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 and Commonwealth Office (FCO).
A recent report released by the FCO* identified that more than a quarter (27%) 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.
Charles Hay, Director of Consular Services said:
“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.”
“We want Brits to have a great time when they travel abroad so it is also a good idea to research the country they are visiting before they travel. Country specific laws and customs can be found at www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice .”
If you have any enquiries for FCO consular staff before you go or while abroad you can now ask questions via the FCO’s new Twitter service @FCOtravel. Questions are answered 9am – 6pm BST, Monday – Friday and FCO staff aim to respond within 30 minutes. This service adds to the ways that British people travelling or living overseas can already get in touch with the FCO: by emailing the travel advice team or contacting local consular staff.
Advice from the FCO:
- Check the FCO’s country travel advice – the more clued up you are, the smoother your trip will be so check out some key facts about your destination – even if it’s a familiar one.
- Research your destination – eg. local transport, local dress codes, entry requirements, laws and customs by researching online using the FCO website.
- Know the legal limits – if you are purchasing alcohol or cigarettes in the airport before you travel, make sure they are legal in the country you are travelling to.
- Make sure your medicine is legal in the country you are visiting – contact the embassy of the country you are visiting and visit www.nathnac.org and www.nhs.uk for more information