I was bound to make a mistake sooner or later. Leaving Uzbekistan for Kyrgyzstan today, checked out around noon and headed for the airport. Uzbekistan is a police state run by a dictator (I wasn’t comfortable posting that info while I was in country, everything is checked and monitored) and they are seriously strict on seriously everything. At the airport I filled out many forms, gathered the stamps from each hotel (each hotel gives you a stamp for each day you stay there so when you leave they can see your movements), and headed into the first of 5 (!!!) metal detector security screenings at the airport.
The first few scans went fine and I worked my way through the airport. The second last scanning station however…
I placed my stuff on the belt and walked through the metal detector, all seemed fine, I picked up my pack and the guard motioned to follow him. Went over to a table and he started opening everything up, I wasn’t too worried as I had read that they do this regularily.
He went through every pouch and every pocket on everything I had. He found the little bottle of Transnistrian Cognac I was bringing home to give James (sorry buddy) and took it away, he didn’t see too concerned. Eventually though he unzipped the side pocket of my coin purse and I saw right away that we might have an issue. Inside the pocket was two little white pills, my Tylenol with codeine that I carry for migraines.
Codeine is extremely illegal in all Central Asian countries because it comes from opium and next door is Afghanistan.
I was well aware of the legality and had flushed my remaining pills when I left Georgia… except the two I in my change purse… forgot about those.
He asked what the pills were for, I answered that they are for headache, he asked if I had perscription with me, I showed it to him, he saw “codeine” on the perscription and told me to wait there.
He came back a few minutes later and invited me to a private room where his boss was waiting. You know you are in for a bad time when the customs room has a medical table….
All my stuff was searched again, one piece at a time, and I was also searched…. thoroughly.
I was pretty freaked at this point and have a little trouble keeping it together, I sat down and waited.
The boss man told me I could pack my stuff up again, I started packing things and kinda tearing up, I wasn’t sure how to ask what was going to happen so I asked if I would still make my flight. I don’t remember his exact wording but he basically said I could go and the flight was fine but that if they had found the undeclared codeine on the way into the country rather than on my way out it would have gone differently.
Got on plane, flew to Kyrgyzstan, in my hotel now, palms still sweaty typing this.
(was reading the Lonely Planet forums on codeine and Uzbekistan tonight, sounds like it usually ends up with a couple days in jail, $500 fine and deportation)