Avoid Travel Trouble!
Sarah met Sandra on the beach at the Caribbean resort where they were both holidaying.Â After a shared snorkeling excursion and some giddy nights at the disco, the two felt like old friends, so when Sandra asked if Sarah would mind delivering a gift to her aunt in Toronto, there wasnâ€™t a momentâ€™s hesitation.Â
But the customs official who tore apart her bags in Canada certainly gave Sarah reason to be seriously concerned when he told her Sandraâ€™s beautifully wrapped package contained cocaine and not the coffee she thought she was delivering.Â
Like Sarah, Don had no idea that he was setting himself up for a security disaster when he took his prescription medication out of its pharmacy-issued container and packed it in a zip-locked plastic bag.Â The customs officials at the airport in Tunisia took a dim view of what they considered to be illegal narcotics.Â Without proof that the pills had been prescribed by his doctor, Don was in serious trouble.
Jennifer was equally innocent of any evil intent when she snapped a few shots of the naval vessels docked in the harbor near her hotel.Â That made no difference to the government official who saw the impromptu photo session, and followed Jennifer to confiscate her camera.Â In some countries, military and other government controlled areas are off-limits to tourists and cannot be photographed, even from a distance.Â Ask your tour guide to be sure.
Bill actually thought he was doing a good thing when he bought the stone carving from the young man outside the famous shrine.Â The kid looked stressed, as if he really needed the money.Â It wasnâ€™t until Bill was told that heâ€™d bought a piece marble chipped from the wall of the shrine and that exporting items significant to another countryâ€™s cultural heritage was against the law, that he had any idea heâ€™d committed a crime.
If you break the laws of the country youâ€™re vacationing in, donâ€™t count on your Canadian citizenship, or your lack of knowledge of the local rules or language to get you a get-out-of-jail-free card. You could also find yourself sentenced to far harsher penalties than anything you would ever experience at home.Â Itâ€™s worth noting that some countries routinely sentence those convicted of drug possession to many years of jail time, whippings, or even, in rare cases, to death.Â Itâ€™s scary, but true.
So what do you do if youâ€™re arrested while far from home? Get in touch with the nearest Canadian government office immediately.Â Although they will not be able to have your fine or sentence reduced, the consular officials can contact your family and friends, ensure that you receive fair treatment, and provide a list of capable, local lawyers.Â Â What happens from there will be up to the judicial system of the country in which youâ€™re being detained.
So whatâ€™s your best protection from these legal travel nightmares?Â Good judgment and plenty of information.Â If youâ€™re not certain about what is and isnâ€™t allowed in a foreign country â€“ particularly when it comes to photographing people and places of military, historical or religious importance â€“ ask.Â If youâ€™re planning to purchase an item you suspect might not be allowed into Canada, check atÂ http://airs-sari.inspection.gc.caÂ And if youâ€™re asked to bring anything home with you that you didnâ€™t purchase or package yourself, play it safe and say no.
While weâ€™re talking about terrifying things, we might as well cover all the bases.Â Not only do the laws of other countries apply to you while youâ€™re visiting, but youâ€™re also subject to Canadian laws regarding certain crimes, no matter where you are.Â Perhaps the most vigorously prosecuted of these are the laws regarding the sexual exploitation of children.Â If you are suspected of committing such heinous acts while abroad, you can be charged at home, under the Canadian Criminal Code, and could face up to 14 years in prison.