Newsbeat

The unusual laws which could get travellers jailed

Handcuffs Image copyright Alamy

The recent case of British student, Matthew Hedges, being jailed for spying is a stark reminder of what can go wrong on your travels.

He was arrested in the United Arab Emirates but has since been pardoned and released.

But the family of a 19-year-old man from the UK now says he's being held in Egypt for being a spy.

These cases might be on the extreme end of holiday woes, but it's worth knowing the local laws and customs before travelling.

In fact, earlier this year, the government's Foreign and Commonwealth Office encouraged people to do proper research.

It said celebrity holiday snaps are inspiring us to take trips further afield where there are often unusual rules in place.

Here are our top tips for staying safe.

Don't step on money in Thailand

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The monarch's image is very important in Thailand

The lese-majeste law is a very old rule which states that it's a serious offence to insult any image of the Thai royal family.

As the ruling monarch appears on the banknotes, it's actually a criminal act to step on it and you could end up in jail.

No chewing gum

Image copyright Alamy
Image caption Gum can get you imprisoned

Equally offensive in Thailand is throwing gum on the floor.

There's a £400 fine or possibly jail if you don't pay up.

It's a similar story in Singapore where, by law, chewing gum - all except the dental and nicotine kind - can't be bought or sold.

No swimming costumes in the city

Image copyright Getty Images

In Barcelona, it was made illegal to wear swimwear anywhere in public away from the beach in 2011.

It was after local people campaigned that there were too many scantily-clad tourists walking around the city.

A fine of around £100 will be yours if you're semi-nude.

Don't pee in the sea

Image copyright Alamy

Don't relieve yourself in the ocean in Portugal.

It's against the law and even though it's unclear how this can be enforced you should stick to the toilets.

Check your medicines

In Japan, due to strict anti-stimulant drug laws, anything you might inhale or take to decongest you when you have a cold is a no-no.

Be careful when you enter the country as you might be stopped and have them confiscated.

Budgie smugglers

Image copyright Getty Images

If you're heading to France, make sure you leave your swim shorts at home - most swimming pools have a Speedo only rule.

It's apparently for hygiene reasons and although it doesn't carry a penalty, you won't be allowed in without them.

(Okay this isn't a law but it's still good to know!)

Stick to the rules and, hopefully, you won't be one of hundreds of Britons who are arrested abroad each year.

Recent stats suggest Spain, the United Arab Emirates, France, Thailand and the US are the top five places where the UK government provided help for the 829 people arrested in the year up to April 2017.

How to get help

If you do find yourself in trouble though you should ask that the local British embassy or consulate are notified (the local authorities must do this).

Ask family or friends to contact the local British consulate or the Global Casework team at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London.

Staff there will do what they can to help you, but they can't get you out of jail or help pay for a lawyer.

They can, however, contact you in prison and inform your family and friends that you've been arrested.

"If you're taken the most important thing is that you don't sign a confession," says Radha Stirling the Founder and CEO of the campaign group, Detained in Dubai.

"What they will say is if you sign this we will let you out and they never do.

"It's often a fabricated charge, so don't sign anything that you don't understand or can't read - it's the most dangerous, it's the number one thing."

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