How to stay on the right side of the law while in a foreign country? - The Viking Abroad
Travel Blogger from Norway
Travel Blogger from Norway
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27 Mar How to stay on the right side of the law while in a foreign country?

International travel is exciting and rewarding, and a luxury for many. Unfortunately, every year several adventurous souls may embark on the trip of a lifetime, only to have it turn into their worst nightmare when they wind up incarcerated in a foreign country for a crime they didn’t realize they were committing. There are various ways that people can make these mistakes, but with a little bit of homework, you can be certain to avoid this fate.

Be Respectful

Consider the social customs carefully when choosing outfits, approaching people for assistance, or even in participating in monetary transactions. Something as innocuous as wearing shorts on a hot day can land you in jail if you visit certain sacred places throughout the world. In many places, a man approaching a woman and speaking with her without a male family member present can be seen as an assault and could spark criminal charges. Just like with local laws, breaching local customs can cause serious issues for travelers if they haven’t thoroughly researched their destinations.

Know the Laws

The most important thing to do before you travel abroad is to know the laws and customs of the country that you are traveling to. You should be able to research this information well before you leave for your trip. In particular, if you take any narcotic or psychotropic medications on a regular basis, you should check to make certain that you won’t have any problems bringing them. This is one of the primary causes of arrests abroad. Unfortunately, being a foreigner and not knowing the local laws does not exempt you from being held accountable.

Don’t Trust Strangers

Finding an English-speaking fellow traveler can seem like a breath of fresh air, especially if you’re travelling alone. While banding together can help make travel easier and give you someone to relate to for a few drinks, you should never let your guard down. Scam artists and drug traffickers are known to prey on individuals traveling alone to help them transport illegal substances or to avoid authorities. Even if you just met someone a few days ago, you can be considered an accomplice if you are found in their company. Keep your interactions with strangers to public places, and don’t offer up too much detail about yourself.

Stay in Touch

One of the most important things that you can do is to make sure that someone knows where you are and where you’re supposed to be at all times. In some places, you will not have the ability to reach out to friends or family in the case of legal troubles. As soon as you arrive at your destination, you should register with your embassy with an itinerary of your trip, and make sure you get the right information about who to contact in the event of an emergency while there. Arrange to check in with friends or family on a regular basis and ask them to contact the embassy if you fail to respond within a certain time frame.

Know Your Rights

Make sure you investigate the issues of human rights and what your rights will be if charged with a crime while travelling. If you still wind up in a situation where you’re in legal trouble while visiting a foreign country, you should ask to make contact with a lawyer, and to get a message to friends and family.

Getting in trouble with the law in a foreign country is often a harrowing experience, but you shouldn’t let the prospect discourage you from your journeys. Just be sure that you know the laws of the country you are travelling to, and know what to do if you do run into a problem.


Lucy Taylor is an avid blogger who enjoys sharing her tips and suggestions with her online readers. Working as a legal expert at LY Lawyers, Lucy often helps people dealing with legal problems, addictions and crime.


  • Cori
    Posted at 15:31h, 27 March Reply

    This makes me feel lucky that I’ve never gotten caught up in an international drug smuggling ring or something! Most of my traveling involves letting my guard down, since I’m usually CouchSurfing or doing a home exchange.

  • Mark Wyld
    Posted at 16:09h, 27 March Reply

    A bit of common sense and planning is required when travelling to foreign countries. Don’t be surprised what is acceptable in your country is not acceptable elsewhere. Keep your nose clean and enjoy your travels

  • Sarah Kim
    Posted at 18:12h, 27 March Reply

    That’s unfortunate that we can’t trust strangers but it’s true. Definitely need to keep your wits about you when traveling in foreign places, especially if you’re alone. Good tip.

  • Paige W
    Posted at 16:56h, 28 March Reply

    I hear all kinds of crazy stories from crazy situations. It’s amazing how far something as simple as being respectful will get you. Also trusting your gut is an amazing tool in itself.

  • Cat Lin
    Posted at 22:35h, 28 March Reply

    Doing research on the destination beforehand is so important. And you’re right, as much as we would love to believe all humans are good, we should not trust strangers. I just recently came back from Mexico and I felt I couldn’t even trust the taxi drivers!!

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