Foreign travel can be a life-changing experience. You get to experience new places, people, cuisine, and culture. However, no journey is without dangers, especially when you’re visiting a country with a completely different lifestyle and culture than what you’re used to. When you’re visiting a country, it’s important to remember that some gestures or beliefs considered normal for you may not be the same for others, especially in foreign places.
In addition to language barriers, being unfamiliar with local laws and customs can lead to misunderstandings and even legal trouble, whether it was an innocent mistake or done on purpose. If you want to avoid run-ins with the law and enjoy your trip without a hitch, here are a few tips to help you do so.
How to Avoid Trouble While You’re Abroad
Do Your Research Before You Leave
Before you leave for your trip, it’s important to do some research on the country you’re planning on visiting. And when we say research, we don’t mean the tourist spots and best places to eat. As they say, knowledge is power, and while tourist activities will help make your trip more memorable, it’s just as important to invest time in researching the cultural norms in the country you’re visiting.
This will give you an idea about what you should and shouldn’t do while you’re there. Not only will this help you avoid getting into trouble with the law, but it will also help you prepare yourself more extensively for your trip. For instance, since Middle Eastern countries are more reserved for clothing, you’ll know not to bring your tank tops or board shorts with you.
Websites like The Lonely Planet can help you make more informed travel decisions in any country, as they have a wide variety of guides, from dos and don’ts to the best places to visit.
Understand the Local Laws
While many laws are similar to each other across the world, it’s better to stay on the safe side and read up on some of the local laws of the country you’re visiting. You may find some laws that generally seem normal to you are offenses in other countries. For instance, in Singapore, chewing gum is banned, and selling or bringing a large amount of chewing gum can get you arrested. In addition to that, something as simple as littering can earn you a $300 fine.
Respect the Locals and Their Culture
As they say, “when in Rome, do as the Romans do.” When you visit a country, you’re expected to follow the rules and respect the culture of its residents. No matter what nationality you may possess, you’re not exempt from any of these rules. Likewise, it’s important to be aware of your actions. In some countries, acts like kissing or drinking in public and certain hand gestures can be offensive from a local’s standpoint.
Many countries, especially those with religious histories, tend to have dress codes, and it’s essential to keep these in mind while packing for your trip. Oftentimes, this applies to both men and women, so don’t find yourself offended if you are asked to change your clothing or cover yourself up. This is especially important if you’re planning to visit religious sites or a Muslim country.
When in Doubt, Ask
No one is expected to have every law of a country they’re visiting memorized. However, if you’re not sure about something, consider asking someone with a deep understanding of the country’s culture, such as locals or expats who have lived in the country for a long time. A quick Google search can also help you find the information you might need.
What to Do if You Get Detained
What makes travel such a unique experience is that, no matter how well you plan things, some things are just bound to happen unexpectedly. If you find yourself unfortunate enough to accidentally break the law during your stay abroad, here are a few tips to help you through this legal bind:
Know Your Rights
If you get arrested in a non-English-speaking country, you must request an interpreter to fully understand each step of the legal process and explain your side of the story. You don’t want to risk not fully comprehending the situation you’re in because of the language barrier.
Get in Contact with Your Country’s Consulate or Embassy
Ask to speak to your country’s consulate or embassy, which can assist you with your current legal dilemma. This is one of the most important steps to help you out of the bind you’re in, as they can provide you with a list of lawyers you can receive assistance from and try to provide solutions as to how you can resolve this legal issue.
Ask if You Can Get a Phone Call
You must try to get a phone call to contact your loved ones so that you can let them know where you are, what happened to you, and how they can reach you. Remember to stick to the facts and avoid saying anything that could incriminate you. Allowing your family members to record these facts will help your attorney build your case later on. For instance, if you are detained in the United States, your lawyer can gather these facts and help your case see whether you can get out on a bond that applies to immigrants.
Something you should remember during this process is to keep calm and trust in your attorney and loved ones to help get you out of this difficult situation. It can be challenging to experience this in the middle of a trip, but it’s important to remember that panicking won’t do you any good and can worsen the situation in the long run.
Preparing for a trip is an exciting experience, but it’s also important to know the possible dangers you face in a foreign country. But as long as you keep your research and common sense close to you, along with wholehearted respect for a country’s culture, your trip will be one you’ll be happy to look back on. Fortunately, the internet has made it easier to figure out the dos and don’t of