Handling an Encounter with Police Officers in a Foreign Country

police officer in foreign country

Today’s Culture with Travel post is by Lucy Taylor

So, you’re going for your dream vacation to another country! You’ve checked everything that you need to pack. You’ve made all restaurant and hotel reservations. You’ve even rented out a car to help you get around the tourist spots of the country you’re trying to visit.

Everything seems all-so-perfect until that one night when you walked out of a bar quite inebriated and came face-to-face with the local police. Encounters like these do happen and here are four things I recommend you do so that you can handle an encounter with police officers in a foreign country.

Research all local laws that pertain to tourists
I’m already stating something that’s a little too obvious; but it is always a good idea to do your research before going into any foreign country. Aside from getting to know the local tourist spots, restaurants, and accommodations, it’s also best to know specific laws that they have for foreigners or tourists.

There is a saying that prevention is always better than cure. Same thing goes every time you travel to a
foreign country. It also wouldn’t hurt to do a little bit of research on the rules and regulations of the
places you will go to. Better to know these ‘house rules’ beforehand rather than get into trouble with
police or security later on. I, for one, spend a few hours researching all the places in my itinerary. Better be prepared than sorry.

Know a few words from the country you’re in

Having a face-to-face encounter with police in our home countries is already a nerve-wracking experience. Imagine facing police officers who do not speak your language or know your culture.
Language barriers can cause a lot of misunderstandings – even more so when you’re being questioned
by police officers in a foreign country.

Memorizing a simple phrase like “I don’t speak [local language]” can be quite helpful. Another helpful
phrase is “I don’t understand.” These signal the local officers that you’re not from around there. These
two phrases were quite useful when I had an encounter with some officers in Tokyo’s Ropponngi District a few years back.

After that, it was all broken English, gestures, and a ‘slap on the wrist.’ I also realized then that having a pocket phrasebook or a translator app installed in your phone would’ve been quite valuable in that situation.

Have all your paperwork with you all the time

This is the most important tip to always follow. There are a few documents that you should always have with you whenever you are in another country. Moreover, you should be able to access these in any event that you have an encounter with law enforcement.

The most important ones are your passport and visa. And if you’re driving a rental car, you also need
your valid driver’s license (check if your license is honored in that country), the vehicle’s registration,
motor insurance, and all paperwork provided by the rental company. Moreover, always check if that country requires an International Driving Permit. These are the documents police officers check; and
expect some trouble if you don’t have these with you when you get questioned or flagged down.

As per experience, most non-English speaking countries would require a driving permit, so make sure to get one if you plan on driving a car there. I have driven in quite a few countries in Europe, Asia, and
Australia as well. And one thing I realized is that as long as you keep your head down and follow rules,
you should be fine. However, just in case, always have your embassy and your lawyer’s number with you. These will be your lifelines when you do get in trouble with your host nation’s local police.

Be Prepared to Pay Right Then and There

When you’re in another country, don’t forget to always travel with cash-on-hand. Two reasons – to pay
for upfront fines and paying bribes. It does happen that police officers are also authorized to collect
fines. Most of the time though, you settle fines at the station.

If you’re in a country that’s known for corruption, these ‘fines’ aren’t what they seem. Any fine that you
might be asked to pay will go straight to the policeman’s pockets. In times like these, although bribing
might be against your own principles, my advice is that it’s always better to pay up. Trying to avoid
paying these ‘fines’ you might get into deeper trouble – remember, you’re in a foreign country!

I’ve had this experience with this while driving in South East Asia, I just paid the guy and got everything over and done with and just went on my merry way. These officers rarely ask for big sums, so don’t give them a chance to harass you any further. Just pay up and report the incident to the nearest embassy.

A run-in with your host country’s local police can ruin any vacation. While the key to avoiding this
incident is simply following the local rules and establishment guidelines, there really are instances when an encounter can’t be avoided. So, just make sure that you’re more prepared to handle such situations by knowing the local laws and memorizing a few key phrases. Moreover, have your papers and cash with you at all times. The best strategy though is to just keep your head down, follow the rules, and never go looking for trouble.

Lucy Taylor is an avid blogger who enjoys sharing her tips and suggestions with her online readers.
Working as a legal expert at LY Lawyers , Lucy often helps people dealing with legal problems, addictions and crime.

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