What Not To Do Abroad According to the U.S. State Department
Insider tips on how to avoid getting in trouble and what to do if you already are.
Countries can vary when it comes to their regulations and environments, which is why there’s certain safety protocols you’ll want to know about before your next trip.
Tim Starkweather, an officer at the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs, recently took to Reddit for an AMA, pinpointing in the discussion what some of these protocols are and what you'll want to avoid doing when abroad.
His first tip? Don't transport prescription medications that are illegal in the country where you're going.
This may seem obvious, but Starkweather says some countries have different laws about medications available in the U.S. and mistakes can lead to years of jail time for unaware travelers who bring in an illegal prescription.
Even if it's not a legality issue, travelers need to check availability before a trip in case they run out of the medication they take. Some countries may not have a certain prescription drug, leaving travelers in tough situations should they be faced with an emergency while there.
To get a better understanding of how these regulations vary, travelers can utilize the State Department’s country pages, which list out local laws and health information for your travel destination.
Starkweather's second main tip is not to attend demonstrations or protests.
Should you be traveling to a location where protests and demonstrations are taking place, Starkweather advises sharing your travel itinerary with friends and family, making sure to include your address, travel dates, and contact information.
Since phone lines can often go down during emergencies, he also suggests that travelers sign up for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). The free service provides you with safety information on destinations, sends regular updates and alerts on your destination, and allows both the U.S. Embassy and your family and friends to contact you during emergencies.
If you do get arrested while on vacation, Starkweather says the first step is to ask to speak to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
“In general, if you are a U.S. citizen, you have the right to request the U.S. embassy or consulate to be notified of your arrest,” Starkweather writes, adding that you can either request this of the local police or prison officials or call directly if you have access to a phone.
While U.S. State Department officials cannot get a traveler out of jail, they can provide a list of local attorneys who speak English, assist in visits during the time of detainment, and insure that prison officials administer proper medical care.