British nationals risk getting caught out by local laws and customs when travelling overseas, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office warned today.

While 70% of people believe that researching local laws and customs would make their holiday more enjoyable, less than half would actually make this part of their preparations when visiting somewhere new, FCO research shows.

For those visiting places they had been to before, just 40% said they would do this research, despite the fact that local legislation and even local customs can change at any time.

Two British tourists were arrested for swimming in the Emperor’s moat at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo last year.

“This might sound like a bit of harmless fun, but their actions were the equivalent of attempting to break into Buckingham Palace – and being arrested in Japan for even a minor offence can mean remaining in custody for 23 days while awaiting an investigation,” the FCO said.

Jaywalking in the US, the Czech Republic and Poland; entering churches or mosques with arms or legs uncovered in Italy or Turkey; and leaving the beach still in swimwear in Majorca and Barcelona; are among examples of common laws and customs broken by foreigners who did not research their destination before going on holiday.

FCO minister Mark Simmonds said: “It’s easy to throw caution to the wind when on holiday but it’s important to be aware of the local laws and customs before you set off.

“We want people to enjoy their holidays so we encourage them to be prepared.

“Laws and customs vary widely from country to country and visitors should respect them to avoid causing offence or even being arrested.

“Spending five minutes reading our travel advice may save travellers a lot of time in the long run.”

The following changes in local law have been introduced:

•       fines were increased to A$500 for swearing publicly in certain parts of Australia
•       new requirements were introduced for parents travelling with children in or out of South Africa
•       e-cigarettes are now banned from being brought into the United Arab Emirates
•       from January 2015 tourists must have passport valid for at least 60 days from expiry date of their visitor visa when travelling to Turkey