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Avoid Arrest Abroad-Solo Travel Tips: In your plan to go abroad for fun, it is easy to miss strict laws at your chosen spot. In Asia and the Mideast, drug laws are well-known. In one such destination, I recall at Immigration/Customs a sign that “drug traffickers face the death penalty”. In one popular Mideast destination on a past trip, I learned there were then 200+ drugs that carried a 4 year jail term for possession. The shock? It included certain drugs legal at home and even others used at home but still able to be detected later on a lab test abroad.
What to do? As they say, “know before you go”. Since many of us in the US and Canada go to Europe often, it is easy to overlook their rules. As I am heading out on an EU trip soon, I found some more tips via the State.gov and EU embassies in the US.
Avoid Arrest Abroad-Solo Travel Tips: Document Required:
Always check visa and passport requirements. Note that if you are on business not vacation, the rules vary. Many countries require that there are two blank pages in your passport. Also, you may need to have 6 months left on your passport to board a flight even to Europe. (See our blog on 10 Tips to Avoid Visa Delays.)
Countries like Brazil have precise exit rules. That means when you enter you must SAVE their exit document or risk missing your flight. (I was warned of this so I arrived prepared: I pulled out a miniature red stapler at Immigration to attach my documents to my passport. The official looked amused. It may have been a first: A tourist arriving with office equipment along with a beach towel!)
Carry your passport with you at all times. I do this every time I leave the US. Why? The US does not have an official national ID card that may be requested even in Europe. Also, to exchange money, a passport may be required.
Avoid Arrest Abroad-Solo Travel Tips: Driving Rules:
Get an International driver’s license if you are renting or using a car. If the country does not require it, the auto insurance company may still deny coverage for an accident absent that license.
Take drinking and driving seriously as local laws do.
Drive carefully. In some countries, a car wreck can result in an arrest.
Avoid Arrest Abroad-Solo Travel Tips: Miscellany:
Don’t take any defensive device, such as Mace. Pack instead a shrill whistle or noisemaker. Sprays or other “weapons” may be illegal so the “bad guy” gets away while you are arrested.
Even in the EU, check local drug laws. You may be required to have a dr’s letter and/or pharmacy’s confirm that your drugs are for personal use and prescribed by a doctor. I also carry prrof of international health insurance.
If you are intrigued by political demonstrations, watch on the Internet or TV. Don’t get picked up in a crowd or crushed under foot if trouble breaks out.
Don’t change currency from “informal” sources. Go to a bank or currency exchange, and keep records.
After trips to 68+ countries, I have avoided a real legal challenge. However, in the Mideast when my driver was stopped at a military checkpoint, I was glad I had thought ahead to have a copy of my passport as ID. However, it can be easy to fall afoul of local laws innocently. This happened to me in Russia, luckily without incident, when I unknowingly risked arrest in St. Petersburg hiking across the frozen Nevsky River, I was relieved to make it back to my hotel safely. One good rule of thumb is “know before you go”, and have a great trip!