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HEALTH

Reader question: Are there limits on bringing medicines into Spain?

Vitamins as well as cold and flu medication can be more expensive in Spain, and some brands of medicine that visitors use back home aren't available in Spanish pharmacies. So what are the rules on bringing medicines in from outside the country?

spain rules medication
Spanish law allows you to carry your own personal medication for treatments of up to three months, as long as it is accompanied by a medical prescription. (Photo by Christina ASSI / AFP)

Many people have their particular preferred brands of medications they use when they feel unwell or vitamins to keep up their immunity.

Whether you’re just travelling to Spain or you’re living here and want to keep your stocks of pharmaceuticals up, ‘just in case’, you’ll want to know what you’re allowed to bring in. 

What medicines can you bring into Spain from abroad?

Some pharmaceuticals can cost considerably more in Spain than in countries like the US or the UK. While over-the-counter painkillers such as paracetamol and ibuprofen are relatively cheap in Spain, bottles of vitamins and cold and flu medications can set you back significantly.

For example, 10 sachets of cold and flu medicine in Spain will cost you around €9.68, while in the UK it costs £3.49 or €4.05.

The main difference is that in Spain you cannot buy medicines or even just painkillers from a supermarket or other shop specialising in health and beauty products. There’s no equivalent of Boots in the UK or Walgreens in the US.

Here, you have to go to a pharmacy or farmàcia, where you’ll have to ask for the medications you want. You won’t simply be able to browse and choose like you can in some other countries. 

If you get a prescription (receta) from a public health doctor here, then you’ll find that the medications are much cheaper than if you simply buy them without, as they’re subsidised by the state. 

Sometimes you may just want to bring medicines from your home country because you know the brand, you know those pills work for you and how they affect you.

So what are the rules on bringing pharmaceuticals into Spain?

The rules on bringing medicines into Spain from abroad are set out in Artículo 74 of the Royal Legislative Decree or BOE. 

The Spanish government states that “Spanish law allows you to carry your own personal medication for treatments of up to three months, as long as it is accompanied by a medical prescription”.

“If you are transporting narcotics and/or psychotropic medication into the country you must get a permit issued by the Spanish health authorities. In this case, you must request e-mail permission from your local Spanish consulate, providing the medical prescription and the following information:

  • Doctor’s information and collegiate number
  • Telephone and e-mail contact
  • Plus all your personal details such as name, address, passport number, date of birth etc.

For example, the UK government website advises those travelling from Britain that “You need a letter to prove your medicine is prescribed to you if it contains a ‘controlled drug’. You may need to show this at the border when you’re entering or leaving the UK and Spain.

Medicines that don’t require a prescription and are not ‘controlled’ can be brought either in your suitcase or hand luggage. Be aware though, some drugs that don’t require a prescription back in your home country may require a prescription in Spain.

It’s best to check beforehand, depending on what you plan to bring in.

Even if the pharmaceuticals you’re bringing in don’t require a prescription, it’s advisable not to bring more than a three month’s supply.

If you’re coming from outside the EU, there may be certain medicines that you won’t be allowed to bring in from the UK. The UK government website states: “You cannot take some products prescribed for health conditions with you into the EU. These include special food required for medical reasons containing meat or dairy”. This could include certain brands of probiotics. 

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TRAVEL

TRAVEL: Tourists in Spain will also be eligible for free train tickets

In welcome news for tourists and travellers in Spain, holidaymakers will be eligible to take advantage of Spain's 100% discounts on train travel later in the year.

TRAVEL: Tourists in Spain will also be eligible for free train tickets

Tourists will be eligible for Spain’s free train ticket scheme that will be phased in later on this year, as confirmed to the Spanish press by sources in Spain’s Ministry of Transport this week.

“If a foreign tourist is a frequent user of the [train] network, he can make use of this subscription. If they want to complete the trips, they will not be asked for any type of card,” the source said.

Additionally, in further news of particular interest for British and American travellers, no differentiation will be made between tourists nor between EU and non-EU nationals for the discounts. Free train travel will be available to all tourists, regardless of where they’re from.

It is hoped that the free train travel will entice more visitors to Spain and continue the sector’s post-pandemic recovery, which for the first six months of the year exceeded pre-pandemic (2019) levels by 1.1 percent, according to figures from the association of Spanish tourism companies, Exceltur.

Tourism experts expect Spain to surpass the number of foreign visitors in the last four months of 2019 – over 20 million tourists – despite upwards inflationary pressures on the cost of flights and accommodation.

But like everything in life, there are terms and conditions. You won’t be able to waltz on any train in Spain for free, and it isn’t year-round.

When?

This eye-catching travel discount will be available from September 1st to December 31st 2022, during which multi-journey train tickets on the trains outlined below will be free.

Free train travel

The 100 percent discount scheme, which will cost public coffers a reported €200 million, will only be valid on certain lines and comes amid a series of measures put in place by the government to try and ease the pain of rising inflation and prices, but also to lower pressures on fuel following the Russian invasion of Ukraine and ensuing energy crisis. 

READ ALSO: How much can you save on public transport in Spain with the new state discount?

“The government will subsidise 100 percent of the public service of commuter trains operated by Renfe. We hope that the autonomous communities can complement this enormous effort made by the Spanish government,” Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said when announcing the scheme in the Spanish Congress.

But which trains will be free, when, and how can you take advantage of them?

Which trains are free?

Unfortunately, the Spanish government has not given everyone in Spain free train travel on every route and on every type of train.

There are rules.

Simply put, local and commuter trains will be free. Cercanías, Rodalies (Catalonia), and Media Distance (local and medium-distance journeys) will be 100 percent free of charge.

The policy is aimed at encouraging the use of trains as opposed to other fossil fuel intensive forms of transport, and it’s valid for journeys up to 300km.

That in mind, trips on long-distance or high-speed trains, such as AVE and Alvia, are not included in the plan.

Neither will the routes in Avlo, the low-cost AVE option established in 2021, nor the medium and high-speed Avants.

Avlo and Avants will instead have a 50 percent discount on the original price, as outlined by the government in June.

READ ALSO: Spain to offer free train trips: when, where and how?

The Spanish government are yet to announce in detail how exactly the discounts will work, or how to apply for them.

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