18/03/2018 11:06 SAST | Updated 18/03/2018 11:18 SAST

'Cover Buddha Tattoos And Don’t Pack E-Cigarettes': U.K. Foreign Office Travel Guide On How Not To Get Arrested Abroad

"E-cigarettes are banned in Thailand, and can result in a prison sentence of up to 10 years."

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Ascent/PKS Media Inc. via Getty Images
Digital Vision

If you want to stay out of trouble on holiday, don't take e-cigarettes to Thailand, stop swearing when you land in the United Arab Emirates, and be sure to hide your tattoo of the Buddha in Sri Lanka.

The travel tips are part of advice shared by the U.K.'s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) for globetrotters, aimed at reducing the number of people landing themselves in serious trouble by falling foul of lesser known local laws and customs.

The tips are particularly aimed at young travellers, as new research from the FCO shows one third of 18-24 year olds (33 percent) will be influenced by celebrities when preparing for their holiday this Easter, with nearly one in three (30 percent) saying stars inspire their travel destination.

However, many of these destinations have more unusual and surprising rules than many young travellers are used to. The FCO noted a 7.1 percent increase in arrests and detentions of Brits abroad, for example, between 2015-2016 and 2016-2017.

Ascent/PKS Media Inc. via Getty Images

By analysing ONS data, the FCO found a significant increase in Brits travelling further afield than Europe, often to popular celebrity destinations that have stricter laws and customs than the U.K. Visits to Sri Lanka are up more than a fifth (22 percent) and to the UAE up more than a sixth (17 percent).

As most young travellers don't have A-listers' concierge support when planning trips abroad, the FCO is urging people to be aware of local laws and customs in the destinations they are travelling to, by reading up on its official travel advice – something that fewer than two fifths of young people (38 percent) currently do.

All sorts of local laws and customs are covered in the advice, including the 10 listed below:

  1. UAE: Swearing and making rude gestures (including online) are considered obscene acts, and offenders can be jailed or deported.

  2. Thailand: You can't bring vapourisers, such as e-cigarettes, e-baraku or refills into Thailand. These items are likely to be confiscated, and you could be fined or sent to prison for up to 10 years if convicted.

  3. Greece: Indecent behaviour, including mooning, isn't tolerated and could result in arrest and a fine or a prison sentence.

  4. Sri Lanka: The mistreatment of Buddhist images and artefacts is a serious offence, and tourists have been convicted for this. British nationals have been refused entry to Sri Lanka or faced deportation for having visible tattoos of the Buddha. Don't pose for photographs standing in front of a statue of the Buddha.

  5. Japan: The use or possession of some medicines – like Vicks Inhalers or painkillers containing codeine – is banned in Japan and can result in detention and deportation.

  6. Turkey: It is an offence to insult the Turkish nation or the national flag, or to deface or tear up currency. If you are convicted of any of these offences, you could face a prison sentence of between six months and three years.

  7. Caribbean: Many Caribbean countries, such as Barbados, St Vincent, and St Lucia, ban the wearing of camouflage clothing, including by children.

  8. Spain: Causing a forest fire is treated as a criminal offence in Spain even if unintentional.

  9. Australia: Australia has strict quarantine rules to keep out pests and diseases that could affect plant, animal and human health. Breaches of quarantine regulations can result in large fines.

  10. Ukraine: Smoking and drinking alcoholic drinks in public places (including transport, bus stops, underground crossings, sports and government establishments, playgrounds and parks) is officially banned.

Commenting on the release, Julia Longbottom, FCO consular director said: "It's great to see the British people being inspired to travel to new and exciting places. This makes it all the more important to follow our travel advice and respect local laws and customs to avoid unnecessary trouble.

"Even in places close to home, disrespecting local laws can have serious consequences – in Greece indecent behaviour, such as mooning, can be punishable with a fine or even a prison sentence. We see many cases each year of people breaking local laws and customs.

"It is important that our travellers understand that the U.K. government can't give legal advice or get them out of prison. Instead, we want to do all we can to help British people stay safe when they are travelling, and avoid ending up in these difficult situations."

For more information and to find out about local laws and customs in destinations around the world, visit