There is a long list of things you need to think about when planning a trip, from the flights and accommodation down to what you pack in your hand luggage and what you will do while you are there. But how often do you think about preparing yourself for legal problems while you travel?
This is something that most people never consider because they don’t think it will affect them, but it can. Even if you are not intentionally doing something illegal, you could still find yourself in a difficult legal position while traveling, and you need to be prepared if it happens. You could quickly find yourself in a very bad position (with lots of drama, disruptions, and issues) if you get into legal trouble while abroad and you don’t have measures in place to deal with it, especially if you are traveling solo and you cannot get home.
These are some of the potential legal issues you need to be prepared to deal with.
Many countries require you to apply for a visa before you can enter and there are many different types of visas depending on the reason for your stay. For example, you may need a tourist visa but if you plan to work while you are traveling, you’ll need a specific work visa. If you are found to be working and you don’t have the right visa, you will end up in legal trouble and may be forced to leave the country. (On top of Visa issues, sometimes you need special insurances for vehicles – countries like Ireland and Italy require additional insurance above and beyond what you need in other European countries. Also while living in Arizona and visiting places where we could drive into Mexico special car insurance was needed as well. If you drive through Switzerland you need a special sticker. It is not just visas, but those are so critical too!)
Things are even more tricky if you are planning to live in another country for an extended period. If you are unsure about visa issues, it may be a good idea to speak with an immigration lawyer before you go. They will be able to walk you through the whole process and make sure that everything is done correctly, so you don’t encounter any visa issues during your trip. Working with a professional immigration lawyer also means that your application is more likely to be accepted. When I moved from the US to Switzerland to work, even though the company I was working for was assisting with the international transfer, they still worked and provided me services with an immigration lawyer.
Accidental Breaches Of The Law
Even though you won’t intentionally commit a crime while you are traveling, you could still find yourself on the wrong side of the law without realizing it. Every country has different laws and some of them might be completely alien to you. Things that you considered perfectly innocent could actually be illegal, and you might end up in trouble. There are a lot of tricky laws you should be aware of, especially in places like the UAE. Strict laws around public displays of affection, drinking alcohol, and carrying prescription medication, for example, can easily trip people up. If you want to stay safe, it’s vital that you do your research before you leave. Make sure you know all of the local laws and customs so you can respect them and avoid accidentally doing something illegal.
Be prepared and protect your rights. It is important to think about legal issues when planning your trip and traveling so that you can protect your rights. By researching your destination and educating yourself no other individual or entity can take advantage of you, or let's just say it won't be as easy to do so.
If you are injured while abroad and you have to pay medical costs, you need the right insurance to pay for it. A lot of people purchase trip insurance. I remember when I first started working in Switzerland. My manager told me I should get extra trip insurance every time I went skiing in Switzerland because the cost of a helicopter to rescue you if something goes wrong is not covered and is super expensive!
If you properly research and prepare you should also think about the possibility of compensation. If you feel that an accident was due to negligence on somebody else’s part, they may be liable for damages. It’s best to speak to a lawyer in this situation but do it as soon as possible so you can get the compensation you deserve. Have confidence when asserting your rights in order to get the treatment or the service that you deserve.
Other things to consider
Here are a few additional tips gleaned from my travel experience as well as working in an emergency services office at the Embassy in Madrid a long time ago.
- You should always be aware of the location of the nearest Embassy. That includes the physical address, the phone number, email address, and the website.
- Have physical copies of important documents. In addition, keep an encrypted electronic copy on a USB key that is separate from your wallet, backpack, etc.
- Know the phone numbers(and email addresses) of some key contacts. If your phone gets stolen (or you lose it) you should be able to call or email someone for help.
- Have emergency funds in a bank. If you are robbed you will need money. You should be able to wire transfer money to your location.
Legal issues can completely ruin your trip if you are not prepared for them, so make sure to consider it next time you are making travel plans.
How about you? Have any additional tips to add? Have you had a bad experience that others can learn from? Do share!
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