There are many destinations in which travellers might encounter or become involved with illegal activities, either by chance or by choice. In order to be useful, Wikitravel cannot pretend that such activities do not happen. Wikitravel 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 local laws at the destination.
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 on in the Understand or Stay safe section of the destination guide. Examples include:
- warnings about common scams which play on a traveller's ignorance of the local laws
- warnings about areas where travellers are at risk of theft or physical violence
- warnings about areas where travellers might encounter the illegal drug trade
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; they may not be informed about local laws and practices; or they may be practically necessary. Wikitravel articles should not ignore the possibility that travellers may want to or need 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 Wikitravel article should discuss illegal activities include:
- Where the destination imposes penalties that are unusually severe compared to those in Western countries. Examples: countries that impose long sentences or death penalties for drug offences; countries that use corporal punishment such as beatings for minor offences.
- Where the destination criminalizes behavior that is acceptable or legal in Western societies. Examples: the consumption of alcohol, sex outside marriage, homosexuality, free speech or media, or not adhering to local dress standards.
- 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 Western 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 practise 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 an illegal activity is an important or integral part of the reason people visit the destination, such as destinations famed for their drug supply.
- 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 s/he has previously visited, for political reasons.
- Where the destination country may punish travellers for actions they have commited at home, that are legal in their country of origion but illegal in the destination country. It might be a good idea to warn travellers not to engage in such activities prior to travelling.
In this last case, Wikitravel 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, Wikitravel articles must always emphasise 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 emphasising 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.
Wikitravel 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.