Eating next to a church and other seemingly harmless acts that could land Brits in trouble abroad

Published 28 August 2013  |  

It may seem innocent enough but feeding the pigeons is just one of the unusual laws that Brits travelling abroad are being encouraged to brush up on to make sure their holiday remains safe and enjoyable.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has published a list of laws and customs prohibiting things that are commonplace in the UK.

It warns that some of them carry serious consequences and Brits have found themselves facing hefty fines or experiencing arrest or detention abroad for breaking them.  

With the FCO reporting that just over a quarter (27%) of cases requiring consular assistance were for arrests or detentions, it is encouraging British citizens to familiarise themselves with the laws of their travel destinations before setting off.  

(Photo: Enrico Nunziati)
Tourists could find themselves in trouble with the law if they eat next to a church in Florence

The FCO notes a particular rise in cases requiring consular assistance in the Netherlands and top of the list is a warning not to carry or use drugs in the country. 

"While the Netherlands has a reputation for being tolerant on the use of so-called 'soft drugs' this exists only for designated areas.  Possession of prohibited substances or buying them can carry a prison sentence," it warns.

In Venice, feeding the pigeons is against the law and punishable with a fine, while in Barcelona tourists also risk being fined if they wear a bikini, swimming trunks or go bare-chested away from the beach front area.  

Picking up a bottle of mineral water may be part of the airport routine for many British holidaymakers, but it is illegal to take mineral water into Nigeria and doing so could land you with a fine.  

In Florence, sitting on steps and courtyards or eating and drinking in the immediate vicinity of churches and public buildings carries "large fines", the FCO warns, and in the Maldives, tourists taking part in the public observance of a non-Islamic faith could find themselves arrested or detained.  

Charles Hay, Director of Consular Services said: "Every year British nationals find themselves on the wrong side of the law unexpectedly, resulting in fines or in some cases arrests or even jail sentences. 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.

"Consular staff often find that travellers are unaware that local laws apply to them and many British nationals think of their British passport as a 'get out of jail free' card. While consular staff will always try to assist British nationals who find themselves in difficulty abroad, we can't interfere in another country's legal processes.

"We want Brits to have a great time when they travel abroad so it is also a good idea to research the country they are visiting before they travel."

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