You may have noticed the stories about Australian mother Sally Faulkner and her children in Lebanon. The case highlights the risk of being stuck in an overseas prison. The Australian who is still in prison is struggling to get help. He is a dual citizen (Australian and UK) so the Lebanese government will not communicate with Australian officials.
Some examples of overseas laws that might be broken by travellers include:
- It is illegal to feed the pigeons in St Mark’s square in Venice
- Don’t stop on an Autobahn in Germany, (it is illegal even if you run out of petrol)
- You can’t wear thongs driving in Spain
- It is illegal to wear high heels at archaeological sites in Greece
- You cannot eat during the relevant periods of Ramadan in the United Arab Emirates, even if you are not a Muslim, you will be fined
- Vanuatu has a different definition of obscene publications, it is broader than you might expect. These publications can be penalised with prison.
Even the government’s smart traveller website tells you to ‘research local laws before travelling’ without necessarily summarising the laws for the country on that site. There is no one site that we can direct you to, it really is a matter of different countries will have different problems.
In 2009 the Fijian Courts were all closed as the Judges were all sacked, and the president of the Law Society in Fiji was arrested after sitting on the steps of the court house in quiet protest. The travel advisory at the time was a Level 2 warning (there are four levels, 4 being do not travel). If you had been arrested in Fiji at that time there was literally no way (apart from diplomatic channels or perhaps bribery) to challenge that arrest, as ordinarily this would happen through the Court system. Simply keeping out of trouble may not be enough. In some countries corrupt Police will detain tourists in the hope of being offered a bribe to release them.
You should also check whether your travel insurance will cover you in the event that you cannot travel to the country because of the travel advisories.