformation and scaremongering by the national press.”
The FCO finally updated its advice on Monday (November 12) stating: “Approval can be requested in advance or on arrival. To gain approval prior to travelling, you can apply online using the electronic application form and accompanying user guide on the UAE Ministry of Health website.
“If you arrive in the UAE without prior approval, you will be asked to present the documents [listed on the UAE Ministry of Health’s website]. It is not guaranteed that you will receive approval.”
On transiting through, the FCO said travellers who “do not intend on entering the country, or are entering the country with other types of medicine not listed” are not required to go through the approval process.
“This is what we needed to know weeks ago,” said Mann. “As agents, we are always told to check the FCO advice and to point customers towards the FCO.”
An FCO spokesperson said: “We keep our travel advice for all countries, including the UAE, under constant review”, but offered no further comment.