Updated: Dec 22, 2017
What will you do when you come across a "No Entry" sign when you go sight-seeing in your own country or when traveling abroad? Heed the warning sign and stay away? Or let your curiosity gets the better of you and enter the premise to see what is "hidden" in there?
If you are a law-abiding citizen and traveller, good and do stay that way. And read on to know what this topic is all about — in case you succumb to temptations next time.
For the rest who like to bust into forbidden zones for some excitements or to boast your "little adventures" to the world, do read on to find out what are the risks you are taking before you cross the line next time. We will also disclose some hidden risks that few people know of.
The Internet carries many stories of "daring adventures" by people who breaks into "No Entry" zones and how they felt excited at their so-called "discoveries". Some of them even go to the extent of encouraging readers to be more adventurous and ignore those signs, which "are put up to prevent people from knowing the secret inside". These words are actually "marketing gimmicks" to tempt and attract online users to click on their posts — they don't actually mean it.
Chances are, the stories are probably faked. In most cases, there may be really nothing of interest in those places, no one will know that the stories are made-up until another person goes in and finds nothing. You can denounce the stories as fakes, but story-makers will always defend themselves by claiming that the "interesting things" may have been removed by the authorities after their "big discoveries". Smells fishy?
Seriously, if there are really interesting things for the public to see, why would local authorities closed them off? The most probable reason will be because it is not in the best interest of the public to be in those places. Of course, there are other possible reasons.
Before we proceed, do note that the standard "No Entry" sign has a white horizontal bar in the middle of a red circle as shown below. In certain cases, other signs may be used to reflect the severity of the consequences if a person is caught for trespassing.
Below are some scenarios where "No Entry" signs can be found and why you should not ignore it. Also, no laws are the same in any two countries, do not assume that penalties will be just verbal warnings or small fines like in your home country.
1. Private Properties
Private properties are always off-limits to the public unless invited by the property owners. Trespassers are usually fined or, in some countries, imprisoned if there are criminal intent. If an area is fenced up and with those warning signs displayed, insistence on breaking in is already classified as having criminal intent. Authorities will normally assume that such intent is to cause bodily harm to the occupants or for theft. Offenders will have to produce evidences to prove otherwise.
In places where crime rates are high, private properties may be guarded by armed guards or the owners may be armed. Those warning signs may be your first and last warnings.
Normally, "No Entry" signs for private properties are accompanied by additional wordings like "Private Property" and/or "No Trespassing". But, this is not a standard practice around the world.
2. Royal or Government Buildings
Trespassing into royal or government buildings usually results in extremely severe consequences. These premises are often guarded by armed guards due to the very important persons (VIPs) who reside or work in there. If you break into such places and are caught, the authorities will interrogate you on the assumptions that you are attempting to harm the VIPs or carrying out espionage work. The experience will not be very pleasant.
In some countries, royal palaces or government buildings may be opened for visits to the public, including foreign visitors. When visiting these places, it is important not to wander or intentionally barge into areas that displayed the "No Entry" signs. These areas could be highly sensitive places like offices where classified documents are kept or private living areas of the kings, queens, presidents, etc. Of course, NONE of the "No Entry" signs will be accompanied by words that say "Secret documents kept here", "The King sleeps in this room", etc. It will just be "No Entry". Full stop!
The Royal Palace in Phnom Penh where the King of Cambodia lives in an area that is closed off to public.
Do obey the "No Entry" sign in these places even if there are no guards in sight. There is no need to ask for reasons or let curiosity gets the better of you. Don't end up spending days in detention and harsh questionings when you are supposed to be on vacation.
3. Protected Places
Protected places, like critical facilities, royal palaces, etc, and armed installations like military bases, police armories, prisons, etc, will put up a different warning sign from the usual "No Entry" sign. That sign will show an armed guard pointing a rifle or gun at another person meaning "trespasser will be shot" (something similar to the photo below). The consequence of being caught can either be shot or long jail term (if still alive).
"Trespasser Will be Shot" sign outside a protected place in Singapore and in four languages for clarity.
In most countries, the guards on duty will not shoot on sights and trespassers will be given a chance to surrender when discovered. But in countries having troubles internally, like civil unrest or riots, the guards may shoot first.
Of course, it is assumed here that all protected places in the world will display the "Trespasser Will be Shot" sign. There may be countries that will simply use the common "No Entry" sign. One reason for protected places to display the milder "No Entry" sign is when they do not want the public to know or speculate on the activities in some covert places, such as highly-classified facilities, sensitive weapons test-firing grounds, etc. Trespassing into these places is no joking matters.
Stay clear from such places. There is nothing to gain for poking your nose in there.
