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What happens when you bring pepper spray to Hong Kong!

by Miriam Ernst
pepper spray, hong kong, hk, pepper spray, hong kong, HK, pepper spray,

What happens when you bring pepper spray to Hong Kong!


This week I though I will finish my Hong Kong story about an adventure that I have lived during my travel times.

I have also added a part of this story into my “What to avoid in Hong Kong” travel post, but I received some requests from you guys to tell you more about the story to what happened when I brought a pepper spray to Hong Kong, so here you go:


This summer I was travelling to Asia, doing a trip between Hong Kong, Singapore and Bali. When I was packing my luggage to bring with me, I saw the pepper spray, that my mom gave to me for a “just in case” situation and thought it wouldn’t hurt to bring it with me.

In Germany you are allowed to buy the pepper sprays without any restrictions. You are not allowed to use them against other persons, the intention is to save you from animal attacks, but if something happens to you and you have it with you, it might safe you in an uncomfortable situation.

So I took the pepper spray, put it in my checked-luggage and did not think anymore about it. The first day in Hong Kong I was walking through the city alone, as my friend had arrived a day earlier and was exploring Macau, so I took the pepper spray with me – just in case.

Passing by 4 days in this beautiful city it was time to leave and go to Bali. Of course I did not think about putting the pepper spray in my checked luggage anymore…

So arrived at the carry-on luggage check the security guard made me open my bag and found my mini pepper spray.

My quick answer was “Oh I totally forgot it was there, just through it away, sorry!” But the guy looked at me and said “You can’t leave, I have to call the police!”

I remember how my stomach turned around … police ?????

Me and my friend where looking at each other and trying to explain him, that this was just a pepper spray, nothing illegal and that I just forgot to put it away. The only thing he was telling us though was:  “In Hong Kong it is illegal!”

Have you ever seen those horrifying movies where a person got taken to prison in Thailand without any justice, because of some drugs that weren’t even his? I suddenly remembered all of these movies in exactly that second!

What could be the penalty for a pepper spray? Money? Not allowance to enter the country again? That would mean I have to buy a new ticket back to Barcelona! Why did I have to bring a pepper spray to Hong Kong ?

The guy wasn’t helping always putting an eye on me and not giving me any answer. I tried to ask him what normally happens in a situation like this, but he wasn’t in the mood to answer and continuously repeated “Wait for police!”

So we waited for the police… my friend unfortunately wasn’t really helpful either, instead of just assuring me that nothing is going to happen, she made funny jokes about the people around us and the situation, which didn’t make me feel more comfortable.

After 10 minute the first police officer arrived and escorted us away to a table. After some minutes two further police officers arrived. Each one of them with a pistol in their shaft.

I remember perfectly how one of the guys was quite nice and tried to explain us, that we don’t have to worry, while the other one of the police officers made me worry even more.

They took out a measure band, measured the pepper spray 5 times, filled a long and not ending police report, measured the pepper spray again, tried to read the information on it (in German) and discussed with the third police men without giving me a glance.

I was not sure if being seriously worried or all relaxed…I mean for bringing a pepper spray to Hong Kong they weren’t going to bring me to jail, were they?

After another 20 minutes waiting, while I started to become additionally worried in loosing my flight, the unfriendly police officer turned to me and started to ask me a bunch of questions, that I was answering precisely one after another. “Where did you buy it?”, “Why did you buy it?”, “Why did you bring a pepper spray to Hong Kong”, “Did you know that it is illegal?”, “You have committed a crime, is this clear to you?” then he started to talk again with the dirt police officer.

Ten minutes later he started to ask me the same questions all over again. This went on and on for about an hour, and I was sure I would miss my flight, till suddenly the nicer guy turned to me. He told me that I had to sign a paper acknowledging to having committed a crime and declaring that this will not happen again. I signed.

And that was it…. They let us go just like that and we ran to get our flight to Bali.

10 days later after our trip to Bali we came back to Hong Kong. I was sure that I was going to be stopped when trying to get into the country, but there was no additional questioning or any difficulties. It seems I was lucky !

I will probably never forget that moment and I definitely will never again travel with a pepper spray !!

Have you had similar experiences during your travels?

All my experiences and tips from Hong Kong you can find here and if you want to always be updated on my newest posts you can subscribe here!

Best, Be-Sparkling

*Image from Benjamin Lihn

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Mimi & Mitch 17 April, 2017 - 9:53 AM

This is interesting! Didn’t know it was illegal in HK! No was I would’ve freaked out! More about missing my flight …

Bhushavali 3 May, 2017 - 5:54 PM

Ahhhhhhhhhhhh…. I’m speechless!!! Oh my gaawddd!!! Neither did I know pepper spray is illegal in any country at all and I always carried one all over Europe & India. So thanks a ton for enlightening me. Here on I’ll check those too before any international travel!!!

travelerettenyc 4 May, 2017 - 6:09 PM

That’s crazy! I’m so glad to know that pepper spray is illegal in Hong Kong! Like you, I will never travel with pepper spray, ever!

