Sex, drugs and drink: Be in the know abroad
Being on holiday doesn’t mean you can relax all of your inhibitions!
Away from home and the watchful eyes of parents, it can be easy to forget about everything and have the time of your life! Whilst we aren’t saying you shouldn’t enjoy yourself, don’t get carried away by the cheaper drinks, endless parties and new friends you make otherwise you may come home with more than you bargained for…
• Sort out your contraception before you leave, as you don’t want to be dealing with an unplanned pregnancy when you’re embarking on the adventure of a lifetime! Your local GP can advise you about the different types and help you choose the one best suited to you.
• Be aware that the contraceptive pill is less effective when you have sickness and stomach problems (which can be quite common when you are travelling), so take an alternative contraceptive method – such as condoms – too.
• Condoms are a good idea to reduce the likelihood of catching an STI as other forms of contraception don’t protect against these. Stock up beforehand at the pharmacy or, for a cheaper alternative, head to your local sexual health clinic for free condoms. Check for your nearest clinic at www.nhs.uk
• Make sure all condoms you get have the CE logo on them – this means they have been tested to European safety standards. Condoms you buy overseas might not have these so always double-check and if in doubt, don’t use them.
• Don’t be pressurised into doing anything you don’t want to do or into having unprotected sex. And don’t be afraid about bringing up the topic of condoms, especially with a new partner – it will save a trip to the doctor’s the next day.
• Accidents can happen to anyone, so if you think you’ve been exposed to or contracted an STI (even if you aren’t displaying any symptoms yet), seek medical advice. Most countries have English speakers in their pharmacies to help you or, if you are on a short break, visit your GP when you return to the UK. Make sure you don’t engage in any sexual activity until you’re sure you don’t have anything, or you’ve finished your treatment and know you’re clear.
• Be careful to not get caught up in the moment as some countries frown upon public displays of affection particularly in Muslim countries. In the UAE for example, all sex outside of marriage is illegal.
• LGBT laws and the treatment of individuals differ from country to country with some being largely accepting, to others not tolerating it at all. Parts of Africa in particular outlaw homosexuality and there have been incidences of violence against those who support or fall under the LGBT spectrum.
• Even if drugs seem readily available, that doesn’t mean that possession of them won’t get you into serious trouble. The concepts of possession and dealing are defined differently in different countries with the punishments varying from hefty fines to long prison sentences, and even the death penalty in places such as China, Thailand and Vietnam.
• Check the local laws and customs of your destination – the FCO has regularly updated information.
• Many arrests are due to behaviour caused by excessive drinking: know your limit and stay in control.
• Always know what you’re drinking. There have been cases of methanol poisoning in Indonesia due to counterfeit replicas of alcohol. Don’t accept drinks from strangers. Make sure they are prepared in your sight and you don’t leave them lying around.
• Look out for one another. If travelling in a group, take it in turns to be the ‘sober’ member.
• Don’t take risks you wouldn’t at home, and consider the consequences of your actions.
• When you are intoxicated, you become an easy target for sexual crimes which are on the rise, so stay alert and stay safe.
• If you commit an offence in a foreign country, you are subject to the laws enforced in that country, not the UK.
• Your travel insurance may not pay out if you have an accident or get robbed while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
• Legislation varies from country to country – make sure you check and respect the local laws and customs of the country you’re travelling in.
• The FCO can contact friends and family on your behalf, and explain local procedures, but they can’t get you better treatment in hospital or prison, or give you any money.