How to Avoid Legal Problems When Traveling Abroad


For the vast majority of travelers, legal worries never factor into vacation plans. For the most part, this lack of concern is reasonable. At the majority of popular destinations, being a law-abiding vacationer is easy. However, a single mistake, even in many tourist hotspots, can land one in a legal predicament that may be difficult to handle. Most vacationers can avoid problems by being well-prepared.

Those planning on traveling abroad should stop by the U.S. State Department’s website, which contains plenty of information about foreign laws and regulations, as well as places one should avoid visiting. Most of these destinations are obvious – few tourists are interested in traveling to Iran or North Korea – but some are surprising. The State Department has issued travel warnings for places like Mexico, Israel, and the Philippines, for example. The easiest way to avoid legal difficulties is to avoid traveling to dangerous locales.

However, businesspeople and those visiting family members may not be able to avoid these places, and surprising laws can lead to an arrest. It’s no surprise that drugs are illegal in Mexico, but unwary tourists might be shocked to learn that a pocket knife is also illegal. The United Arab Emirates has been known to arrest people for public displays of affection, and China is well-known for detaining travelers for certain kinds of religious worship. A bit of pre-trip planning is key to avoiding any of these problems. Furthermore, it’s always important to remember what you should do if the worst happens, which generally includes calling the local U.S. Consulate or Embassy and retaining membership with a travel assistance agency, all of which can provide legal assistance and communication with family and friends back home. Naturally, the other side of the coin is becoming the victim of a crime. Those who want to avoid becoming involved with the police in any capacity would do well to prioritize their personal safety and avoid doing anything that would attract thieves or con artists, such as wearing flashy clothes or showing off large amounts of cash.

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