FCO warns Brits not to get caught out by overseas laws

28th Aug 2013
FCO warns Brits not to get caught out by overseas laws

Playing bingo, snacking while sitting on a monument or feeding pigeons may seem innocent enough to many British citizens, but these are just some of the reasons why many people have found themselves faced with hefty fines or in some cases arrested or detained abroad.

Every year Brits are caught out by local laws and customs which might seem harmless in the UK, some of which carry serious consequences.

These could be easily avoided by researching travel destinations in advance and taking note of updates and warnings issued by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, according to the FCO.

A recent report released by the FCO identified that more than a quarter of cases requiring consular assistance by the FCO were for arrests or detentions, with a particular increase in the number of cases in Italy, the United Arab Emirates and the Netherlands.

In addition to the more unusual laws and customs, alcohol, drug and cigarette laws all vary from country to country so it is vital that British citizens familiarise themselves with these before they travel to ensure they have a safe and enjoyable holiday.

The FCO also cites other examples from around the world, including the illegality of some commonly available nasal sprays containing pseudoephedrine in Japan

It is also against the law to wear a bikini, swimming trunks or to go bare-chested away from the beach front area in Barcelona, while chewing gum on the Mass Rapid Transit system in Singapore is strictly prohibited,

In Saudi Arabia photographing government buildings, military installations and palaces is prohibited, while it is an offence for anyone, including children, to dress in camouflage clothing in Barbados.

Charles Hay, director of consular services said: “Every year British nationals find themselves on the wrong side of the law unexpectedly, resulting in fines or in some cases arrests or even jail sentences.

“It is important to remember that laws and customs can vary greatly from country to country and what may be perfectly legal in the UK could be subject to a fine or even a jail sentence in another.

“Consular staff often find that travellers are unaware that local laws apply to them and many British nationals think of their British passport as a ‘get out of jail free’ card.

“While consular staff will always try to assist British nationals who find themselves in difficulty abroad, we can’t interfere in another country’s legal processes.”


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