Legal Matters to Consider Before Traveling

Whether it’s vacationing or working abroad, traveling has plenty of legal implications that you need to consider before grabbing your bags. You will be subject to another country’s customs, laws, and policies once abroad. As such, there’s certain preparations and precautions to always take.

Consider Before Traveling


Know your life and auto insurance policy for accidents and injury abroad. If you’re renting a car, consider paying that extra bit for insurance just to be safe. You can also consider traveller’s insurance for your trip, depending on the risks you might face. For example it might not be as necessary for a bus tour in the UK as it is for someone going cliff diving in Mexico. Take time to look at several different travellers’ insurance options to find the optimal premium and coverage for yourself and your family. Most of the time the policy can be arranged to simply last the duration of your trip. It may seem paranoid to take out a policy just for vacation, but the precaution could pay off in the event of an injury or other expense incurred abroad.

Legal Systems

Take some time to understand the legal system you’re entering into. Not every nation follows the same policies or provide for the same rights as the US. For example in Italy a jury is made up of both judges and citizens, with only a majority needed to find someone guilty. In Saudi Arabia, if you have a visa or even a stamp from Israel, you will be refused entry into the country. It helps to be aware of the laws governing immigration and visa status in the country you are visiting, as well as knowing what rights are granted to you in the unlikely event of an arrest. What may be minor crimes in the US such as possession of marijuana, can result in the death penalty in other countries.

State Department Registration

Consider joining the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) with the US State Department. This is a free service provided to US citizens whether they’re living abroad or just vacationing. Simply enter information concerning your travels into STEP and in the case of an emergency if you were to require the assistance of the US embassy or consulate. It also makes it easier for the embassy to contact you in the event of an emergency at home. If arrested or imprisoned, the State Department can also assist in finding a local attorney and ensuring the facilities in which you are held are adequate.

Travel Advisories

Take not of the US State Department’s travel advisory to American’s going abroad as well. It provides comprehensive warnings concerning certain nations and regions. It particularly notifies citizens of countries in which the US government will be limited in its ability to assist American citizens. Classic examples include Iran or North Korea.

Entry Requirements

In relation to the legal system you’ll be entering, the requirements for passing immigration will change. Visas might need to be obtained beforehand, you may not be able to bring certain items with you, or other restrictions may apply.

US Customs

Coming back is also something to take into consideration. The US Customs and Border Protection provide an online list of prohibited items. So before you try to bring back an exotic fruit from abroad, be sure to check the list first.

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