Nine Weird Ways to Get Arrested Abroad

Sun, sea, sand and having a great time is usually at the forefront of most tourist’s minds. However, it can quickly turn into a holiday nightmare if they unknowingly break a law. Murder, theft, assault, and rape might be obviously forbidden, but there is a whole range of unusual crimes that can catch travellers unaware. Here are just a few examples to demonstrate the seemingly strange ways to end up locked up abroad.

woman taking a photograph

  1. Taking Photographs

Being a bit snap happy can land you in hot water in various countries, especially when photographing anything to do with the military or government. For example, in Saudi Arabia, it’s against the law to photograph the palaces.  Exercise selfie caution around official buildings, parades and the police. You may also need to seek formal permission to photograph in certain places, fly a drone or obtain the individual’s consent. In South Korea photographing women without their consent is a sexual assault, punishable with a hefty fine, five-year imprisonment and chemical castration.

man wearing camouflage

2. Wearing the Wrong Clothes

You cannot wear a burqa in France and many countries forbid civilians to wear camouflage and military-style clothing, including Jamaica and Barbados. Although it may be ‘de rigueur’ to sunbathe topless on the beaches of the Mediterranean, baring your breasts in many countries, for example, in Fiji and Tanzania, is against the law. It’s also illegal to wear revealing or indecent clothes in Qatar, with tight, transparent clothing or not covering the shoulders and knees being considered offensive. In Sudan, women must wear dresses, socks, and hijab; wearing other attire such as trousers can result in a fine, forty lashes or both.

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woman gesticulating

3. Making unkind Remarks about Authorities

Insulting the monarch, president or ruling party can be a serious crime in plenty of countries. Bahrain, Turkey, Poland, Cameroon, and Venezuela send sedition offenders to jail, whereas Lebanon and Cameroon heavily fine offenders who humiliate their heads of state. This can also apply to social media so you may want to think before you tweet that insult towards the reigning establishment whilst visiting another country. Otherwise, you might find yourself behind bars like this tourist did.

tablets, pills and medication

4. Carrying your own Medicines

What may be considered prescription drugs in your home country can be viewed as illegal narcotics in a foreign land. Bringing in nasal sprays that contain pseudoephedrine into Japan can result in a large fine and if you take painkillers that contain codeine or tramadol into the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Thailand and other countries you could face jail time. You should check each countries restrictions individually, have a doctor’s note for any drugs and do not carry any other prescriptions other than your own.

pigeons eating bread

5. Feeding the Wildlife 

You will find yourself on the wrong side of the law if you are tempted to give the Venetian pigeons a little breakfast fare, fatten up an American alligator or offer a Canadian bear a picnic. It’s not good for the animals as human food is not part of their normal diet and it encourages unnatural behaviours, plus you could also end up being injured or worse. If you see a malnourished animal report it to the appropriate authorities as they have the ability to take care of the situation.

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If you need travel advice, request a free 30 minute coaching session. In the chat Annie will help you choose a destination, create your itinerary and review safety precautions. Or she can discuss how you can incorporate more travel into your life by saving, making money, travelling for free or being paid to travel.

person on transport system

6. Sitting Inappropriately

If you think it’s ok in Florence, Italy, to have a quiet rest on the step or courtyards in the immediate vicinity of churches and public buildings then you are wrong, it’s against the law. The act of taking up more space than the seat width with your legs, otherwise known as ‘manspreading’ is banned on several public transport systems, for example in Madrid, Spain.

woman with hands held in prayer

7. Praying in Public

Getting out your prayer mats in the streets of France, evangelizing outside religious buildings in Russia and publicly observing non-Islamic religious traditions in the Maldives can be deemed serious offenses.

mineral water poured into a glass8. Eating or Drinking

Chewing gum in Singapore is a famous illegal activity, but bringing food and drink into other countries and consuming the wrong foods can also leave you with a criminal record. It’s illegal to bring mineral water into Nigeria, and virtually any foodstuffs into Australia and New Zealand. You should check what is and isn’t allowed according to each country’s own customs laws. It’s also a good idea to be aware of cultural norms, for example, which animals are considered holy and not to openly eat or drink during periods of religious fasting. The consumption of alcohol is restricted in several countries, and local laws can mean drinking in the streets is banned in public areas.

a couple embracing on the beach

9. Being in love

It’s seemingly an old-fashioned practice in many cultures but having sexual relations outside of marriage is illegal in others. In India, Pakistan, and Iran premarital sex is a punishable crime, and in some cases that punishment is stoning. You might find it difficult to book accommodation for a couple who are not married in some countries, and even then a marriage certificate may be required. It can be offensive to display affection in public in places such as India, as Richard Gere found out. Homosexuality is outlawed in several countries, including the majority of the Middle East and Africa.

It really does pay to check the laws of the country you are travelling to, a little research could save you from a criminal record, bankruptcy or worse. For example, it might be a surprise that it is an offense to buy or possess drugs in the Netherlands, but it is true. Don’t forget that those souvenirs should be ethical; leaving places with shells or corals could land you in hot water. If you need more information, do check with the country you are visiting’s embassy directly or your own country’s foreign office.

Are there any other weird ways to get arrested that you know about? Please comment below 🙂

Like this post? Subscribe to the Soulful Travel newsletter for Annie’s packing checklist plus travel related advice, news, competitions and more. Sign up here.

If you need travel advice, request a free 30 minute coaching session. In the chat Annie will help you choose a destination, create your itinerary and review safety precautions. Or she can discuss how you can incorporate more travel into your life by saving, making money, travelling for free or being paid to travel.

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