How to Keep Legally Safe While Traveling

Consulate General of the United States in Krakow, Poland

Consulate General of the United States in Krakow, Poland

While travelling is essentially an exciting and largely carefree adventure, travelling without stress does require a little forethought and planning. Frolicking spontaneously from one country to another without any accommodation or flights or agenda is not so much of a problem, neglecting to understand the laws applicable to you in that new country, or finding yourself in trouble without an appropriate avenue for help accessible to you, can be very problematic.

If you find yourself in trouble as a tourist while you are abroad, there are a few ways for you to seek help. Better still, there are a number of things you can do pre-departure to avoid finding yourself in strife at all.

Here are a few tips for seeking legal help while you are abroad:

  • If you are arrested or find yourself in trouble, contact your countries’ local Consul immediately. The Consul will be able to direct you to legal representation and can contact your next of kin. The Consul cannot however, arrange for your release, pay bail, or influence your sentence. Note for American travelers, there will generally be a United States Consul in most countries.
  • The Consul can ensure that you are treated in a fair and just manner according to the laws of the country that you inhabit, but keep in mind that you will be treated and punished according to local law.
  • Travelers from some other countries may not find their nationality represented in a Consul in every country.  It is a good idea to find out if your country of origin has a Consul in the destination you want to travel too first.

The best course of action when it comes to legal help while you are abroad is prevention, here are a few things you should arrange or consider before departure to avoid legal problems while you travel:

  • Always register with government agencies before you depart, notifying them of the places you intend to travel to and your intended length of stay.
  • Familiarize yourself with the local laws of the country/ countries you are travelling to. Laws vary significantly from country to country, and failure to comply with local laws due to ignorance or lack of awareness is not a defense. In recent years, the incidence of drug related offences abroad has been at the forefront of local media. This is a good example of why understanding foreign laws and the implications of these laws before departure can help to ensure your safety abroad.
  • To avoid unintentionally finding yourself in legal trouble, ensure that you pack your bags yourself and never carry anything between countries on behalf of another. You should also make sure that you luggage is secure to avoid tampering and be careful not to leave your bags in the care of strangers or others.
  • Keep a list of contacts you may need overseas on you at all times, for example names and contact numbers of your next of kin, your family doctor and your lawyer if possible. Also give copies of your passports, visas and itinerary’s to your next of kin.
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