Illegal Travel Souvenirs: Some Can Cost You Penalties – or Even Jail Time

Traveling is fun and exciting but not if it ultimately lands you in jail. When traveling to foreign countries there’s a lot you should know about what souvenirs are okay, which ones are illegal, and which ones require a permit.

More than one person has gone to jail for, say, picking up a rock at a tourist site. When that rock just happens to be a piece of the building that the tourists are coming to see, that can be a serious problem. In some countries, a rock from an ancient dwelling constitutes “illegally possessing antiquities”, and is a serious offense.

As in most countries, not knowing the laws will not spare you the arrest and further consequences. Not understanding certain laws will not make the authorities release you, either. You’ll face the same charges, court appearances, fines, and other grief the same as someone who does know the law.

Just because items are being sold in marketplaces doesn’t mean they’re okay to take home. Lots of people gather up certain items they know will be of interest to tourists, then sell them illegally, leaving you the one responsible for the “crime”.

The sale of endangered plants or animals – or things made from them – is a huge market in many foreign countries. One example is a rain stick from Peru. Many visitors don’t realize they’re made from cactus, an endangered plant in the area. Because of this, only three sticks per traveler are allowed through customs – others can be confiscated or you could pay extremely high fines for additional ones.

In some countries, it’s even necessary to have a permit before purchasing certain items. Without the permit, you can find yourself in deep trouble at customs. Shawls, tortoiseshell items, animal skin totes – these are things you might find at common marketplaces that are illegal to take back to your country, depending upon how they were made.

Some things you should never purchase while traveling include live animals, wild bird feathers, live or mounted birds, sea turtle products of any kind, ivory of any kind, fur – particularly tiger, seals, polar bears or sea otters, live snakes, turtles, crocodiles, lizards, certain leather products, like items made from caiman, crocodile, lizards or snake, some coral and coral products, shells, cacti, medicines made from rhinos, tigers, or Asiatic black bear.

Your wonderful vacation can quickly turn into an expensive penalty if you purchase the wrong items while traveling. Know a little something about the country you’ll be traveling in and find out what is and isn’t acceptable in the way of souvenirs. You’ll be glad you did.

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