Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Four common items of travel gear that could get you in trouble

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St Mark’s Square in Venice, Tiger’s Nest Monastery in Bhutan, Niagara Falls, lava flows in Iceland, Morocco’s Sahara dunes and wildlife in Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Crater will give you awesome drone footage, but Morocco, Bhutan and Egypt are just some of the countries where drones are prohibited. Enter with a drone and it will be confiscated. Fly one anywhere in those countries and you could end up in jail. In 2019, two Australian bloggers were arrested in Iran when they flew a drone near a military installation and spent more 10 weeks in jail before they were finally released in a prisoner exchange with an Iranian citizen imprisoned in Australia.

Satellite phones

Some countries have an outright ban on satellite phones.Credit: Alamy

They’re the ultimate communication tool, capable of making and receiving phone calls from just about anywhere on the planet with the right provider. That makes them highly suspect in the eyes of governments that want to exercise control over the communications that take place within their borders.

Since they transmit and receive via satellite rather than ground-based systems, these phones can’t be easily monitored by government agencies and for some regimes that’s a problem since they’re ideal for espionage. A few countries ban them outright including Cuba, China and North Korea, while Russia, India and Iran restrict their use.

Cameras in the wrong places

Taking photos of the Pentagon is prohibited.

Taking photos of the Pentagon is prohibited.Credit: iStock

Some countries regard bridges, airports, railway lines and even dams as strategic assets, and therefore photographing them is forbidden. Military facilities and personnel are also off limits except when the military are on parade, such as the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace or the guards in Moscow’s Red Square. Although the ruling is much abused, you’re not supposed to take photos of the Pentagon except within the Pentagon Memorial Grounds.


Authoritarian regimes are highly sensitive to photographs. Snap a photo of government buildings or police in Turkmenistan and you can expect trouble, and all government buildings have a police presence.

But a turnaround on GPS devices

These devices which use satellites to triangulate your exact location to within a few metres once raised suspicions in some countries but that particular cat is out of the bag. Any smartphone can give you accurate geographic coordinates, and who’s going to worry about someone carrying a smartphone?

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