Ana Ojha 5 May, 2017 - 7:38 PM

That’s insane! I didn’t know that pepper spray is illegal to carry in the Hong Kong! Glad that you didn’t miss your flight and everything went well!

quirkywanderer 6 May, 2017 - 8:30 AM

Hahaha. Sorry I dont mean to laugh, but this line cracked me up “Have you ever seen those horrifying movies where a person got taken to prison in Thailand without any justice, because of some drugs that weren’t even his? I suddenly remembered all of these movies in exactly that second!”
This is absolutely insane! God! Imagine detaining someone over a pepper spray! 🙂 Thanks for writing it all down, I won’t ever carry one in HK 😀

vishvarsha 6 May, 2017 - 8:41 AM

Pepper spray and illegal? That is so crazy! I never think of checking if things I carry normally while travelling anywhere are legal or not – but now I will for sure! I didnt even know this. Good for you the matter got sorted and things went well in the end.

Veronica 7 May, 2017 - 4:57 PM

I am so sorry this has happened to you! And I am sorry that your friend was immature. But I am so happy that everything turned out to be good for you!

Ami Bhat 8 May, 2017 - 12:30 AM

I would have freaked out if this had happened to me. I could feel your anxiety as I read your story. I bet minutes felt like hours. Glad they let you off. Cheers

AllGudThings 11 May, 2017 - 8:07 AM

OMG! Pepper spray being illegal. I never knew that can happen. Your post clearly depicts the anxiety you had undergone. But Thank God at the end things went well and you were let to leave.

Ariane 12 May, 2017 - 8:40 AM

Wow, I knew pepper spray was not for sale in several countries, but never thought you could end up in prison. Geez, you’d better watch what you’re packing next time you go to Hong Kong… but, in Singapore it’s illegal to bring in chewing gum… weird world 😉

Sophie 19 July, 2017 - 2:46 PM

Oh my god.same thing happened to me. The man who checked my bags told me beforehand i shouldnt worry and giving me smiles that made me feel less worried. . I was about to burst out of tears when the police was asking me questions… And this guy from the airport was giving silence and not explaining to me whats gonna happen. Good thing i have a friend who was giving me distraction.

Miriam Ernst 21 July, 2017 - 9:33 AM

Oh that is really exactly what I was experiencing! crazy!!! luckily nothing bad happened after all!

Sherin 16 February, 2018 - 10:03 PM

How i wish i could find your post earlier. The same thing happened to me when i’m solo travelling to singapore. I bring the pepper spray for self defense (because, a woman travelling alone, like, ofc i need to bring something for self defense!) i got stopped when they checked my bag in the boarding gate. The rest of the story is similiar with yours, the difference is i miss my flight and need to buy the new one.

Miriam Ernst 24 February, 2018 - 6:17 PM

Hi Sherin! I am so sorry this happened to you as well and especially that you lost your flight for this! Such a stupid thing for such a small “weapon” if you can say. I really had totally forgotten that I still had it in my handbag!
Luckily nothin worst happened to us 🙂
Save travels!

Kim 12 March, 2018 - 10:17 AM

This just happened to me today. I thought I was going to be detained in Hong Kong. The good thing was the officers were nice and they explained everything to me. I’ll never travel with pepper spray ever again. And just the thought that I had a bad record in their system makes me scared to go back to Hong Kong. I hope this doesn’t prevent me from travelling anywhere.

Miriam Ernst 26 March, 2018 - 5:04 PM

Oh wow, incredible how many people experienced the same! I am happy for you nothing worst happened! I never had any problems when travelling anywhere else and I even went back to HongKong! So I hope it’ll be the same for you 🙂
Thanks for sharing!

Philip P. 5 October, 2019 - 9:19 PM

Pepper spray should not be illegal in any country. People need a non lethal way to defend themselves. Many people (women and men) are not physical able to defend themselves due to age or disabilities.

Miriam Ernst 19 November, 2019 - 8:21 AM

I totally agree! But even in Germany we are only allowed to carry it to protect ourselves from animals – not humans. Crazy isn’t it? Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

Sean 28 January, 2020 - 4:50 PM

They did exactly the same to my daughter today. My daughter came back from Phnom Pehn to San Francisco, but landed at Hong Kong for only 2 hours for a transfer. Obviously she had no intention nor time to enter Hong Kong, but to obey the rule she went through the security check of Hong Kong Airport. She was met with 3 police officers and the rest was exactly the same. She was let go but singed a paper of seizure of firearm. Yes, they categorize it as firearm. One question from the police amused her: “How much did you pay for it”? They probably need the information to put a price label on it, for sale later on.

Miriam Ernst 3 February, 2020 - 1:58 PM

Hi Sean, thanks for sharing! It is incredible how many people experience exactly the same!
I am glad nothing happened to her and she left just with a weird experience.
They asked me the same. It seems to be part of their general way of handling things. They need to add the price to their report, probably to understand, if the product is what they think it is or if they need to investigate further.

Rachel Fritz 10 March, 2021 - 2:53 AM

This happened to me on a layover through Hong Kong in January 2017. I remember reading your article and feeling less alone! Im writing my own blog post now about this experience!

Miriam Ernst 10 March, 2021 - 10:54 AM

I am glad this helped you and made you feel less alone 🙂 Glad you will share your own experience too!


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