While many Virginia Tech students are excited to put down their books, leave the library and set out on exotic vacations, those contemplating cruises and foreign travel might not want to quit researching just yet. Ignorance of relevant international law could quickly put a damper on spring break.
“It is intricate and complicated,” said local attorney John Robertson of Neyhart, Robertson and McConnell. “If you are leaving the country, you are subject to the laws of the host country,” Robertson said. “You need to understand that U.S. law may not apply.”
According to the State Department, legal protections offered in the U.S. may not be offered in other nations, and laws and their enforcement may vary significantly.
For instance, controlled substance, alcohol and firearm regulations all differ in Mexico, a location the U.S. government expects more than 100,000 American spring break travelers to visit, including some Tech students.
Checking the State Department website could save you from the hardship and tribulation of dealing with an unfamiliar legal environment, but cannot replace legal advice offered by an attorney that specializes in foreign travel.
Robertson does not typically deal in such cases, but did provide one suggestion to travelers regardless of destination.
“I would advise people to obtain trip insurance,” Robertson said.
Trip insurance may cover changes in itinerary, flight cancelations or certain events that preclude planned travel. As with any legal contract or lease, those who heed Robertson’s advice should make sure they remain cautious and consider their options carefully, rather than make an impulse decision.
“Ask the purveyor of the plan to get a copy in writing to see what it covers and excludes and what the limits of coverage are,” Robertson said. “If you are entering a contract, you need to understand that contract.”