OK… so you think you already know the basics for staying out of trouble when traveling abroad, right? Observing the customs of the country or countries you are visiting is courteous and appreciated, but did you know that there are some “unexpected” laws in several countries that could affect your wallet… or worse? Here are several of some very different and most unexpected laws that I have come across in my foreign travels…. you might thank me later!
1. Not Flushing a Public Toilet in Singapore
Singapore likes to keep its street and facilities clean. Neglecting to flush could cost you $500! Littering could cost up to $1000 and being caught chewing bubble gum can hit you for $600! While the only penalty is a stiff fine, it’s probably a good idea to respect the city’s wishes and keep that gum at home… and remember to flush!
2. Feeding those pigeons in Venice
For many years, it has been a tradition for tourists to turn themselves into human statues in St. Mark’s Square by holding out a handful of birdseed or breadcrumbs… but, sadly, that practice is now illegal. They can fine those who violate the rule up to $700. The “residual” from the overfed pigeons is actually damaging the statues and building facades in the historical city. I wouldn’t be too upset about this one, folks… I have been “Christened” by pigeons all too often in Venice myself over the years, so I won’t miss it at all!
3. Wearing Camouflage on St. Lucia
St. Lucia is a gorgeous Caribbean island, often called the “Hawaii of the Caribbean” because of its lush tropical greenery and dramatic mountain landscapes. But did you know it is illegal to wear any form of clothing with Camouflage on it? So leave the camo at home… the good news is that you won’t be sharing your beach umbrella with any of the Duck Dynasty gang!
4. Wearing stiletto heels in Greece or Rome
Okay, it’s not illegal everywhere (although I don’t know why anyone would want to navigate cobblestone streets in spike heels), but if you show up to an ancient Greek or Roman site in high heels, you may have to remove your shoes and tour barefoot. In order to preserve the sites, the governments have banned shoes that could do damage to the ancient monuments. That includes the Acropolis (Parthenon) in Athens and the Colosseum and Forum in Rome.
5. Don’t smoke in Jamaica, mon!
You may be surprised to discover that marijuana is actually outlawed on the island of Jamaica, mon. Since 1913, Jamaican law has stated that growing, use or possession of marijuana is illegal. People caught with even a small amount can face a lengthy prison sentence. So don’t worry… be happy… and don’t inhale!
6. No PDA in the United Arab Emirates!
Public displays of affection (kissing, hugging, or even holding hands) should be avoided while traveling in the UAE… even its main city of Dubai. Tourists have been arrested and thrown into jail for kissing in public. And did you know that it is technically illegal for non-married couples to share a hotel room? A little harder to enforce, but a law, nonetheless!
7. Keep your top on in Fiji!
Fiji is a beautiful tropical paradise where sunbathing and swimming are part of daily life, but don’t get caught with your top (or pants) down… Fiji is an extremely conservative and Christian nation and public nudity and topless swimming or sunbathing are illegal. So stay covered up and out of jail.
8. Going “commando” in Thailand
Thailand has a bunch of strange laws, but perhaps the most difficult to enforce is the law prohibiting leaving your house without underwear on. Make sure you take that into account when packing or plan on washing your unmentionables frequently so you don’t run out! It’s unclear to me how this could be enforced, but I don’t think I’d want to find out what the inside of a Thai prison looks like….. would you?
9. Beach only for bathing suits in Barcelona!
Do not wander into the streets with only your bathing suit when visiting Barcelona. In this Spanish city you'll need to cover up or change if you plan on leaving the promenade or beach. Men must have shirts on outside of the beach. Don't abide by these laws and you'll be out up to 500 Euros.
So, be sure to familiarize yourself with some of these strange and baffling laws before you travel… A good travel professional can help you navigate the process. I appreciate my customers greatly, but I really don’t want to add “arranging bail” to my list of services!