Wikivoyage:Illegal activities policy

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...or maybe not.

In many destinations, travellers might encounter or become involved with illegal activities, either by chance or by choice. In order to be useful, Wikivoyage cannot pretend that such activities do not happen. Wikivoyage articles should mention activities that are illegal at the destination if such information is likely to be useful to travellers.

This policy is intended to be applied against the laws local to a destination, as well as ordinances and house rules at specific venues. From this follows that articles should not give advice for:

  • evasion of taxes, tariffs, transit fares, cover charges or other fees supported by law or consensual agreement
  • obtaining, transporting, providing or using alcohol, narcotics, medication, weapons, endangered species, or other substances or objects in violation of local law
  • obtaining or providing goods, currency or services on the black market
  • deception or evasion of police, immigration officers, or other officials
  • immigration, border crossing or trespassing against local laws

Illegal activities that travellers might encounter

If travellers are likely to encounter illegal activity by others, and knowing about this would be useful to them, information should be provided in the Understand or Stay safe section of the destination guide or in the section where it is appropriate (taxi scams might belong in "Get around", endangered animals illegally being sold for food in "Eat" and so on). Examples include:

  • warnings about common scams which play on a traveller's ignorance of the local laws, and advice on how to avoid and confront them
  • warnings about areas where travellers are exposed to elevated risk of crime, such as pickpocketing, physical violence or reckless driving
  • warnings about areas where travellers might encounter the illegal drug trade, and other illicit business

Essentially, information and warnings about illegal activity by others should be treated the same way as other destination information: supply it if it is likely to be useful to a traveller.

Illegal activities in which travellers might participate

Travellers may participate in illegal activities for several reasons: they may seek them out; or they may not be informed about local laws and practices. Wikivoyage articles should not ignore the possibility that travellers may want to do something illegal but on the other hand articles should not downplay the danger travellers are putting themselves in by participating in illegal activities. Examples of situations where a Wikivoyage article should discuss illegal activities include:

  • Where the destination imposes penalties that are unusually severe compared to those in many other countries. Examples: countries that impose long prison sentences or the death penalty for drug possession offenses; countries that use corporal punishment for minor offences.
  • Where the destination criminalizes behavior that is acceptable or legal in some other societies. Examples: the consumption of alcohol, carrying of knives or other objects, sex outside marriage, homosexuality, prostitution, free speech or media, or not adhering to local dress standards. For instance, the article on coca describes a substance prohibited in many countries.
  • Where the destination places any special restrictions on the activities of foreigners or on people who are members of certain groups (for example, women, racial minorities, or homosexuals), especially in the case where these differ radically from those in many other countries.
  • Where the destination restricts the visitor's interaction with the local economy. Examples: obligatory purchase of "foreign exchange certificates" and penalties for the use of foreign or regular currency; penalties for exchanging money in the black market
  • Where police or public corruption mean that the written law of the land differs substantially from the practice of law enforcement. For example, it might be useful to point out any particular phrases or signs that a traveller can use to figure out whether an official is asking for a bribe, together with information about whether the bribe is necessary or a scam.
  • Where the traveller's country of origin restricts its own citizens' freedom of movement for political reasons. For example, certain destinations might be illegal to visit for citizens of certain countries because of trade embargoes or military conflicts. It might be useful to point out what third-party countries can be used as routes to those banned destinations, how to obtain travel documents abroad, and how to escape detection at home.
  • Where the destination country may refuse entry, or punish a traveller, based on countries that they have previously visited, for political reasons. (See also: visa trouble)
  • When travellers might be tempted or deceived to commit location-specific crimes, such as the traditional vandalizing of the Gävle goat, climbing the pyramids of Giza, or sign theft at places with unusual names.
  • Where an illegal activity is an important or integral part of the reason people visit the destination, such as destinations famed for their drug supply. (For the specific case of sex tourism, see Wikivoyage:Sex tourism policy.)

In this last case, Wikivoyage needs to tread a fine line about giving information. The test is that information should be provided for a traveller's safety, rather than solely to promote illegal activities. When writing about safety issues with illegal activities, Wikivoyage articles must always emphasize that that activity is a crime when mentioning safety issues. For example: "X activity, in addition to being illegal, is dangerous because of Y."

Examples of emphasizing safety include:

  • Explaining the risks involved in exchanging money on the black market, but also explaining how to minimize the risk of being ripped off or arrested
  • Identifying areas where drugs are openly sold and, in areas where travellers frequently take illegal drugs, identifying safety issues with the drug supply. See Netherlands#Drugs for an example.

Wikivoyage articles should avoid giving information about illegal activities that is useful only to those seeking it and which is not motivated by safety concerns, for example, giving information about the standard price and quality of illegal drugs or about the identities of specific dealers. For example: "heroin in this area, in addition to being illegal, is frequently cut with dangerous additives such as..." would be acceptable in a destination where travellers are likely to encounter the heroin trade, because it is focused on the safety of the supply. "Heroin in X destination is better than in Y destination" would not be acceptable, because it is not motivated by safety concerns.

See also