More than 2,500 U.S. citizens are arrested abroad each year, according to U.S. State Department statistics.
According to a circulation signed by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, approximately half of the over 2,500 yearly arrests are on narcotics charges.
A legal drug in one country could be illegal in another, and carry with it a stiff fine or even substantial jail time.
The bottom line is that it is the traveler’s responsibility to know the laws and customs of the foreign country he or she visits.
If an American citizen is arrested, American Consular officials can visit that person in prison, but cannot demand that the person be released from jail, according to the State Department.
Rutilo Salgado, junior political science major, visited a friend studying abroad in Tokyo during spring break.
Salgado, who in the past has traveled to Australia, New Zealand, and several times to Mexico City, has taken the time to read the travel tips the State Department offers on its website.
Salgado discovered through the literature there are some distinct cultural differences in Japan he needed to be aware of so as not to offend anyone.
“(After a transaction), if someone gives you change, don’t count it,” Salgado said. “Put it in your pocket. Then walk away.”
People in Japan pride themselves on their honesty, Salgado has learned. To count change given to you in Japan would be an insult, Salgado said.
Bowing, or at least acknowledging somebody bowing in front of you, is also extremely important, Salgado said.
Salgado was shocked to learn what would happen if he was arrested and ended up in jail.
“I don’t have the right to an interpreter,” Salgado said.
Alison Brashears, senior photojournalism major, traveled to San Felipe, Mexico, with her sorority sisters of Alpha Xi Delta.
Brashears said she has been to Mexico with her family before, and her trip was very mellow. Since she works or goes to school seven days a week, this trip with her sorority sisters was about rest and relaxation, she said.
Brashears left March 19, and said that since she traveled with a big party in a bus, she was not overly concerned about her personal safety.
The State Department recommends that travelers let family members know that they are out of the country, where they will be, and how to get in touch with them.