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Travel law: Avoiding dangerous vacations

Written by editor

Planning a vacation?

Planning a vacation? Please consider, among other things, your planned destination and the incidence of criminal activity and terrorist acts in the local environment as well as the nature and type of accidents which tourists have previously sustained running the spectrum from wrongful death to slip, trips and falls. This is the third year that we have posted dangerous destination information collected from news articles and reported law cases.

As noted in Tourism: 49 percent of the health problems when traveling related to the destination, (6/25/2015) “Observatory (TIO) with the support of the World Tourism Organization 49 percent of the health problems affecting tourists and travelers when they visit other countries are related to the county of destination, such as gastrointestinal or respiratory infections. 26 percent of the problems faced by travelers have to do with trauma, especially fractures”.

The information in the treatise is categorized by region, types of accidents and by country and includes some discussions about liability theories, personal jurisdiction, forum non conveniens and choice of law. Included in these misadventures is a section on Behaving Yourself while abroad and being arrested for failing to respect local customs and traditions.


The Caribbean is a very popular destination for United States citizens and others arriving by cruise ship or aircraft. There are many tourist accidents in the Caribbean some of which involve criminal activity. Robberies and assaults are quite common in the Caribbean have taken place in the Bahamas, Barbados, Cayman Islands, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, St. Kitts, St. Lucia and St. Thomas. Tourists are well advised not to rely on foreign clinics and medical professionals when a physical injury occurs. The best course of action for an injured tourist is to return to the U.S. as fast as possible for medical care. Medical malpractice and the contraction of disease has taken place in the Bahamas, Barbados, Dominican Republic, Netherlands Antilles and Puerto Rico.


Destinations in Central and South America generate accidents similar to those in the Caribbean. Mexico, in particular, has invested extraordinary sums in developing many beach destinations on both coasts and as a result has the highest number of travel accidents in this region.


Africa, Asia, The Middle East and the Pacific nations are attracting ever greater numbers of tourists while at the same time attracting terrorists, pirates and very scary diseases like Ebola.


From frozen waste lands to old and traditional venues travel accidents occur here as well.