4. Hazardous Places
The most common use of the "No Entry" sign is to keep the public away from safety hazards or dangerous areas, such as construction sites, places with strong radiations, closed roads or paths, areas susceptible to landslides, etc (the list of risky places is really long). The penalties for the offences in most cases are usually fines as deterrent, but it is your safety that is the main concern.
The "No Entry" sign is usually a precautionary measure to keep the public out of potential troubles before unfortunate things happen. The authorities or managements of those places have done their parts to inform you to stay clear and they will bear no responsibilities should anything happen to you. If you ignore the warning and get hurt as a result, they are not liable to compensate you under most laws. Get the picture?
For example, in the photo above, a "No Entry" sign is displayed along a path that is closed off for some unstated reasons. This is usually the case because many people tend to take words at face value and assured themselves that whatever reasons stated are no issues to them. So it is always appropriate to leave out the reasons. It says "No Entry", you obey.
What are the possible things that can happen with a closed path in a jungle? What if you wander in alone and got bitten by a venomous snake, struck down by a falling tree, or break a leg and your call for help cannot be heard? Since there is a "No Entry" sign out there, most law-abiding people will not walk into the closed-off area. You could be dying in there for days (or maybe forever) until another person finds and saves you (if you are still alive). But, what if your "potential saviour" decides not to go get help and pretend not to see you? How can it be? Because he/she may be another law breaker — after saving your live, he/she may still be fined for trespassing.
The same goes for even if you are not alone, so long as the authorities are involved, you and your friends will each face a charge.
Do consider the consequences first.
5. Protection from Destruction
Another use of the "No Entry" sign is to protect things from being destroyed by too many people. For example, in wetlands where small creatures live in muddy beaches, or in forests where reforestation is taking place, etc. Allowing many people into such areas bring destruction to the living creatures, the seedlings, or things that may not be apparent to the eyes.
Penalties for such offences are usually fines as deterrent under local laws. In some cases, compensations for damages may be imposed.
The photo above shows a "No Entry" sign on a closed path in Bukit Timah Hill Nature Reserve, Singapore. Seeds were sow on the path for growing into trees to closed off the path permanently and prevent soil erosion but most seedlings were killed by hikers who ignored the sign. The fine for first-time offender is S$200 and S$2,000 for second-timers. Most offenders caught were foreigners.
The Hidden Risks
We listed most, if not all, scenarios and the implications of violating the "No Entry" sign, which most people should have known but play dumb sometimes. In fact, there are hidden risks that most people are not aware of, especially travellers and tourists. Yes, the risks are related to travel insurance, the financial protection against unexpected travel expenses.
Read the clauses of any travel insurance policy carefully and you will notice that most of the benefits provided are phrased as something like "in the event of an unexpected outcome" and "no wilful violation of local law". In fact, travel insurance is an "accidental death & disabilities" policy bundled with other benefits when travelling. They are priced cheaply because any travel claims have to be results of lawful and accidental causes.
As an example: If you own an Accidental Death & Disabilities policy, and you cross a road with the red man beaming and get knock down by a car, this policy will not pay a single cent. Because you have intentionally put yourself in danger by ignoring the "no crossing" sign.
So, what has it got to do with the "No Entry" sign?
Firstly, by violating the "No Entry" signs, it is already an unlawful act. If the sign was put up to keep the public away from a potential safety hazard, violating it is an act of intentionally putting oneself at risks. So, any unfortunate events that happen thereafter will not be covered by travel insurance, be it death, disabilities, medical expenses incurred, etc.
To elaborate further, in the event of any mishaps and claims are filed, insurance companies will request for documents such as police reports from local police, medical reports from relevant medical facilities, etc, not just your words in the claims letters. Police reports will usually highlight whether the incidents that occurred are accidental or "not unintentional". Base on how the reports are worded, insurance companies can deny any non-accidental claims. So, do not assume that travel insurance can cover any expenses incurred and you can do whatever you want.
To sum it up,
1. If you are fined as a result of trespassing, the fines cannot be claimed.
2. If you missed your flight home because you are in custody pending court procedures, you cannot claim for that missed flight.
3. If you died as a result of trespassing a protected place or not heeding the warning on entry to a hazardous place, your family members will not get a single cent.
4. If you sustain an injury from trespassing and given medical treatments, your medical fees will not be reimbursed.
5. And the list goes on...
One Last Advise
In some countries, there are law consultants who specialised in claiming from travel insurance as a result of unlawful acts when overseas. You may feel assured that they will be there to help you should you get into troubles.
However, do note that they are not offering their services free of charge. Depending on the duration of the trials (some can drag on for more than a year as evidence need to be gathered from a foreign country) and final amount claimed, most of it may be used to pay off the law consultants' services and law proceedings. In some cases, you or your family members may end up paying more than the amount claimed.
Think again, is it really worth the risks to ignore that "No Entry" sign?
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