The Local Law
The best way of keeping out of trouble is by not breaking the law. You may have experience of dealing with the police in the UK, but don’t think that police around the world will act in the same way.
Check the FCO website (www.gov.uk/fco) and up to date guide books for details of any local legislation that you may fall foul of during your stay.
Some things might not seem so obvious, such as taking photos of railway and bus stations.
You should not drink if you are not old enough. Local police at the major resorts have too many drunken British holiday makers to deal with as it is, without the added complication of an underage drinker. In most cases you will not just have your drink confiscated and you will be arrested. Bail is not always an option and you could be held for days before your trial.
I was in Mexico when a Canadian student arrived. He got drunk on his first night, got into trouble and was deported the next day. If this happens to you there will be no refund.
Once you arrive in resort you will probably be weakened by the journey as you may not have been not eating properly or you didn’t drink enough fluids. In this dehydrated state any alcohol will have a greater effect. Combine this with the over excitement of being away means that accidents could happen.
I have already mentioned that your travel insurance company may not pay out if you have an accident after drinking.
In some countries you’ll find drug use is more obvious than it is here. This doesn’t mean that this is tolerated by the authorities. Because of the apparent openness you may be tempted to smoke a joint, or take something else, but you may be given more than a token fine or deported. In most years around 50% of British nationals that are detained overseas are serving sentences for drug offences.
Prison conditions can be every bit as awful as you’ve seen on television. You may not be aware that you will also get a criminal record in the UK if you are caught with drugs abroad. This could have a major impact on your plans for your working life. Remember those rioting last summer thought that they were just having fun and would get away with it, and are now serving time.
Although the Embassy staff will try to help you with the legal process (but not give you any legal advice), they will not be asking for any special treatment for you. You will be kept in the same conditions as the locals.
You’re also unlikely to ever be allowed to go to that country again.
Here are a few examples of the penalties that you face by using drugs.
Cyprus – zero tolerance policy towards drugs and possession will usually lead to a hefty fine or even a long prison sentence.
Spain – possession of all recreational drugs is illegal and even the possession of small quantities can lead to imprisonment.
Greece and Tunisia – possession of even small quantities of drugs can lead to long terms of imprisonment.
Jamaica – severe penalties for all drug offences. Possession of even small quantities can lead to imprisonment. All sentences are served in Jamaica, prison conditions are harsh.
I’m sure that many of you felt that the Caribbean was very relaxed about drugs. This is not the case.
- Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Iran can impose the death sentence for some drugs charges.
Again your travel insurance company may refuse to pay out if you are ill of hurt while using drugs and your travel company or airline may also refuse to fly you home on your booked ticket.
Other drug tips
Do not take anything home for anyone else. It is easy to hide drugs in cuddly toys, clothing, footwear, etc. You are responsible for everything that you carry across borders, holding it for a friend will not get you off.
Pack your own luggage and make sure that the contents are secure if you have to leave your luggage unattended.
Carry a letter from your doctor or a prescription form for any medication that you have to take with you. Some prescription drugs maybe illegal in other countries so check and consult your GP to discuss a short term alternative. For example Vicks inhalers are banned in Japan. Check with the FCO website and the countries embassy for up to date information.
In the weeks before your trip, keep an eye on the FCO website (www.gov.uk/fco) in case the local situation has got violent, and sometimes visa requirements may change. Let your bank know that you may be using your debit card abroad (and check that your card is not going to expire while you’re away).
Don’t put your home address on your luggage label, just use a mobile number. Of course you shouldn’t give out your address to a stranger if you are called while you’re still away.
Store all the emergency contact information in your mobile. Make sure that you are using the phone’s memory, and not the SIM card. Then if you buy a local SIM for the cheaper calls you will still have the numbers. Your parents’ number should be stored under ‘ICE’ this stands for ‘in case of emergency’.
While you’re away do keep in touch back home. It may sound soft, but your parents will want to know it you are ok. It won’t take long to write an email, or to send a text. Let them know if your travel plans have changed.