Travelers not only need to be careful and protect themselves but they need to behave in accordance with the laws and customs of the destination country. For example, “In Singapore, which places a high value on order, prostitution is legal but careless disposal of chewing gum can invoke fines up to $500…Jaywalking and spitting result in similar fines. On the bright side, Singapore saves canings for more serious offenses, such as vandalism, for which American teenager Michael Fay received a public lashing in 1994. Sensitivity to another country’s values (is important as) Raffi Nernekian, a Lebanese tourist visiting the United Arab Emirates learned…when he was arrested for wearing a skin cancer awareness T-shirt depicting Posh Spice in her birthday suit. Though a strategic pose and lettering kept Mrs. Beckham’s revelations from being explicit, Nerekian spent a month in jail…(and) Ireland, the land of creative invective, just passed a blasphemy law making it 1 25,000-euro ($37,000) offense to say or print anything ‘grossly abusive or insulting’ about any subject held sacred by any religion”(Dougherty, The Informer, Lost in Translation, Conde Nast Traveler, p. 76). See also: French tourists fines $4000 each for animal cruelty in Australia, (4/17/2015); Cochrane, Indonesia Executes 8, Including 7 Foreigners, Convicted on Drug Charges, (4/28/2015); Reckless driver fined $136K in Dubai, (5/5/2015); Chinese teenager first tourist blacklisted for ‘uncivilized behavior’, (5/8/2015); Tourists caught with 12 kilos of meth face life in prison (New Zealand), (5/26/2015); Mallorca tourists warned: No stripping in public, (6/8/2014); British tourists may face imprisonment for stripping on Malaysian mountain, (6/11/2015); Habits of International Travelers: Pee in pool, taking hotel toiletries, cheating, (6/15/2015); Japanese public bathhouses deny entry to tourists with tattoos, (6/18/2015); Malaysia state institutes dress code for tourists, (3/2/2015); Tourists behaving badly, (3/11/2015)(“Twitter user ‘Princess Breanna’ posted smiling selfie at the Auschwitz concentration camp”); Lord Buddha with headphones-not a good idea (in Myanmar), (3/17/2015); Chinese tourist fined for washing her feet in public bathroom sink (in Thailand), (3/16/2015); French tourist arrested in Rio for drugs and bribery is a French off duty police officer, (6/23/2014); Turkewitz, A Fight as U.S. Girls Face Genital Cutting Abroad (in Guinea), (6/10/2014); Oman: Dress code for tourists, (8/16/2014); Tourist fined E600 for stubbing out cigarette on the beach (in Sardinia), (8/23/2014); Barcelona residents fed up with drunken tourists’ antics, (8/21/2014); Germany and UK wage ‘towel war’ in Spain, (8/16/2014); The charm of Russian tourist starting to wane in Goa, (2/17/2014); Chinese tourists scandalize Taipei restaurant, (10/20/2014); Russian visitor fined 20,000 euros for vandalizing ancient monument (in Italy), (11/24/2014); China to tourists: We may blacklist you for bas behavior. (4/11/2015); Linda, Drink camel milk instead of alcohol says Sudan Tourism Minister, (3/25/2013) (“Sudan’s Tourism Minister…last week declared the country off limits for tourists expecting to be served alcohol or wanting to dance in a disco…he advised tourists to drink camel milk…hundreds of miles of sandy beaches along the Red Sea are off limits for those wearing bikinis”); Steinmetz, Photo of female tourist posing with Buddha statue irks Thais, (1/4/2013); Steinmetz, Saudi tourist, prostitute charged with consensual (“sex, illegal drinking in Dubai, (12/15/2012) (“Drunk tourist from Saudi Arabia had sex with an Uzbek prostitute at a hotel apartment in Muraqabbat, a court heard today”); Steinmetz, Myanmar warns visitors on child sex tourism, (11/21/2012) (“Since last month, warning signs have been posted in every hotel room in Bagan to let foreigners know that committing child sexual exploitation is a serious crime in Myanmar”); Steinmetz, Despite new regulations drunken tubing goes on in Laos, (9/16/2012)(“After a spate of tourist deaths on the Nam Song River in Vang Vieng, Laos, authorities from the capital have closed more than two dozen of the riverside and late-night island bars that are pit-stops for tubing tourists…floating down the Nam Song River in a large tractortyre innertube, stopping at the legion of jerry-built bars on the waterside for free shots of drugs, has become a popular pastime”); Steinmetz, French tourists given jail terms in Sri Lanka for ‘insulting religious feelings’, (8/21/2012)(“Two women and one man were detained in the southern town of Galle after a photographic laboratory alerted police. The pictures show the travelers posing with Buddha statutes and pretending to kiss one of them… Mistreatment of Buddhist images and artefacts is strictly taboo in the country”); Steinmetz, One Australian visitor dies in Bali every nine days, (8/12/2012)(“Consular officials say alcohol and drugs fuel many of the accidents, while nightclub fights are among the biggest cause of trouble for thousands of Aussies who fly to the tropical island every year. Information release by the Department of Foreign Affairs reveals 39 Australians died in Bali in 2011-12. Another 93 sought consular help after being taken to hospital while 36 were arrested, 18 jailed and eight needed support after being attacked…traffic accidents were the biggest cause of deaths after natural causes”); Steinmetz, Foreign Tourists to be Banned From Getting Thai Religious Tattoos, (June 2, 2011; Steinmetz, (7/5/2012)(“Kashmir has asked tourists visiting the Valley to desist from wearing skimpy clothes and warned them of an angry reaction if they failed to do so. ‘Some tourists, mostly foreigners, are seen wandering in short mini-skirts and other objectionable dresses openly which is against local ethos and culture”); Steinmetz, Abu Dhabi issues tourist flyer with guidelines on ethics and values of UAE, (7/5/2012) (Abu Dhabi has issued “flyers (that) provide guidelines to prevent tourist(s) from getting into trouble with the law. As an example, the information makes it clear that possession of drugs and drug usage are illegal in the UAE…other illegal acts such as prostitution, driving while intoxicated, alcohol consumption with license…the flyers provide guidelines on how to behave in public and behaviors that may be tolerable in other countries but considered either illegal or inappropriate in the UAE. It addresses issues such as physical displays of affection, attire, smoking, drinking or eating during Ramadan, respect for religious sites and occasions, attire for beaches, photography of restricted areas”); Steinmetz, Swiss tourist arrested in Zimbabwe for ‘insulting’ Mugabe, (9/18/2012)(“a Swiss tourist was arrested at the border of insulting the President…Insulting Mugabe is an offense under sweeping security laws and prosecutions are common…A Zimbabwean carpenter was arrested in February after he questioned whether Mugabe still had the strength to blow up balloons at his 88th birthday”); Steinmetz, Hindu shrine cops beat up US tourist, (6/25/2012)(“An American tourist was allegedly beaten by Jagannath temple security men while he was trying to climb Jagannath’s chariot on the second day of Rath Yatra on Friday”); Steinmetz, French tourist’s strip dance on Uluru causes Aboriginal outrage, (6/27/2010) (“Aboriginal elders are outraged and are calling for her deportation”); Steinmetz, German tourist jailed in New Zealand for smuggling lizards, (3/3/2010)(“A German tourist was sentenced to jail time Wednesday after he admitted trying to smuggle native New Zealand lizards out of the country…The reptiles had a value of 192,000 New Zealand dollars ($134,000) on the European market”). See also: 10 Super Weird Laws from Around the World, (12/15/2012)(discussing the following laws which tourists should be aware of: Rome, Italy: eating and drinking near landmarks illegal; Dubai: sharing a hotel room outside of marriage illegal; Greece: stiletto heels illegal; Netherlands: soft drugs like marijuana and hash illegal; Doytona Beach, Florida: spitting in public illegal; Thailand: stepping on currency with the King’s face on it illegal; Venice, Italy: feeding the pigeons illegal; Canada: using more than 25 pennies in a transaction illegal; Singapore: chewing gum illegal. If you find yourself in jail in a foreign country you may wish to contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate and a U.S. attorney (See International Legal Defense Counsel at

The author, Justice Dickerson, has been writing about Travel Law for 39 years including his annually updated law books, Travel Law, Law Journal Press (2015) and Litigating International Torts in U.S. Courts, Thomson Reuters WestLaw (2015), and over 350 legal articles. For additional travel law news and developments, especially in the member states of the EU, see

This article may not be reproduced without the permission of Thomas A. Dickerson.