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Tuesday, May 4, 2021

More Trouble with Travel

 By Catherine Powell

Image courtesy Pixabay

In last week’s blog, I reported on the fact that while many Americans are dying to go on vacation after a year of being cooped up due to COVID-19, possible complications can arise if you happen to catch Coronavirus while away from home.  This week, I intend to share with you some little-known laws that you may inadvertently break while overseas.  Yes, Virginia, you can indeed run afoul of the law for doing things or possessing things in foreign lands that are perfectly legal in the good old US of A.  While some of the infractions will cause you to be fined, others could get you locked up. 

  1. Up in Smoke - Las Vegas businessman Peter Clarke was arrested in Dubai in February after doctors found traces of cannabis in his blood when he was admitted to a hospital there with pancreatitis.  If convicted, he could face three years behind bars, even though he smoked marijuana legally in the US several days prior to leaving the country. 
  2. Nix the Vicks – At least you should if you plan on traveling to Japan.  That’s because the Japanese government bans any medication that contains pseudoephedrine.  That means over-the-counter allergy and sinus medications like Vicks inhalers, Sudafed, Sinarest, Comtrex, Tavist and other well-known products can get you in Dutch with the Japanese.  Also avoid any medications containing codeine, since that’s illegal there too. 
  3. Leave home without it. – In the Maldives, it’s illegal to import bibles into this predominantly Muslim chain of islands.  If you intend to visit there, you should also refrain from packing anything pornographic in your luggage, since that’s also prohibited, along with idolatry and alcohol.
  4. Sacre Blow – In France, drivers are required to carry a portable breathalyzer in their vehicle at all time.  This includes even tourists who rents a car.  Get caught driving without one and you’ll be fined 11 euros tout suite.
  5. Pucker up at your own peril. – Public displays of affection including kissing, hugging and holding hands is illegal if you travel to the United Arab Emirates.  Tourists are routinely arrested and even jailed there for kissing in public. 
  6. Light up and pay up in Singapore. – If you think smoking laws are tough in the US, they’re nothing compared to those in Singapore.  Light up anywhere in public including public parks or even on the street and you risk being fined.  The same goes for chewing gum while riding a bus or train there.
  7. Grecian Earn – If you plan on visiting any ancient ruins in Greece, make sure you don’t wear high heels or bring any food or drink with you unless you want to pay a hefty fine. All three are prohibited by law.
  8.  Money Honey – Stepping on or defacing currency in Thailand is illegal.  That’s because their paper money bears a likeness of the Thai royal family.  Breaking this law could land you in jail.
  9. I Swear – The use of profanity on St. Kitts can land you in the slammer.  The Caribbean island has a strict law against the use of profanity in public.
  10. Banned on the Autobahn – While you can still drive at speeds over 100 MPH on the Autobahn, what you can’t do is run out of gas.  If you do, you’ll face a hefty fine.  Even the act of walking down the Autobahn to fetch fuel is verboten. 

What should you do if you wind up getting arrested in a foreign country?

Image courtesy Pixabay
We’ve all seen movies where American citizens are arrested abroad.  Just as in those Hollywood blockbusters, the first thing you should do if you are arrested while visiting a foreign country is to remain calm and ask to speak to someone in the US Embassy.  While the embassy will only offer you limited assistance, they can help you translate the charges, explain your rights, help you contact an attorney, and even contact family members to explain your situation or have your family raise money for your defense.  Just don’t expect the embassy to grant you immunity from prosecution or spring you from jail.  While on foreign soil you are subject to local laws. Above all, don’t overreact to the situation, since this could result in additional charges. 

While getting arrested can be a traumatic experience, you need to avoid complicating matters by making any statements to the authorities without having a lawyer present.  If the police don’t speak English and you don’t speak their language, ask for a translator.  Above all, don’t sign any document without first consulting a lawyer.  You could wind up confessing to a crime you didn’t commit or to a more serious charge than the one you that originally caused you to get arrested.

If you are jailed, don’t talk to the other prisoners.  Some prisoners may be undercover police officers or police informants.  Tell them any of the details of your case and you could later wind up being brought up on additional charges.

Last but not least, before you travel to foreign shores, it would be a good idea to research the local laws online.  At least this way you’ll have some idea of the customs and legalities observed in any country you’ll be visiting.  This way it’s more likely for the final reel to be a happy ending.

Catherine Powell is the owner of A Plus All Florida, Insurance in Orange Park, Florida.  To find out more about saving money on all your insurance needs, check out her website at


  1. I hear there are also countries where you can get arrested for posting slanderous comments online. In the US, they've spawned an industry on it.

  2. Traveling during COVID in the US has been a hassle - if you could travel at all. Now over seas travel is a nightmare!


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