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 You are in: Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs > Bureau of Public Affairs > Bureau of Public Affairs: Press Relations Office > Press Releases (Other) > 2003 > February
Fact Sheet
Office of the Spokesman
Washington, DC
February 25, 2003

Travel Safety Information for Students

As the time approaches for spring or summer breaks, many college students are getting ready for that much anticipated trip abroad. Most will have a safe and enjoyable adventure, but for some, the trip will become a nightmare. A number of ruined vacations are caused by one or more of the following: drugs, alcohol and disorderly behavior.

Each year, more than 2,500 American citizens are arrested abroad––about half on narcotics charges, including possession of very small amounts of illegal substances. A drug that may be legal in one country may not be legal in a neighboring nation. Some young people are victimized because they may be unaware of the laws, customs, or standards of the country they are visiting.

Besides drugs, alcohol can also get U.S. citizens in trouble abroad. Students have been arrested for being intoxicated in public areas, for underage drinking, and for drunk driving. Some young Americans go abroad assuming that local authorities will overlook such conduct. Many believe that they are immune from prosecution in foreign countries because they are American citizens. The truth is that Americans are expected to obey all of the laws of the countries they visit, and those who break these laws sometimes face severe penalties, including prison sentences.

Disorderly or reckless behavior is also to be avoided. In many countries, conduct that would not result in an arrest here in the U.S. constitutes a violation of local law. It is crucial that young Americans be aware of this risk as they are enjoying their time abroad.

Being arrested is not the only problem that can happen on a foreign vacation. Young Americans have suffered injury or even death from automobile accidents, drownings and falls, in addition to other mishaps. While these accidents are sometimes chance occurrences, many are caused by alcohol or drug abuse. Sadly, other Americans have been raped or robbed because they have found themselves in unfamiliar locales or are incapable of exercising prudent judgment while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Remember: Reckless behavior while in another country can do more than ruin your vacation; it can land you in a foreign jail or worse. It is possible to have a safe and fun trip: avoid risky behavior and become familiar with the basic laws and customs of the country you plan to visit before you travel. To obtain more information about traveling abroad, check the Department of State’s web site at http://travel.state.gov/studentinfo.html.

For further information contact: Bureau of Consular Affairs
Office of Public Affairs
Press Inquiries: (202) 647-1488
Internet address: http://travel.state.gov
Public Inquiries: toll free (888) 407-4747

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