7 Ordinary Things That Can Get Tourists Arrested

Strange but true: Your tattoo or bikini could get you into a heap of trouble abroad.


In what is the latest episode of vacationers vandalizing the historic Roman site, a Russian man has been fined 20,000 Euros (US$25,000) for engraving a big letter "K" on a wall of the Colosseum.

The news agency ANSA reported that the 42-year-old was spotted by a guard as he used a pointed stone to carve the 25-cm-tall letter into a wall inside the ancient amphitheatre. He was also given a suspended four-year jail sentence along with the hefty fine.

While vandalizing monuments is a relatively known offense that frequently gets tourists into legal trouble almost all over the world, here are a few other, lesser-known practices that might be considered normal in your own country but can get you detained or arrested elsewhere.

Paying hotel bills in coins

Avoid using unusual methods to pay your dues in a foreign country – always.

In October 2013, two Chinese tourists in Paris found themselves in jail after paying their €70 hotel bill in €1 coins. After reluctantly accepting the change for the first night’s stay, the hotel’s owners became suspicious and called the police when the visitors attempted the same method of payment for their second night.

When the cops searched their room, they found no fewer than 3,000 €1 coins and another 700 were discovered on one of the suspects – further strengthening suspicions of forgery.

Although the coins were later found to be authentic and the Chinese tourists were let go, it caused them a lot of trouble for almost two days.

Forgetting your wallet

Forgetting your wallet or purse after having food at an expensive restaurant can be a bad (bad) idea, especially when you are a foreigner in New York.

An Italian tourist who had planned a nice dinner with a friend at Smith & Wollensky, a steakhouse in upscale Manhattan, was thrown behind the bars when he forgot his wallet and was unable to pay the bill.

“The moment the check arrived, I realized that I had actually forgotten my wallet at my hotel,” Graziussi told Honest Cooking. “So I kindly asked the staff how we could manage the situation. I proposed to leave my iPhone with them, run back to the hotel and then come back with my wallet in 15 minutes.”

However, the management refused and called the police. When Graziussi asked if he could have an escort to retrieve his wallet, the NYPD responded by saying, “We’re not a taxi service.”

Getting a tattoo

Before getting a tattoo in a foreign country, double check whether the pattern you want to get on your skin doesn’t get under someone else’s.

Case in point: A British tourist was deported from Sri Lanka in April because of a Buddha tattoo on her arm. According to a local police spokesman, 37-year-old Naomi Coleman from Coventry was arrested for "hurting others' religious feelings."

She was arrested at the main international airport and sent to a jail and an immigration center where, according to Coleman, she was “treated very badly.”

Or an autograph

An Ecuadorian tourist was grabbed by security and held for running onto a U.S. Open tennis court while trying to get an autograph in 2012.

Novak Djokovic and Stanislas Wawrinka were on the court and had just finished their singles match at the Louis Armstrong Stadium when the incident occurred.

The intruder was charged with illegally entering a playing area at a major venue sporting event.

Wearing a bikini

Different countries have different customs. Learn to respect them.

A British woman was arrested and charged with indecency in 2010 after walking through a Dubai shopping mall wearing a bikini.

The woman reportedly walked through the mall wearing a revealing top, attracting the complaint from a local. She then apparently stripped down to a bikini in protest, after which she was removed from the mall and taken into custody.

Climbing bridges to take photos

Try not to endanger your life (and someone else’s) to take pictures.

A French tourist was recently arrested after climbing the Brooklyn Bridge, trying to get a better vantage point to take the perfect shot.

Police say the adrenaline junkie climbed over a fence on the pedestrian walkway of the bridge and then walked up a beam over Manhattan-bound traffic. He was later with felony reckless endangerment and misdemeanor criminal trespassing.

Collecting stones

Love collecting stones on the beach? Don’t – especially if you’re in Turkey.

An American tourist who collected stones during a six-day beach holiday with his wife was briefly detained in Turkey and faced trial for attempting to smuggle relics.

The couple, who collected rocks or sand from every country they'd visited, said they had no idea these could have been artifacts.

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