Travel

What It's Like to Be Arrested On Holiday

Being arrested is never great, but it's even worse when you've paid for a flight to be there.

by Tom Usher
24 June 2016, 12:00am

Illustration by Sam Taylor

Getting arrested is not a pleasant experience. Handcuffs are uncomfortable, arresting officers are never up for a proper chat and police wagons are essentially the Dyson V6's of vibes, sucking all the fun out of your night and transporting you to a tiny little room with only a metal toilet and a buzzing strip-light for company.

But what happens if you're stupid enough to get arrested on holiday? How does it feel to be locked up 300 miles from home with not enough change in your pocket for an international call? What if you don't speak the language and none of the nearby officers will speak to you in your mother tongue because you've just been a massive dick to all of them? What then?

To find out, I asked some people who've been arrested on holiday about their experiences.

Harry, 30

In 2009 I went to a festival near Zadar, Croatia. It was just when the festival scene had really started to kick off there. I was on a secluded spot on the beach with a few mates and the party paraphernalia got pulled out. Suddenly, I saw a flashlight over my shoulder. The two men grabbed me and started shouting at me in broken English. They were undercover cops who'd been sat behind us.

Instinctively, I ran. It was pitch black. I raced through some woods and then stupidly tried to jump back into the sea to swim away, but they caught up with me. I tried to fight back, and one of the officers sustained some minor injuries. I didn't realise at the time, but this would turn out to be one of the most idiotic things I've ever done.

I was thrown in the back of a police van and taken to hospital, where they treated the officer while I sat there in handcuffs. They took me to the local nick in Zadar. A group of officers stuck me in some back room – they all thought it was really funny to call me Del Boy from Only Fools and Horses.

I wasn't going to court, the officer said; I'd assaulted a Croatian police officer and was being taken to Zadar men's prison.

They stuck me in a grimy cell with blood all over the walls, no toilet, no food, nothing. I was there for around nine hours when they came to tell me I would be attending court that afternoon. I went to a room with some other people from the festival who'd been in the cells overnight, mostly on possession charges. They all seemed fairly upbeat about their unfortunate encounter with the Croatian under-covers, who I later found out were in abundance at this particular festival. We lined up to go to our court summons, but when I went to go in I was stopped. I wasn't going to court, the officer said; I'd assaulted a Croatian police officer and was being taken to Zadar men's prison.

I was there for two days, in a cell with six Croatian dudes.

I finally got hold of the British embassy and pleaded with them to do what they could to get me out. My girlfriend, who was out there with me, was amazing. She called my parents back in London and they managed to get a well-respected lawyer to defend me in court. I had to pay a £2,000 fine and face instant deportation from the country with a five-year ban. By this point, I didn't care; I just wanted to get the fuck out of there.

Samantha, 24

I was staying in Indonesia for a bit on an exchange programme. My boyfriend at the time had come out to visit me, and when I dropped him at the airport and said goodbye, I realised I'd forgotten to give him cash for airport tax, which you have to pay to get through customs. Knowing I wouldn't be able to get through to see him without a boarding pass, I used my shitty broken Indonesian and begged security to let me through the first gate under the condition that I would return with a bribe. I did the same through the X-ray security screening, the airport tax pay station and another level of security, until I made it to the boarding gate. I couldn't see him waiting to board, so I made a staff member check the plane to see if he was there, and he was.

I went to walk away, but was grabbed by security guards and furiously asked how I'd got through to this level of security without a boarding pass. About seven of them surrounded me, tried to grab my bag and told me they wanted money in bribes. They took me into a security office, made me give them all my personal details and questioned me for what seemed like hours.

The room was getting hotter and these guys were getting more and more angry. Then they took a break – probably tired from shouting at me – and I saw my chance. I'd faked my details on every form they made me fill in, so I wasn't worried they'd catch me.

I got up and legged it out the door, down the escalators, past the airport tax pay point, through the X-ray screening, down the stairs and outside. The first man who let me pass had his hand out ready to accept the bribe that I didn't have, so I ran past him in half panic, half ecstasy, and into the first cab I could get. The way I see it, being banged up abroad will never happen as long as you can run fast enough.

Theo, 26

I'd been to a Bulgarian festival and, afterwards, travelled with a few mates to a Greek island for a short holiday to ease my comedown. I had a few bits and pieces with me from the weekend that I decided to keep, just in case. We were travelling across the border in a taxi, and the only checkpoint was literally a few officers who barely even looked at our passports, so after that, I thought we were home free.

We got on a boat to the island of Samothrace. We were all in high spirits, chatting about the festival. But when we got off and looked at the harbour, something seemed amiss. We were told Samothrace was a quiet hippy community, but were greeted by swarms of officers in olive uniforms. I felt dread, which only increased when me and one of my friends were told to come to one side for further checks.

Eventually they found a bag of K in my bag and that was me done for.

They asked if we had any drugs on us. I said, "No." So they went through my luggage – opening up my speakers, crisp packets, the lot. Meanwhile, I got dragged to a shed by the water, told to strip naked and was subjected to a full cavity search. Eventually they found a bag of K in my bag and that was me done for.

I was put in a cell with a few others. Most were from the Middle East, either from Afghanistan or Syria, and were banged up for either attempting to cross the border illegally or on drugs charges. They kept me in overnight. It was weird – we mostly just sat around playing cards. Then, the next morning, I was hit with a small fine and left to get the next boat back to Samothrace. Obviously I was pretty tired and rundown, but altogether fucking relieved that nothing worse had happened.

Nilu, 26

I was in Guatemala, taking a bus from one part of the country to another. A couple of hours in, we made a toilet stop at a service station. I went in to use the facilities, walking past a desk. When I realised there was no toilet paper in any of the stalls, I went outside to ask for some and the attendant told me I needed to pay to use the toilet. I asked her how much it was, put down the amount and she said it was double that because I'd been in once already. I told her I obviously hadn't used the toilet before, because I was in and out in less than then seconds, but she wasn't having any of it. Instead of starting a beef, I grabbed the coins I'd put on the counter and went to smoke a spliff outside with my mates from the bus.

A few minutes later, a couple of security guards came out. I assumed it was because I was smoking, but then I realised the toilet attendant had sent them, telling them I'd used the toilet twice and not paid for it. I explained the situation to them in my shitty Spanish. They left and I got on the bus, but then the woman followed me on. I have a really short temper, and don't appreciate being accused of stealing, so at this point kind of lost it, which was obviously very unwise. I grabbed a bunch of coins and threw them at her, screaming, "Here's your fucking money, then! Take it!" The whole bus went quiet, she looked at the money, then at her feet, then walked off.

We all got back on the bus to leave and the bus started to pull out... then it pulled back in. The woman got on the bus, this time with the police. She'd told them I'd stolen a lot of money from her. They dragged me off the bus, and it was then I realised that I didn't have anywhere near enough Spanish to explain this shit, or any money to pay for what she told them I'd stolen from her.

There was no way of proving I didn't steal the money, so they detained me for a day until someone wired me the money. I gave her the cash, but I never apologised. It was a tiny fuck you, I guess.

@williamwasteman

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Tom Usher