FCO warns Brits on overseas laws

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has warned British holidaymakers to stay clear of certain seemingly harmless acts that are likely land them in trouble overseas.

The warning comes as British holidaymakers are being held for their involvement in acts that are considered harmless in the UK, but which have serious consequences in other parts of the world. Falling foul of these laws could be avoided by researching travel destinations in advance and taking note of updates and warnings issued by the FCO, the FCO said.

In addition to the odd laws and customs, alcohol, drug and cigarette laws also differ from country to country, increasing the importance of British citizens familiarising themselves with these before they travel, in order to ensure a safe and enjoyable holiday, the FCO added.

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.’

Citing examples from around the world, the FCO said that it would do British travellers good to know that it is illegal to use some commonly available nasal sprays containing pseudoephedrine in Japan. It is also against the law to wear a bikini or to go bare-chested away from the beachfront area in Barcelona, and that chewing gum is strictly prohibited on the Mass Rapid Transit system in Singapore. Photographing government buildings, military installations and palaces is prohibited in Saudi Arabia, while it is an offence for anyone, including children, to dress in camouflage clothing in Barbados.

‘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,’ Hay said, adding: ‘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.’