-taken from fin24- article by Duncan Alfreds published 8th August 2015.

Simply taking a picture with your cellphone can land you in hot water in a foreign country, if you’re not careful.

With the rise of digital technologies such smartphones, video on demand and web-related services, South Africans should be wary when travelling to unfamiliar jurisdictions.

“In many countries, there are restrictions on the personal use of digital devices and many travellers may unwittingly fall foul of the law and ignorance cannot be used as an excuse,” said Kim Parker, head of Business Development of Corporate Sub-Sahara for Wings Travel Management.

Ten South Africans were detained in China after being accused of distributing “terrorist” materials. Members of Vodacom CEO Shameel Joosub’s family were among the detainees who were eventually freed following Pretoria’s involvement.


Parker said that travellers should be careful about how they used mobile technology in other countries.

Here are the places where you should be most careful when using your smartphone:

Taking pictures in many countries is a sensitive issue but in Sudan you need a permit from ministry officials before being allowed to snap away.

In Brazil, France, Hungary, the United Arab Emirates and Japan, you need people’s consent before taking a picture. If no-one objects, that is considered consent.

Don’t even consider taking pictures of government buildings, palaces, military areas, and even bridges in Dubai or you could face a minimum of Dh500 ($136) up to Dh5 000 and three months in jail.


Parker also warned that travellers with digital technologies should watch out for common scams.

“There are reports from a number of countries, including Tanzania, where security guards approach people who take pictures and inform them that they are trespassing and if they cannot produce government papers, they have to hand over their cameras and pay massive amounts.

“In these instances, it often works to tell the shakedown artist that you agree and that it would be better to call the police, which usually sees them change their tune.”

You should also watch your internet habits if you travel to Singapore or North Korea (but seriously, North Korea?). These countries have some of the strictest rules on online pornography.

In Singapore, you could face jail time for visiting porn sites, while in isolated North Korea, the penalty is death – as well as for even for making international phones calls.


India has ordered internet service providers (ISPs) to block 857 porn sites as part of a crackdown on content it deems immoral and Pakistan has a long history of blocking platforms such as YouTube and Twitter over what the country regards as content that insults Islam.

If you find yourself in China and realise that Facebook is banned, it would be best to avoid using a VPN (virtual proxy network) to check your Newsfeed.


Parker said that using such technology can alert government officials that you are online. It is also likely that computers in tourist hotels would be monitored.

If you are travelling to these or any other unusual places, its best to check this information before you leave. There is plenty of advise on forums from recent travellers online.