NO MATTER HOW adventurous you may be, nobody wants to spend the holidays in a Thai prison. But don’t worry–our friends at Matador are here to help. Here are 10 strange laws to avoid while traveling abroad.
1. Venice, Italy: Pigeons = poop = problem.
It’s nearly impossible to find a picture of Venice’s iconic Piazza San Marco without flocks of pigeons (and flocks of people). Feeding the pigeons is a tourist tradition, or it was until 2008 when the government outlawed the practice due to the bird droppings’ detrimental effect on historic landmarks.
Pigeon feeders are now fined $50-60 on average, with a maximum penalty of $600.
2. Singapore: No, seriously, we don’t want to see you naked.
What happened to the good old days when frat boys and other perverts were able to partake in harmless voyeurism, the spice of life? Singapore happened, that’s what.
Exhibitionists be warned: if you like to walk around naked, keep your room blinds closed. In Singapore, any person visible to the public from private property who appears nude or “is clad in such a manner as to offend against public decency” could receive up to a $1,600 fine and 3 months of jail time.
3. United Arab Emirates: #1 worst place for a “Man v. Food” episode.
If you’re planning a trip to the UAE, check your calendar. It’s unlawful to eat, drink, or smoke cigarettes publicly in the month of Ramadan during daylight, when local Muslims are observing fast. Tourists are subject to this law regardless of their personal beliefs.
Violators can either be jailed for up to a month or fined a maximum of $550.
4. India: Just pretend grandma is watching
Traveling through India with your significant other? Keep the mushy stuff behind closed doors. In Indian culture, romance is best expressed privately. Not only is kissing in public illegal, PDA is frowned upon in general.
Though enforcement of this law varies and fines are low ($10-25), travelers should always respect local customs, and ask when in doubt.
5. Southeast Asia: Durian, don’trian.
The Durian is a fruit native to Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia. Popular among locals, it looks like the lovechild of a pineapple and a porcupine. Its aroma, which travel writer Richard Sterling likened to a mixture of “pig-shit, turpentine and onions,” is considered a public nuisance.
The Durian is banned from many places including buses, subways, hotels and airports.
6. Grenada: Keep the “Baywatch” on the beach.
The picture-perfect beaches of Grenada give even the shyest people the urge to strip down to a swimsuit and frolic in the sun. That’s certainly encouraged, but if you’re going back into town don’t forget to put some clothes back on!
In Grenada, it is illegal to be wearing only a swimsuit outside of beach zones. Violators may be ticketed for $270 or face six months in jail.
7. Germany: Where having gas is a good thing
If you’re going to explore the German countryside by car, plan ahead. Running out of gas on the German autobahn (highway) is illegal. If this happens to you, don’t stroll to the gas station; it’s also illegal to walk on the autobahn.
Each crime results in a $100 fine, so perhaps you should just keep an extra tank handy.
8. Thailand: Teetotaling for the king
Sorry bros, no “raging” on the king’s birthday: alcohol sales are illegal on December 5th. However, rule bending is a way of life in Thailand, so avoid tourist zones and you’ll find a place to carouse covertly.
If you do get turned away from a bar, don’t follow the antics of Oliver Jufer, who took vengeance by defacing images of the king with spray paint. Thailand has strict lèse majesté laws. Any act considered disrespectful towards the royal family could land you decades in prison.
9. Trinidad and Tobago: G.I. NO!
Whether you’re planning a WWII reenactment or just have terrible taste in fashion, be advised that it is illegal to wear camouflaged clothing in Trinidad & Tobago. The law exists to prevent people from imitating military and other officials. You can be detained and have your camouflage items seized by authorities–that is, if they can find you.
10. Japan: Harshing your mellow
The wonderful people who brought you the seizure-inducing frenzy of Dragon Ball Z does not welcome the use of stimulants. But pseudoephedrine (found in Vicks and Sudafed) is one of many ingredients used in over-the-counter drugs that are illegal in Japan.
Check with the Japanese embassy before packing your medicine. If your drugs contain outlawed substances, consult your doctor for an alternative.
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Lukas is traversing the globe indefinitely on an existential journey. Currently he is teaching English in Santiago, Chile and spends his free time writing, playing music and exploring South America. He maintains a personal blog at Mañana en la Mañana.