When traveling around the world, you have to be careful! Each nation has its own unique set of laws that visitors may not be aware of. It's always important to read about the laws and cultural norms of a country before you visit.
Check out these 7 things that could potentially get you arrested or killed in different places!
#1: Transporting Drugs, various countries
In 2009, a British man was executed in China after being suspected of smuggling heroin. The facts of this case are unclear despite the crystal-clear sentence by Chinese authorities. However, there are two things in this world you can be certain of: don’t carry illegal substances across borders and the stupidest thing is to do so in Asia.
Singapore is especially strict. Drug traffickers receive a mandatory death penalty if convicted. Even carrying a small amount of drugs could win you a one-way ticket to the gallows in Singapore.
Granted, many western countries have severe consequences for such crimes, but nowhere on earth is the punishment as swift and brutal as we see in Southeast Asia and the Middle East.
Just ask Samantha Orobator, a British woman arrested and sentenced to death by firing squad in Laos. She was given a life sentence after authorities discovered she had been pregnant.
#2: Trespassing in Texas
If you want to make a career of being a burglar or Peeping Tom, you may want to steer clear of any number of American states. Half of all states have what’s called 'castle laws', which allow landowners to injure, shoot, even kill those violating their property without any legal restraints.
That’s right: you can shoot trespassers point-blank and not be sued or criminally tried.
Jehovah’s Witnesses and Girl Scouts beware!
#3: Insulting the King of Thailand
The Lese Majeste Law in Thailand demands 3 to 15 years of imprisonment for insulting the King of Thailand. It's never resulted in the death penalty, but to be fair, Thai prisons are worse than death. Royalty is given respect above and beyond anything Westerners can understand.
When the royal anthem is played on loudspeakers across the city at certain hours every day, people are expected to drop their work and turn to the nearest flag.
Dropping a coin, which bears the king’s image, is almost sacrilege; intentionally step on a Baht note, and you could find yourself in prison rather quickly.
#4: Killing a Cow in Nepal and India
This is actually not as black and white as it seems. Some people do in fact eat beef in India and Nepal and do not find themselves in handcuffs within the hour. In India, slaughtering a cow for food or even accidentally hitting it with a car can result in a steep sentence ranging from one year in prison to life behind bars to death.
In the Himalayan kingdom, there are very few “pure” Hindi who look upon bovines as sacred, and so some are punished only by officials looking to exact revenge, abusing their power. Either way, be careful when you drive, and resist the temptation for a fresh hamburger.
#5: Not Carrying Your ID in Japan
Some of you probably think I’m joking. Would a civilized country like Japan really lock me up just for not having my ID? Yes, they would. In the Land of the Rising Sun, all foreign residents are required to carry their “gaijin card” or passport AT ALL TIMES. No exceptions.
If you happen to walk past a policeman who feels it’s his sacred duty to protect his country from “dangerous foreigners”, he will most likely inspect your ID.
Fail to present this, and you could find yourself behind bars for 23 days with absolutely no contact from the outside world: 3 days’ initial interrogation, which can be extended twice by 10 days upon a judge’s approval. This is true of anyone suspected of a crime, not just foreigners who may have rushed out the door and forgotten a vital form of government-issued paper. Even when I went for long runs, my gaijin card was tucked safely inside my pocket.
#6: Eating in Public in the UAE
Islamic law prohibits many activities that are common in the West. Several British citizens have been arrested in Dubai for engaging in drunken premarital sex and given months in prison. This can be avoided easily enough if you’re not traveling with a date or looking for a local hook up.
But what about eating in public?
Just be careful during the holy month of Ramadan, when you can be fined or jailed for eating in public during daylight hours (depending on the country), essentially mocking the prayers of those around you. Even when you’re visiting an Islamic nation that might have open restaurants for visitors, be respectful.
#7: Calling the Police in Korea
I’m hesitant to include this particular story, but I have heard similar accounts across Asia and Africa. I suppose it begins with a certain fear of the police force of any country with the power to throw you behind bars at their discretion, even if you can’t understand what you’re being charged with or how long you’ll be behind bars.
Take my friend, a foreign resident of Korea who found himself being harassed by a drunk racist local while working on a photoshoot outside of Seoul. He ignored him. He walked away. He escaped to a restaurant. Once the man followed him in there and just wouldn’t let up with his hate speech, he finally called the police … and found himself arrested.
The reason? The drunk, racist, idiot says he kicked him. Of course his word, as a Korean, is more trustworthy, and the “dangerous foreigner” should be arrested, which he was.
The police’s advice? “You should have just gone home. You shouldn’t have called us. Next time, just leave.”
And that is the moral of this particular story. When you’re the foreigner, and you haven’t done anything wrong, just get away if possible! Otherwise, all the person has to do is lie, and you’re guilty until proven innocent. Even if they’re a drunk, nearly homeless loser without even a single witness to corroborate his lies.
What seeminginly innocuous acts have gotten you into trouble abroad? Share your travel stories in the comments below!