You would be surprised to know how many British tourists seemingly leave their common sense at home.
Nearly 1000 British tourists were arrested for drug offences last year, with arrests happening in places as varied as France, South Africa, Ireland, Italy, the UAE, Thailand, Canada and Spain.
The problem is that some countries have a zero tolerance to drug smuggling or drug use. And it certainly does not matter if you are a UK citizen. In fact, some anecdotal evidence points out to it being worse if you are a British tourist. So if you are tempted to make a bit of extra money by smuggling drugs, or to merely help a fellow expat Brit out by delivering a pre-packaged present to his dear old mum in Catford, DON’T! For under those circumstances the milk of human kindness can taste incredibly sour. And to an arresting officer in a far eastern country, he would already have a smuggler, you. Why bother following up your vague story of some bloke you met who speaks with a London accent who asked you to do him a favour? And in some countries the penalty for smuggling drugs is death.
– There was a total of 994 arrests for drug offences, accounting for a seventh of all arrests worldwide.
FCO staff anecdotally report a rise in domestic violence arrests. There is a zero tolerance policy to domestic violence in Spain, which could account for more arrests.
A spokesman for the FCO said: “Be aware that there may be harsher penalties for drug offences in different countries. For example, drug offences carry the death penalty in China, Thailand, and Vietnam. The FCO is unable to get British Nationals released from jail but can offer a list of local
English speaking lawyers and visit you in prison if you request it.
He went on to add: “Before you travel, check out the local laws and customs of your destination – what might be perfectly appropriate behaviour or dress in one country might not be acceptable in another. Check out www.fco.gov.uk/travel which contains the latest travel information by country. Travel guide books and tour operators are also good sources of information.
Many arrests are due to behaviour caused by excessive drinking. Know your limit and stay in control. Be aware that your travel insurance probably won’t cover you if you have an accident whilst under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
“Avoid areas where you might be unintentionally caught up in trouble e.g. rallies, marches or protests,– check country-specific travel advice at www.fco.gov.uk/travel before you go as situations can change from one day to the next.”
The FCO also issues some generic useful advice:
Ensure you have the correct vaccinations for the countries you will be visiting. Make sure you remember which side of the road you are driving on.
Get comprehensive travel insurance. Anyone travelling within the European Economic Area or Switzerland should also get a free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC – which
replaces the former E111) that entitles you to some reduced or free emergency care – but you will still need travel insurance. You can apply for a free EHIC online via www.ehic.org.uk