'Cover Buddha Tattoos And Don’t Pack E-Cigarettes': Foreign Office Releases Travel Guide On How Not To Get Arrested Abroad

'E-cigarettes are banned in Thailand and can result in a prison sentence of up to 10 years.'

If you want to stay out of trouble on holiday, don’t take e-cigarettes to Thailand, stop swearing when you land in the United Arab Emirates and be sure to hide your Buddha tattoo in Sri Lanka.

The travel tips are part of advice shared by The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) for globe-trotting Brits, aimed at reducing the amount of people landing themselves in serious trouble by falling foul of lesser known local laws and customs.

The tips are particularly aimed at young travellers, as new research from the FCO shows one third of 18-24 year olds (33%) will be influenced by celebrities when preparing for their holiday this Easter, with nearly one in three (30%) saying stars inspire their travel destination.

However, many of these destinations have more unusual and surprising rules than young UK travellers are used to. The FCO noted a 7.1% increase in arrests and detentions of Brits abroad between 2015 - 2016 and 2016 - 2017.

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By analysing ONS data, the FCO found a significant increase in Brits travelling further afield than Europe, often to popular celebrity destinations that have stricter laws and customs than the UK. Visits to Sri Lanka are up more than a fifth (22%) and the UAE up more than a sixth (17%).

As most young Brits don’t have A-listers’ concierge support when planning trips abroad, the FCO is urging people to be aware of local laws and customs in the destinations they are travelling to by reading up on its official Travel Advice – something that fewer than two fifths of young people (38%) currently do.

All sorts of local laws and customs are covered in the advice, including the 10 listed below:

  1. UAE: Swearing and making rude gestures (including online) are considered obscene acts and offenders can be jailed or deported.

  2. Thailand: You can’t bring vaporisers, such as e-cigarettes, e-baraku or refills into Thailand. These items are likely to be confiscated and you could be fined or sent to prison for up to 10 years if convicted.

  3. Greece: Indecent behaviour, including mooning, isn’t tolerated and could result in arrest and a fine or a prison sentence.

  4. Sri Lanka: The mistreatment of Buddhist images and artefacts is a serious offence and tourists have been convicted for this. British nationals have been refused entry to Sri Lanka or faced deportation for having visible tattoos of Buddha. Don’t pose for photographs standing in front of a statue of Buddha.

  5. Japan: The use or possession of some medicines like Vicks Inhalers or painkillers containing Codeine is banned in Japan and can result in detention and deportation.

  6. Turkey: It is an offence to insult the Turkish nation or the national flag, or to deface or tear up currency. If you are convicted of any of these offences, you could face a prison sentence of between six months and three years.

  7. Caribbean: Many Caribbean countries, such as Barbados, St. Vincent, and St. Lucia, ban the wearing of camouflage clothing, including by children.

  8. Spain: Causing a forest fire is treated as a criminal offence in Spain even if unintentional.

  9. Australia: Australia has strict quarantine rules to keep out pests and diseases that could affect plant, animal and human health. Breaches of quarantine regulations can result in large fines.

  10. Ukraine: Smoking and drinking alcoholic drinks in public places (including transport, bus stops, underground crossings, sports and government establishments, playgrounds and parks) is officially banned.

Commenting on the release, Julia Longbottom, FCO consular director said: “It’s great to see the British people being inspired to travel to new and exciting places. This makes it all the more important to follow our Travel Advice and respect local laws and customs to avoid unnecessary trouble. For instance, e-cigarettes are banned in Thailand and can result in a prison sentence of up to 10 years.

“Even in places closer to home, disrespecting local laws can have serious consequences – in Greece indecent behaviour, such as mooning, can be punishable with a fine or even a prison sentence. We see many cases each year of people breaking local laws and customs.

“It is important that our travellers understand that the UK Government can’t give legal advice or get them out of prison. Instead, we want to do all we can to help British people stay safe when they are travelling, and avoid ending up in these difficult situations.”

For more information and to find out about local laws and customs in destinations around the world, visit gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.