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Brits falling foul of foreign laws

28/08/13

By Daniel Machin

Feeding pigeons in the street or chewing gum on trains may seem innocent enough but doing so could actually land UK holidaymakers in trouble.

The Foreign Office (FO) has warned that Britons could face fines, arrests or even jail sentences if they fail to adhere to unusual laws and customs around the world.

For instance, it is against the law to wear a bikini, swimming trunks or to go bare-chested away from the beach front area of Barcelona, while it is an offence in Barbados for anyone, including children, to dress in camouflage clothing.

Holidaymakers also need to be careful about what they pack as it is illegal to take some commonly available nasal sprays containing pseudoephedrine into Japan. In Nigeria, meanwhile, it is illegal to take mineral water into the country.

Elsewhere, it is against the law to feed pigeons in Venice, chew gum on the Mass Rapid Transit system in Singapore, and sunbath topless in Fiji.

Public observance of religions other than Islam is even prohibited for visitors to the Maldives.

The FO warning comes after a recent report revealed that 27 per cent of cases of Brits requiring consular assistance abroad were for arrests or detentions.

"Every year British nationals find themselves on the wrong side of the law unexpectedly," commented Charles Hay, consular services director at the FO.

"It is important to remember that laws and customs can vary greatly from country to country and what may be perfectly legal in the UK could be subject to a fine or even a jail sentence in another."

Although consular staff will always try to assist British nationals who find themselves in difficulty abroad, they are not allowed to interfere with another country's legal processes.

Brits should therefore do some research into the country they are visiting before they travel, just to give them an idea of what they can and cannot do. Country-specific laws and customs can be found at www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice .


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