expat network

5 Reasons Why You Should Research Laws Before Traveling Abroad

traveling abroad


For those who love to travel, there are a lot of considerations that go into making a trip successful. Something even the most seasoned travelers neglect to do is to research what the laws are in the country they’ll be staying in. If you’re only spending a day or two in a country, it might seem unnecessary to get familiar with the legal system. Here are a few reasons why you should consider doing that research anyway when traveling abroad.



1. What You Bring

A common surprise for many world travelers is the laws surrounding customs and what you can and can’t bring into a country. For example, many prescription medications cannot be taken into other countries. It would be seriously unfortunate to have the medication you need be taken away from you at customs. If necessary, you can contact the country’s embassy to see if you can get special permission for specific medications. It’s important to remember that in other countries, local law enforcement doesn’t have a duty to provide a positive customer experience.

Another thing to consider is that you frequently cannot bring any type of weapon from one country into another. There can be huge penalties incurred for bringing weapons that are prohibited through customs, so it’s best to just leave anything that could be defined as a weapon at home. Even small pocket knives could get you into trouble, so make sure you double check your luggage to make sure you aren’t carrying prohibited items.


2. How You Drive

Having a driving license in one country does not guarantee you’ll be able to drive in another country. If you’re planning to rent and drive a vehicle in your destination country, make sure you have the right license for the situation, otherwise you could end up with a lot of trouble on your hands. In addition, it’s a good idea to review the traffic laws in the country you’re traveling to. The basics should all be the same, but traffic laws can often vary a lot according to the roads you’re driving on. You don’t want to beĀ thatĀ tourist, causing accidents out of ignorance, so do your research ahead of time.


3. What You Document

Something that’s often shocking for American travelers is that many other countries do not allow total freedom when it comes to recording videos or taking photos in public places. Frequently, government buildings in foreign countries will prohibit any type of photography or videography, and you could have your equipment confiscated if you don’t comply. Don’t risk losing your camera or phone and play it safe when you’re in restricted areas.


4. Political Participation

You might be traveling in the hope that you can get involved in the political situation in other countries, whether it’s a cause you support or a situation you want to protest. But it’s often against the law in foreign nations for expatriates to participate in political causes, demonstrations, or campaigns. Ending up jailed in a foreign country is a nightmare that nobody wants to experience, so make sure you aren’t getting yourself in trouble by holding a sign or following the crowd.


5. Avoiding Tourist Traps

When you love traveling, it’s often desirable to avoid being labeled as a tourist. Tourists often gain a bad reputation in foreign countries by being ignorant of local customs and laws and being disrespectful of the local culture and language. Most locals in tourist-friendly locations can spot a tourist from a mile away, so it’s important to equip yourself with the right knowledge to avoid that label. Knowing the laws so you can avoid embarrassing situations is a big step towards resembling one of the locals.



At the very least, the local law enforcement will appreciate your willingness to comply with the law and be aware of how your actions might affect those around you. There’s no reason why understanding foreign laws should become an added stressor on your travel preparations. Instead, do your research ahead of time so you can relax and enjoy the experience once you’re at your destination.