‘Locked up Abroad’ Is Based on Real-Life Cases — But How Real Is the Show Overall?

Is 'Locked up Abroad' real? Is the show really based on true crime tales of folks getting incarcerated overseas? Here's what we know.

Mustafa Gatollari - Author

Sep. 15 2021, Published 1:06 p.m. ET

‘Locked up Abroad’
Source: National Geographic

If you ever watched Midnight Express, then you know how terrifying prisons in other parts of the world can be for citizens of a different country. Not knowing the language, cultural mores, laws, and customs is super intimidating.

Heck, it's terrifying enough to be locked up in your home country! Locked up Abroad tells the tales of folks who were jailed outside of their native lands, but is the show real?

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Is 'Locked up Abroad' real?

U.S. production companies sure do love looking to the UK for inspiration, and it isn't just with scripted dramas and comedies. Locked up Abroad takes the concept from Banged up Abroad (the name was obviously changed because that'd be an entirely different series here in the States), and applies it to cases about American-based criminals.

Locked up Abroad
Source: National Geographic
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Usually the episodes either center on drug trafficking cases, but sometimes they include kidnappings and other traumatic experiences that happen to folks while they're visiting another country.

The show's setup is simple but effective. Each episode presents the individual who was "locked up," and they begin to relay their story.

The series' subjects start from the beginning of their tales at the onset of each episode. Whether it's meeting up with strangers in random minivans or attempting to traffic drugs throughout the country, the anecdotes are often delivered in very candid and matter-of-fact ways.

Since the situation is dramatic enough, there really isn't any need to sensationalize anything.

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But are all of the stories featured on the show real? Well, there's always room for some embellishment, and liberties are sometimes taken in the re-enactments of these types of shows by production or the narrator (in this case, the victim/perpetrators in each specific case), but it does appear that the National Geographic show only features true tales of overseas incarceration.

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One person who was featured on the show says that 'Locked up Abroad' is, for the most part, entirely real.

Rob Pringle, whose own story about his very bad time in Peru, went on a Reddit AMA to interact with fans of the show and answer any questions they had about his experience.

Rob got pretty candid in the comments section.

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Redditor Marbro_za asked, "Can you give us a breakdown of what went down? Why did you do it? Did you ever feel like it was going to work? How didn't you give up hope?"

Rob responded, "The first time I chickened out and left the stiff there — got back and was threatened by cartel members — either sell some of my body parts, threats to my family if I didn't do another trip. Went again and was the fall guy.

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"I did it for the money. In retrospect I believe that the first trip would have worked — everything was well 'oiled' — customs, etc. The second trip was never going to work. I relied on the knowledge that I would see my son again one day."

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As to the veracity of the show, Rob had this to say: "They did dramatize it, and there were some parts I wasn't too happy with, but overall they kept pretty much to how it happened. The worst to me was that I was made to seem blasé about it when I wasn't, and unfortunately, the message that I tried to carry over, was omitted."

The worst part about Rob's experience is that he says while he knew he was being set up to take the fall, he knew that there wasn't anything he could really do about it: "It had become obvious that I was being set up, and this was reinforced by the constant attention paid to me and my not being allowed freedom to move around, the area where I was secluded, etc. I was also apprehensive as to what their reaction may be if I tried to refuse to do as they said."

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